1. There is a long list of Patriots-based problem areas to address, but before we begin, let’s start with this: Credit to the Chiefs. What they put together was like an offensive version of a ferocious blitz. They took it to the Patriots and played with great energy, mixing personnel groupings and formations masterfully and in rhythm, while feeding off the frenzied crowd. And even then, they left some plays on the field.
3. Running against the nickel showed up again with 5:49 remaining on third-and-2. The Chiefs had no problem pitching left there (3-yard run Knile Davis), feeling confident they could manipulate the Patriots’ front-6 in the run game. They did consistently.
4. In the end, I wonder if the Patriots regretted staying in nickel against the Chiefs instead of playing the 4-3 base against everything thrown at them. There is obviously a trickle-down effect of doing that -- it would limit coverage options -- but it was almost as if they were facing a barrage of groupings and formations and perhaps less would have been more for them (we’ll later highlight a play in the second quarter that sparked this thought).
5. The Chiefs ran on the base defense too, as evidenced by the 17-yard Charles’ jaunt to open the second drive (8:13 remaining). Chandler Jones set a soft edge and might have been slightly held, as his failure to disengage highlighted a game's worth of issues for him in that area.
6. My sense of the Patriots’ offensive game-plan was to feature draws and screens to try to use the Chiefs’ aggressiveness against them. Hence the heavy usage of Tom Brady in the shotgun early (17 of 23 first-half snaps), and having rookie running back James White active for the first time this year. The first offensive play was a screen (4 yards, Shane Vereen), but the next two plays -- throws down the field to covered receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell -- highlighted how there were not often open windows in which to throw. From a play-calling perspective, a bit of a curious way to start the game and ultimately the screen/draw-based plan never truly came to life because of second- and third-down issues in the second quarter.
7. One positive from the quarter outside of special teams captain Matthew Slater’s punt coverage: Good range from safety Devin McCourty (3:52) to break up a potential scoring pass to Frankie Hammond Jr.
8. Can’t put all of the struggles in the running game on the offensive line or play-calling, as on the final play of the quarter, tight end Rob Gronkowski missed a block on outside linebacker Justin Houston after coming in motion left to right as Shane Vereen was brought down for no gain. The play capped off a first quarter in which the Chiefs played with greater energy and executed at a much higher level.
1. Tom Brady's struggles and how much that has caused the offense to sputter.
2. Has the loss of some of the more mentally and physically tough players affected the team?
3. Thoughts on where the Patriots go from here.
4. Lack of a pass rush shows up consistently, such as on Alex Smith's 33-yard connection to Dwayne Bowe.
5. Marcus Cannon and offensive line struggles.
Coach Bill Belichick was asked about how to integrate Browner and Tyms this week after they both missed the first four weeks of the season while on suspensions.
“I think that’s a question we will have to address and ultimately answer this week. I don’t know the answer to [that question] right now,” Belichick said during a conference call on Tuesday. “Right, those two players have missed four weeks -- four games -- but all the practice time as well, and we will have to see where they are relative to the other players.”
Browner, the former Seattle Seahawks cornerback and member of the “Legion of Boom,” was acquired this offseason. He provides the Patriots with a physical corner who has superior size and will definitely work his way into the mix in the Patriots’ secondary.
Tyms was one of the surprise stories of training camp as he emerged as a taller receiving target (6-foot-3) who has good hands. He established a strong rapport with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I think both of those guys had good preseasons,” Belichick said. “They both had very positive impacts in the opportunities that they had this preseason.
“We will have to evaluate that [time frame] during the week here and do what we think is best for the game against Cincinnati Sunday night.”
Tyms has a tough task of claiming a roster spot and could be a fit on the practice squad. Considering the Patriots’ decision to make wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins inactive against Kansas City, Tyms may have an opportunity for a role on the 53-man roster. If he treats it like he handled his opportunity during training camp, Tyms could emerge as a receiving option.
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia knows that Browner is not the answer to all problems on defense as all players will be looked at this week to see what is best for the team going forward.
