It’s been a while since the Patriots had one of these down to the wire, last second wins that take ten years off your life. And I could lie to you and tell you that I missed games like this one, but I won’t. I don’t know how much longer I can take these things.
It’s always good to be on the winning side of shootouts that end on a last-second field goal, and this game was more or less what everyone thought it would be. In what was undoubtedly the first of two meetings between the best teams in the AFC, the Patriots needed every single second to take down the last undefeated team in the conference and secure a crucial tiebreaker should it come to that. KC still has the inside track on the #1 playoff seed, but it’s still way to early to be talking about that. One game at a time.
- So I find myself in a little bit of a pickle this morning. As I’m sure you’re all aware, last night’s Game 2 of the ALCS coincided with the Pats/Chiefs game, which meant that there were two major sporting events that I really wanted to watch. I initially tried to stream the Sox on my iPad with the Patriots game on the TV, but it wasn’t really working. My TV used to have a split screen option that allows you to watch two channels at once, but that’s no longer a thing, alas. So I basically resorted to switching back and forth between TBS and NBC like some kind of animal - which wouldn’t have been all that bad, to be honest, had I not found myself in the absolutely horrible position of switching to the football game just in time to see something bad happen. My channel flips coincided perfectly with both long scoring plays to Karim Hunt and Tyreek Hill. I switched back just in time for the 97 yard kick return. I just caught the aftermath of a Tom Brady fumble. I watched a big James White run only to see him get blown up on the very next play. So you’ll forgive me if I chose to do my part for the team by not watching as much of this game as I would have liked to.
- The real dilemma was when the Sox closed out the win with time left in the 4th quarter, leaving me with the option of either turning the game off altogether or finding some anti-jinx way to watch. I went with Option B, watching the game in my living room mirror. So if some of my analysis is backwards today, that’s why.
- I wonder how many times a team loses while putting up 40 points. I can’t imagine it’s very often. Rather than taking 30 seconds to find out on the internet, I’ll just move right on.
- The scoreboard doesn’t really reflect it, but I actually think that the Patriots defense had a fairly solid day. Three Kansas City TDs came off of huge plays, and then another came on a short field off of a Brady fumble. That’s 28 of the 40 points right there. You of course have to give credit where credit is due, as Patrick Mahomes running to his right and throwing is apparently going to result in an unstoppable play every single time, but without those breakdowns and short fields, New England did a great job presenting different looks and confusing the young quarterback into making mistakes. I realize that isn’t a very popular opinion when a team surrenders 446 net yards and 40 points, but not all yards and scores are created equal.
- That said...Mahomes is legit, and so is this Kansas City offense. There are just so many weapons that you can’t take it all away, and I don’t think I’ve seen a QB better at throwing on the run than Mahomes.
- After an extremely promising preseason, I was hoping to see a lot more out of Adrain Clayborn, but so far he has been the New England Patriots equivalent of ESPN’s Get Up - just kind of there, and I don’t think anyone would even notice if he went away altogether. Clayborn’s biggest job yesterday seemed to be to collapse the left side of the line and get Mahomes running towards Trey Flowers, whose job it was to contain the edge and prevent any QB runs. Flowers did that - Mahomes ran just two times for nine total yards - but he’s just so effective as a passer outside the pocket that it didn’t really matter.
- The two plays that almost broke New England’s back were the Hunt TD and the 75 yard Hill TD. The Hunt TD looked, to me, like a breakdown of that fabled psychic connection that twins are supposed to have, as Jason McCourty committed to covering the flat rather than stay alongside Hunt out of the backfield. Devin McCourty was responsible for that side of the field, but he committed to the middle of the field, allowing Hunt to get behind him. The Hill TD was also on McCourty, but nobody can cover Tyreek Hill for longer than a few seconds, so I don’t think that one was as bad.
- What was bad, though, was the kickoff game for New England. That 97 yarder aside, some very questionable decisions from the Patriots yesterday, most notably that weird squib kick that the Chiefs took to the 40. Ghost has more than enough leg to kick it out of the end zone on every play - why not just do that?
- On the plus side, when a team like Kansas City marches straight down the field and scores on you by running well and throwing to a dominant tight end, it’s not nearly as frustrating.
- I know the Patriots play five primetime games every single season, but the way they’ve been lined up consecutively over the past few weeks has really taken its toll on me. So has all of these opponents winning the coin toss and deferring. Thank Tebow it’s back to normal for a 1PM start next week against the Bears...until they go right back to two consecutive primetime games against the Bills and Packers. The entire world was plenty sick of the Patriots prior to 2018, NFL. No need to keep shoving them down everyone’s throats.
- The Patriots have Sony Michel for that.
- I’d like to open up the comment section of today’s Fan Notes to anyone who wishes to apologize and admit that they were wrong about Michel, who once again eclipsed 100 yards rushing last night. He’s patient, he’s decisive, he knows how to follow blockers, and he makes guys miss. The ideal running play has 10 guys taking 10 defenders out of the play, leaving the running back to try and make one guy miss to pick up yards. Michel does that regularly and I couldn’t be happier about it. He also has a great jump cut. I can’t remember the last between-the-tackles back the Patriots had who was able to make a jump cut.
