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Patriots vs. Chiefs: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Welp...

The Patriots losing on the road to the defending champs isn’t a big deal. Not in the slightest. The Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in the NFL and currently sit in a role New England knows all too well: they’re the team you measure yourself against to see how far away you are from being a serious contender. And based on what we saw last night, New England is way closer than I thought they’d be by this point in the season.

And they have a quarterback who is now way closer to never playing another down for this team again. But I’ll get to that later.

  • In terms of the game itself, this was probably the least amount of enthusiasm I have ever had watching the Patriots play. And it wasn’t so much because New England was going to lose this one or because Cam Newton was out or anything along those lines; I’ve been excited for games I knew New England was going to lose in the past and enjoyed it just the same. I just felt like, by watching this contest, I was complicit in this league’s decision to push forward with this season at all costs, to take a massive, massive gamble that nobody else on either squad was going to test positive, and march these kids out there for their profit and our amusement. The whole thing just felt a little dirty to me, and I’d be lying if I said I had trouble reconciling watching.
  • What I was able to take solace in, though, is that since the NFL will always, always prioritize the bottom line over the health and safety of its players, I would imagine they’d never do anything to risk shutting down the season as a whole by forcing these two teams to play one day later. They must be really confident in their protocols, otherwise they potentially just tanked the rest of the year and will lose way more money than they would have lost on this game. So know that when the league forces guys out there, they’re doing so with playing a full slate in mind.
  • Then again, what’s the last thing this league got right? They could just as well know that there’s no chance this league year finishes, so they’re cramming as many games as possible in until it all shuts down. Who knows.
  • In a game we all had slated for a loss when the schedule first came out, the Patriots, who started their day at 6AM with swabs up the nose and then had to travel an hour by bus and then four and a half hours by plane and then another forty-five minutes from the KC airport to the stadium before playing last night, didn’t look all that horrible. In fact, they had a legit chance to win this game, and likely would have had a few things gone their way.
  • This was just one of those games where the Patriots shot themselves in the foot over and over - something you can’t do against any team, let alone the Chiefs. Devin McCourty dropped a gimme interception, as did JC Jackson. They made three trips inside the red zone and came away with three points. Key drops led to turnovers and punts. The Chiefs are the best team in the league for a reason, and they don’t need any help beating you.
  • But boy did they get it, in the form of one Axel Edward Brian Hoyer.
  • There’s a reason that Ryan Fitzpatrick is considered the GOAT journeyman, even though Hoyer has played for more teams - way more if you consider that this is now his third stint with the Patriots. Unlike Hoyer, Fitzpatrick has set the league on fire enough to earn himself several starting roles. The only thing Hoyer set on fire, last night at least, was his place on the depth chart.
  • And it wasn’t just the sack before halftime and the fumble that completely shifted the game’s momentum. Don’t get me wrong; those were bad. But he was also missing open receivers. Throwing passes too high. Making poor decisions. Unable to find a rhythm. The best plays he made were an eight yard scramble on third down and the block he threw on a Zuber end-around. When your QB’s highlight is throwing a block, the odds of you winning are slim.
  • I should probably move on from Hoyer, as we all know he stunk and saying so doesn’t represent any kind of legitimate analysis - but how the hell do you take that sack with time running out and no timeouts left? That is literally the only thing you can’t do. Throw it away, take the grounding penalty, anything at all. And to not know you’re out of TOs just shows that you’re overwhelmed out there.
  • For the record, Hoyer had a 38.8 QBR last night. So anybody, ever, who tries to use QBR as some kind of metric to measure a quarterback’s skill level is someone you can stop talking to right away.
  • In a Ghostbusters remake-level bad offensive night, two lone bright spots were Damien Harris as a runner and N’Keal Harry as a blocker. Harry hasn’t quite made that 2nd year leap we’ve all been hoping for, but he has for sure made a 2nd year methodical, careful step forward. He’s developing a rapport with Newton, and he’s really coming into his own as a blocking receiver. He’s getting more comfortable using his size, and he at least got a few looks in a jump ball scenario. He didn’t win either of them, but at least he’s getting the targets.
  • And Harris was exactly what I was hoping he’d be - a between the tackles runner who makes a cut and goes. His 41 yarder was a great run, but it was more his consistent 3-4 yard runs that I liked the most. I wish he got a couple of passes thrown his way...but the Patriots receivers are likely saying the same thing this morning.
  • Plus, based on the way Hoyer played, who knows - maybe some of those passes were supposed to be for Harris after all.
  • At least the Patriots finally won the toss and deferred. So that’s something.
  • Was Bill Belichick wearing two masks yesterday?
  • In case you find yourself at pub trivia ten years from now and are asked to name all of the teams Hoyer played for in his career: Patriots, Steelers, Cardinals, Browns, Texans, Colts, Bears, 49ers.
  • That the Chiefs started their third drive on their own three yard line and were in field goal range within four plays is just amazing. If you don’t take immense amounts of joy watching this offense work, I respectfully suggest you open your mind a little bit more.
  • I couldn’t help but notice the lack of pink in and around the NFL as we get into October. Did the league decide to stop pretending to care about breast cancer?
  • Julian Edelman’s weekly drops are never dull, I’ll say that.
  • And before you bash Edelman too much...
  • Through four weeks, not quite sure what to make of Edelman’s season thus far. His performance against the Seahawks was something of an anomaly, it seems, and I’m not sure if it’s him maybe starting to show his age, or perhaps he’s not buying in as much with Brady gone, or if it’s just that he’s no longer a central focus of the offense the way he was when Tommy B was under center. By no means is it time to pull the plug on him, but it’s something to monitor down the stretch.