“Well, we have to see where [Browner] is at. I’m sure he will be anxious to get back with the team [and], his teammates will be anxious to have him out there working,” Patricia said. “Keep plugging them all. Obviously, we just think we need to take a look at everybody right now and see how everything fits together and just try to improve as a defense as a whole.”
There are a lot of choices this week after an uninspiring performance Monday night, and with the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals coming to town, struggles on run defense must be rectified. It's not so much that the Bengals are a dangerous rushing offense, but they use the run effectively to limit quarterback Andy Dalton's exposure to potentially compromising situations in the passing game.
The Patriots' issues on run defense Monday night against the Chiefs mostly came with their fits, which was similar to what we saw in the season opener when the Dolphins totaled 191 rushing yards against them. By taking a slight step to one side as a reaction to either play-action or misdirection -- or simply running up the field and leaving the inside gap unaccounted for as defensive end Chandler Jones did at times -- Patriots defenders were too easily displaced Monday night. That opened wide chunks of space for Chiefs running backs to exploit.
The NFL is a copycat league and Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't implement some of the same concepts Sunday to see how the Patriots react.
Then it comes down to shedding blocks and tackling for the Patriots, and that could obviously use an upgrade, as well.
Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.
Q. Is it time to lower expectations for the Patriots? -- Avi (Brooklyn, New York)
If you're thinking Super Bowl right now, I'd say yes, it's time to lower your expectations and get back to focusing on what's going on within the AFC East. You have three teams that are 2-2. I think it's going to turn out to be a competitive race.
Also, it's time to lower your expectations offensively and raise them defensively. I don't know what can be fixed right now offensively when you have offensive line problems like they have. When you think your two offensive tackles might show you some good play, and they're not doing that. Then with two rookies in there, and a rotation they tried to implement -- Nate Solder's out, Solder's in; Ryan Wendell comes in and plays guard when he was your starting center for two years. They have major problems up front.
I'm going to tell you this: Even if they had Wes Welker, Randy Moss and whatever offensive weapons you want to name, they'd still be struggling, because they can't block. As much as you want offensive production, football on offense is about blocking first. If you can't run the ball or protect, you'll never a get a chance to see anything else.
Q. Consider this: Maybe the talent level on this team is just not up to par. Everyone looks for complex answers, but maybe the simple answer is that the Patriots are not a very good team. They have shown that three out of four games. A bad pattern is developing. -- Paul (Kenosha, Wisconsin)
The floor is yours, as we have a compressed time period to review this game before looking ahead to a short week against the Bengals.
Here we go:
Q. Why is it that Tom Brady has gotten away from what made him great: distributing the football to all his receivers? Early in his career he was throwing to guys like Brown, Givens, Branch, Patten, Faulk, Watson, etc. None, I might add, are Hall of Famers. What do you think is causing Brady to rely on two targets regularly (Edelman & Gronk)? -- Rich A. (Bradenton, Florida)
A. Rich, Brady worked Brandon LaFell into the mix a little more on Monday night, but I think the issue is that the pass-catchers aren't open on a consistent basis. So then you get into the issue of forcing throws, which I thought he did on the interception with 7:15 remaining in the third quarter when Julian Edelman appeared to break off his route to the sideline on the out-and-up and LaFell was also in the area. There were three Chiefs defenders there. I don't think that ball should have been thrown.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bill Belichick ranked No. 1 in our Head Coach Tiers ranking of the 32 NFL head coaches last month, a project for which we had eight general managers, four former GMs, four personnel directors, four executives, six coordinators and four position coaches rate every coach in the league. He'll have to do his best coaching job yet to overcome the talent issues Belichick the general manager has created for the New England Patriots in 2014.
It's never been much of an issue in New England, because the team almost always improves and contends. That could happen again, but the Patriots' embarrassing 41-14 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs on "Monday Night Football" showed just how small the Patriots' margin for error has become.
These Patriots barely beat winless Oakland in Foxborough eight days before the Raiders fired their coach. New England has now lost by 13-plus points twice in four games this season after suffering just one defeat by a margin that wide over the previous three seasons.