- As usual, the best offseason pickup the Patriots made is the one nobody really noticed at the time. The 2018 Offseason Stud award goes to Trent Brown, who is currently running laps around Nate Solder for 1/30th of the price. His lateral movement and ability to get to the second level is unreal - and to make things even better, I think he kind of looks like Thud Butt from the movie Hook. He blocks like Thud too.
- Speaking of resemblances...is it me, or does Patrick Mahomes look kind of like Backpack Kid?
- Man oh man do I hate that I even know who Backpack Kid is.
- Offensively, New England was able to take advantage of a banged up Chiefs secondary and keep the defense honest with an effective run game. KC played almost exclusively man-to-man, which is a very effective way to play this Patriots offense if you can stay in receivers’ pockets long enough for the pass rush to get there. But since KC was also banged up along the line, the pass rush never really got there and Brady had plenty of time to hit seven different receivers.
- Somewhere out there, there’s a woman named Rita who is head-over-heels in love with Tommy B and pretends that he’s calling out to her several times a game. And I don’t blame that woman one single bit.
- Welcome back, Chris Hogan. As the leading Patriots receiver last night with four grabs for 78 yards, it was more the circumstances in which Brady went to him than it was the receptions themselves. A few clutch grabs in clutch moments to move the ball and get the Patriots into scoring position.
- And the score that came from Hogan’s two longest receptions, a 4 yard Tommy B touchdown run, was simultaneously my favorite and least favorite play of the entire NFL year so far. Whenever a player like Brady harnesses his inner John Elway and just dives face-first across the goal line, you have to absolutely love it as soon as your heart stops beating again because you realize that Brady is OK. But the only reason Tommy B was able to run for that score is because rookie Breeland Speaks was terrified to tackle Brady. He didn’t want to draw a roughing the passer call. And I completely understand where he was coming from. It ultimately wouldn’t have mattered, as a defensive holding call would have nullified the sack anyway, but the fact that defenders are straight up afraid to do their job means that, once again, the NFL got it wrong.
- That said...as a side note, and unrelated to this specific game, if you’re a fan who complains about the officiating as the reason your team lost, grow up. That’s a tired and pointless exercise. The only fans worse than those who complain about the officiating are the fans who complain about not calling enough holding penalties.
- There were definitely some negatives to take away from this game. Brady is still throwing a few passes at receivers’ feet. He seems to be leading Michel too much on the quick out throws, and Josh Gordon still needs to learn where to sit down in the zone. But when you don’t punt once and put 43 up on the board, it’s tough to complain too much.
- Tight ends are just going to be trouble for this team. It’s like RB wheel routes in 2014 or covering anyone in 2011. That said, holding Travis Kelce to just 61 yards on five catches is a win for the Patriots.
- One of the things the “Kelce is better than Gronk” people don’t want to take into account is just how much better of a blocker Gronk is. When Gronk and Trent Brown are lined up on the same side of the field, it completely opens up the running game and give Michele two or three different reads.
- I wonder how long before Pats fans stop going nuts every time Josh Gordon makes a reception. I keep waiting for him to break one of those slants the way he did for the Browns against the Patriots in 2012.
- I have to admit, I was actually morbidly glad that it took KC all of 12 seconds to tie it up, as it gave the ball back to New England with the perfect amount of time on the clock.
- I legitimately wasn’t nervous about that last drive, and I knew that it would end up being a play to Gronk that more or less sealed it. Gronk had been more or less silent last night until a 42 yard catch and run late in the game to set up a field goal, which meant it was just a matter of time before Gronk came up big again.
- Ron Parker has now joined Sergio Brown, Breshad Perriman, Ryan Mundy, and pretty much the entire 2011 Washington Redskins defense as NFL players to get thrown out of the club by Rob Gronkowski. That’s one support group meeting I’d love to be a fly on the wall on.
- Bad, Bad things happen when LaAdrian Waddle is in there at right tackle. If Cannon can’t go on Sunday, Waddle will be going up against career backup and journeyman scrub Khalil Mack, which shouldn’t be a problem at all.
- Does anyone else think that if Ghost had made that kick with 0:01 left on the clock, the Chiefs would have either run back the ensuing kickoff or Mahomes would have hit Hill for another 75 yard touchdown?
- Around the league, most of the games yesterday didn’t go New England’s way. The Ravens won, the Jets won, and the Dolphins won, which sucks. But let me be the first to give a preemptive congratulations to Brock Osweiler on the massive contract he’s undoubtedly going to receive this offseason. He has once again passed the ultimate test of starting and winning one game as an NFL QB, which is all you need to cash in elsewhere. My dream is to one day get Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick on the same team; as long as each man spends alternating weeks injured, that team will be Super Bowl bound.
This was a good three game home stand...but the Patriots are supposed to win at home. They are now on the road for six of their next eight games, which means it’s the perfect time to be playing their best football. October and November are where seasons are made, so let’s keep this momentum going.