  • Good for CBS highlighting Andy Reid using his high football IQ and love of the sport to go through old footage to find new formations that might help his team win games. Good coaches know football very well and are able to always add new wrinkles and exploit the wording of the rules. He’s rightfully receiving praise from the media for his creativity. I wish Bill Belichick would do that.
  • Is there a particular reason the league keeps depriving the Patriots of touchdowns against the Chiefs? Seriously; how many times is this going to happen? Shilique Calhoun was very likely on his way to the end zone after that interception, but Patrick Mahomes was ruled down because he was in the grasp. Last year it was Gilmore and Harry who were denied touchdowns, this year it’s Calhoun. The Patriots already had Brian Hoyer last night, they didn’t need any extra screwing from the refs.
  • Whenever I see a quarterback ruled down because he was in the grasp for two or three seconds, I immediately have the PTSD flashback to 2007 when Richard Seymour had enough time to grab Eli Manning by the collar, pull him nose-to-nose, ask him if there’s a problem here, warn him that he better go down, and ask the rest of the defense whether or not he should let Manning go or give him a swirlie before he was able to break free, close his eyes, and hit David Tyree’s helmet.
  • And in case you were wondering...for some reason, ruling a player down like that isn’t challengeable. Why that is is anybody’s guess. All the more reason for the rule change to make every play reviewable.
  • When the Patriots went into the locker room down three at halftime, I was ecstatic. But then I remembered that the Chiefs never show up in the first half against this team and then score 70 points in the second.
  • I was, however, pleasantly wrong, as this game was all about the defense. Drop eight, rush three, blitz sparingly, rely on the strength of your secondary. Patrick Mahomes is completely unfazed by pressure and can evade most rushers, so why even bother? And it worked, yet again. This was the best defensive performance of the season and it isn’t even close.
  • And as good as the secondary has been, I think it ultimately starts with my quarter-mark Patriots MVP Chase Winovich. The guy is an absolute menace off the edge, with the versatility to stunt inside and get pressure from anywhere along the line. He also has the closing speed you need to chase down backs who break into the second level. With Winovich and surpsingly awesome Deatrich Wise bookending the defensive line, New England was able to mix in enough man and zone to keep Mahomes guessing and prevent him from taking off. No Chief really torched the Patriots the way some players have in years past, and the defense only surrendered two touchdown drives. I’ll take that all day.
  • And if that wasn’t enough for the MVP bid, last night I texted Marima where Jarrett Stidham ranked on the Marima Cutie Patootie Quotient. Everybody knows that a strong MCPQ score is nothing to scoff at. However, when I asked her, she responded - and I quote - “I’m still studying Winovich.” Needless to say, this kid has a bright future ahead of him.
  • I seem to find myself a little higher on Jarrett Stidham than a lot of folks this morning. His first interception wasn’t even remotely his fault, and on his second, he actually had Byrd open had he seen it and made the throw about three seconds earlier. And as far as interceptions go, that was a very pretty one - a deep, accurate laser. And he connected with Harry on a nice endzone grab that could potentially be a glimpse into the future. All in all, being asked to step in for the first time, in primetime, on the road, down against the world champs, on short notice, coming off a wild travel day...I liked what I saw.
  • If you’re among the “Belichick can win with anybody” crowd, I imagine you’re in a bit of a mental pretzel this morning. I’m not sure if you were rooting for the Patriots to win so you could hate on Tom Brady - that overrated, system, 369 yards and 5 TDs Tom Brady - or rooting for them to lose so you could be happy the Pats dropped a game. Either way, I’m glad you’re all still out there. Being a Patriots fan wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without the small handful of you who are left on that hill and are determined to die on it. So if you don’t quite know how to spin it this morning so nobody gets any credit and you can keep on hating, allow me to help you out. Feel free to copy and paste the below anywhere you see fit:
  • If Belichick had literally any other QB out there last night, Patriots win that game.
  • New England had a preseason roster out there and were still hanging with the best team in the AFC. If that doesn’t prove it’s the system, nothing will.
  • Even old, washed, overrated Tom Brady likely wins the game last night, because Belichick’s gameplan was working. Even he can’t scheme around a quarterback taking sacks and fumbles in the red zone.
  • New England has lost two games so far this year, and I’ve come away from both of them feeling absolutely fantastic. If Cam Newton was the starter yesterday, New England is likely 3-1 this morning. Ultimately ifs count for jack squat in this league, and if you keep giving the Chiefs opportunities they’re going to smoke you, so good for KC doing what they needed to do. But I once again slept like a baby last night and would welcome, with open arms, the chance to travel to Arrowhead later in the season to play this team again.
  • If nobody on the Chiefs or the Patriots tests positive over the coming days, I’m taking yesterday’s game as a massive, massive win. And the only win that will matter at the end of the day. Of course none of these players themselves are going to suffer any adverse effects should they catch the rona, but who knows what their respective family situations are. I hope everyone came through this healthy and that the league didn’t just tank the season because they wanted these two teams to play Week 4 since another postponement would mess up the schedule too much.
  • I’ll guarantee you this: had this pandemic been in 2004 or so and this was a Brady vs. Manning game and one of those guys got it, the league would have pushed it back. I also feel like they would have postponed it if Mahomes had tested positive and not Newton. But that’s just me and my tinfoil hat talking.

2-2 at the end of September. The last time the Patriots lost to the Chiefs on the road on Monday night, they dropped to 2-2 before going on to win the Super Bowl. I’ll take it.