While the Chiefs' Andy Reid won the coaching battle at Arrowhead Stadium through the successful deployment of unusual formations and design of plays, that isn't the big story for New England. Squandering quarterback Tom Brady's final few seasons will become the big story if what we saw Monday night is truly representative.
Rob Ninkovich -- 63 of 65
Chandler Jones -- 44 of 65
Michael Buchanan -- 9 of 65
Quick-hit thought: Jones, who struggled at times setting the edge in the running game, was taken out for the final three series of the game while other top players like Jerod Mayo stayed on.
Vince Wilfork -- 55 of 65
Chris Jones -- 31 of 65
Dominique Easley -- 29 of 65
Joe Vellano -- 22 of 65
Quick-hit thought: Didn't see much inside penetration from Easley in sub packages, while the Patriots seemed to miss some size next to Wilfork without the injured Sealver Siliga.
Jerod Mayo -- 63 of 65
Dont'a Hightower -- 58 of 65
Jamie Collins -- 54 of 65
Deontae Skinner -- 4 of 65
Chris White -- 2 of 65
Quick-hit thought: Collins came off the field in place of cornerback Kyle Arrington in some sub packages.
Darrelle Revis -- 62 of 65
Logan Ryan -- 38 of 65
Malcolm Butler -- 28 of 65
Kyle Arrington -- 22 of 65
Quick-hit thought: Ryan was benched in the second half after his illegal hands to the face penalty late in the second quarter, coming back to play the final two snaps. The only snaps Revis missed were at the end of the game and one in the goal-line package.
Devin McCourty -- 63 of 65
Patrick Chung -- 44 of 65
Tavon Wilson -- 12 of 65
Duron Harmon -- 11 of 65
Nate Ebner -- 1 of 65
Quick-hit thought: Chung came off in most sub packages, but is clearly the top option next to McCourty on early downs through the first quarter of the season.
Brandon LaFell -- 50 of 50
Julian Edelman -- 47 of 50
Danny Amendola -- 28 of 50
Quick-hit thought: LaFell was one of the bright spots, as the Patriots dressed just three pure receivers and he took advantage of his opportunity. Quarterback Tom Brady has talked about his ability to get open against man coverage and it seems as if he's developed a rapport with him compared to some others.
Rob Gronkowski -- 31 of 50
Tim Wright -- 16 of 50
Michael Hoomanawanui -- 14 of 50
Quick-hit thought: Gronkowski seemed to be getting worked into the mix more, both as a blocker and pass-catcher, with Wright's time increasing a bit after playing just five snaps last week. Hoomanwanui's 14 snaps are easily a season low (30, 43, 44 in Weeks 1-3) and is tied to Gronkowski starting to do more.
Shane Vereen -- 30 of 50
James White -- 14 of 50
Stevan Ridley -- 11 of 50
Quick-hit thought: White played 11 of his 14 snaps on the final two drives with the game well in hand. Vereen was the primary back as the Patriots went into the game with a heavier focus on the passing game.
James Develin -- 9 of 50
Quick-hit thought: Not a big game for the bulldozing lead-blocker, as it was more about the passing game.
Tom Brady -- 35 of 50
Jimmy Garoppolo -- 15 of 50
Quick-hit thought: The first action of the season for Garoppolo, who came on with 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. He accounted well for himself.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are many places one could start when assessing the embarrassing performance turned in by the New England Patriots in their 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It's all fair game, from quarterback Tom Brady to the overmatched defense.
But we're starting on the sidelines with Bill Belichick and his coaching staff.
We didn't. Instead, we saw one of the ugliest games of Belichick's 15-year coaching tenure, another slow start and, ultimately, a postgame locker room in which some players acknowledged they don't know what they are right now, on either side of the ball.
That seems to be true with the coaching staff as well, specifically on offense.
This is a time of identity crisis.
The Patriots, under coordinator Josh McDaniels, have long prided themselves on being a game-plan offense that varies its attack on a weekly basis to exploit the opposition's weakness. The key has been having the varied and talented personnel to pull that off, but after Monday night, it seems obvious that those forces aren't currently in alignment.
One example: The Patriots entered with the intention of throwing the ball -- likely with the belief that the Chiefs' linebackers and secondary depth were areas of vulnerability -- as evidenced by having Brady in the shotgun on 17 of 23 first-half snaps (including penalties). It was a risky approach given the environment, a raucous Arrowhead Stadium that set the outdoor record for loudest crowd roar, for a team with just three pure receivers active.
Maybe it's not a coincidence that the Patriots' most consistent offensive performance this season, Week 2 against Minnesota, came when the game plan seemed most simple. The Patriots loaded the field with heavy personnel that day, got the play-action passing game going and achieved the desired balance.
On Monday night, there was hardly any balance -- seven runs at halftime against 15 pass attempts. By game's end, after Brady was pulled in the fourth quarter for rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, it was 16 rushes against 30 pass attempts.
Considering some of Brady's struggles, it again speaks to the identity crisis on offense and leads us to the conclusion that maybe the coaches are out-thinking themselves based on their personnel.
Brady completed just one of seven passes more than 10 yards down the field Monday and has now connected on a league-low 32 percent of such passes. Furthermore, according to ESPN's Stats & Information, Brady's off-target percentage (25.5) is second highest among quarterbacks to start every game this season and is four percentage points higher than he's had any season since 2006, when ESPN began tracking that data.
Some of that is on Brady himself, as his 11.6 total QBR on Monday was his lowest in a game since 2007. But it also speaks to the players around him -- from the offensive line to those catching the passes -- as nothing is clicking.
How to start the process of getting back on track?
Brady talked after the game about "finding out what we do well consistently" and then building from there, and it obviously starts with the coaching staff correctly identifying what that is. This is a position Kansas City's Andy Reid, whose offensive plan kept the Patriots off balance all day, has been in before.
"I've got the ultimate respect for Bill Belichick. We know the quality not only the coach that he is and the coaches that he has, but also their players," Reid said. "Sometimes, things get a little one-sided in the National Football League, but he still has a very good football team. I think they prove out with time."
Maybe it will, but an ugly performance like Monday's still leaves a mark.
Belichick thought the Patriots were ready to go, but they clearly weren't, which further speaks to the overall disconnect between the sideline and the field.
In an embarrassing 41-14 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has one big takeaway: We need to do everything better.
On both offense and defense, the Patriots were outplayed and outcoached by the Chiefs.
Offensively, the Patriots were pulling and swapping linemen around and the passing game could not get going other than a few passes to wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
“We need to do everything better offensively,” Belichick said during his postgame news conference at Kansas City. “We had like five first downs in the first half or something like that. We did a lot of things wrong and we turned the ball over in the second half. So pretty much, we need to do everything better.”
All eyes have been on the Patriots’ offensive line that saw two rookies, center Bryan Stork and right guard Cameron Fleming, make their first starts in the hostile, record-setting, noisy environment of Arrowhead Stadium. Left tackle Nate Solder was benched for Marcus Cannon as well as right guard Sebastian Vollmer. The issues were endless on the line.
When asked about the Logan Mankins trade after playing two rookies and seeing the offensive line struggle at all positions once again, Belichick was not willing to talk about it.
“We can send around a lot of hypothetical questions, but we are where we are and we need to do better,” Belichick said.
Belichick also benched quarterback Tom Brady after a late-game interception that was returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo saw some action in the fourth quarter.
“I think our team competed,” Belichick said. “I thought we competed there at the end. That’s what they should do.”
The Patriots have another marquee matchup on national television on Sunday night against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.
“We have to have mental toughness and we are going to have to have a good week in a short amount of time,” Belichick said.
The Patriots were viewed as a top team in the AFC that could compete for a Super Bowl, but the attention on the end-of-season goals is not something Belichick dwells on. He is moving on to next week.
“I never make predictions going into the season,” Belichick said. “Never have. Never will.
“Our team is going to play better than they played tonight. Have to go to work and we have to do that.”