1. While the game was over at that point, and the Chiefs might have exhaled a bit, it was nicely done by Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in leading a seven-play, 81-yard touchdown march on his first drive of the game. The ball was out quickly and delivered mostly with good accuracy. One can see the obvious traits that drew the Patriots to Garoppolo, as he showed good command and didn't appear to have any major issues when it came to getting the play-call, delivering it in the huddle, and running the overall offense.
2. Rookie running back James White showed some of the spark that had first been seen on the practice fields in offseason camps but wasn't quite there in preseason games. After he bounced an 11-yard run around right end (9:58 remaining), this note was jotted down: "As decisive as we've seen from him in a game." He looked quick and might have earned himself some more playing time in the weeks to come.
3. For those who view tight end Tim Wright as a catch-only tight end, evidence to the contrary could be shown on Brandon LaFell's 37-yard catch-and-run (8:17 remaining). Wright helped pave the way with a solid block (possible hold?) as he could also be positioning himself for more playing time in the weeks to come.
4. Footing was an issue for several players, as the field was slick. Cornerback Malcolm Butler slipped on Donnie Avery's 27-yard catch (13:42 remaining) and I wonder if the unfamiliarity with the venue (first trip since 2005) might have been a factor.
5. One pressure (third quarter) and one sack surrendered (by Justin Houston, fourth quarter) for rookie right guard Cameron Fleming in his NFL debut. Is that enough to earn him a second start? One question to monitor this week.
6. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is starting to do more things, a sign that he's on the cusp of becoming a full-time player once again. With 8:45 remaining, he motioned right to left and helped lead the way on Stevan Ridley's 8-yard run with a solid block. Four plays later, he was barreling into the end zone on a 13-yard catch-and-rumble (a.k.a. smashing and dashing). On a day when there weren't many highlights, Gronkowski's late-game work draws a mention.
A breakdown by drive:
1. Nate Solder-Dan Connolly-Bryan Stork-Cameron Fleming-Sebastian Vollmer (3-and-out)
2. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (8 plays and punt)
3. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (8 plays and punt)
4. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Marcus Cannon (4 plays and punt)
5. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (3 plays and punt)
6. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (3 plays/strip sack)
7. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (2 plays/INT)
8. Cannon-Connolly-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (4 plays/TD)
9. Solder-Connolly-Stork-Ryan Wendell-Vollmer (3 plays/pick-6)
10. Solder-Wendell-Stork-Fleming-Cannon (7 plays/TD)
11. Cannon-Wendell-Stork-Fleming-Vollmer (5 plays/punt)
The one player to go wire-to-wire in the same spot was rookie center Bryan Stork, who made his first career NFL start. The other takeaways are the Patriots going through the process of building back some confidence at tackle with Cannon, which is a more natural position for him, as well as working Wendell at guard (where he last played in a regular-season game in 2010 and 2011).
1. In dissecting quarterback Tom Brady's first interception, in which he threw into a heavily trafficked area as receiver Julian Edelman broke off his out-and-up route to the sideline, it highlighted how the Patriots were using extra resources to account for protection concerns at the line of scrimmage. They initially kept eight players in to block, with running back Stevan Ridley chipping left outside linebacker Tamba Hali and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui staying in on the right side of the line at the start of the play. The Chiefs rushed just five, which meant the Patriots had two receivers in pass-routes against six Kansas City defenders before Gronkowski released out late to make it a three-on-seven numbers game. It's no wonder Brady was throwing into heavy coverage.
2. The offensive line didn’t seem to be a major cause for concern in the first half, but the breakdowns started to pile on top of each other in the third quarter when the Chiefs could pin their ears back and get after Brady. Rookie right guard Cameron Fleming was beaten to his outside shoulder by defensive lineman Allen Bailey on the third-and-6 sack in which Brady fumbled to be somehow recovered by left tackle Nate Solder. The pressure from Bailey forced Brady to step up into the pocket, where outside linebacker Justin Houston was knifing in against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
3. So confident with the ability to run on the Patriots, the Chiefs called six straight runs on their opening drive of the second half of 4, 5, 5, 16, 1 and 3 yards, respectively. On the 5-yard run on third-and-1, Dont'a Hightower struggled to set the right defensive edge, with Chandler Jones playing inside. The run initially came up the middle before it was cut outside. Soft edges were an issue for much of the day for the Patriots -- specifically with Jones and, to a lesser degree, Hightower.
4. Jones' struggles setting the edge earned him a spot on the sideline with 3:26 remaining in the third quarter (Chiefs 27, Patriots 7), as Dominique Easley got his first extended work at right defensive end in a game. Easley played his technique well by pressing and extending his arms into the chest of left tackle Eric Fisher on a Knile Davis run for no gain with 2:47 remaining, setting a nice edge on that play before rushing too far up the field past the quarterback from a two-point stance on the next play.
5. This was a game in which everything seemed to hit right for the Chiefs -- even on plays that didn’t produce the desired results. For example, the screen pass that was dropped by running back Knile Davis was the perfect call against a six-man Patriots blitz (5:38 remaining). Just one of those days for New England. That's football.
6. Receiver Brandon LaFell's size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) stood out on his 44-yard catch and run touchdown. As a bigger receiver, he’s tough to bring down and that was one of the bright spots for New England. The play preceding that -- a 28-yard quick pass to running back Shane Vereen coming off a jet sweep play action to Julian Edelman to the opposite side -- was a glimpse of how the Patriots thought they might be able to attack the Chiefs by featuring their running backs in the passing game. But they just couldn’t sustain enough drives early to get into that.
7. Tough night for safety Tavon Wilson, who struggled with his footing in limited snaps, with Travis Kelce’s 16-yard catch-and-run at 3:26 following up a similar miscue in the second quarter on Kelce’s 33-yard catch-and-run.
8. One offensive player stood out from a hustle perspective -- Edelman. On the Brady strip sack fumble recovered by the Chiefs, and then the Sean Smith interception, he displayed a maximum effort that wasn’t overlooked at this address.
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaTom Brady and Bill Belichick have some work to do to straighten out the Patriots.
The Patriots host the Bengals in Week 5, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL this season (Cardinals) and the team allowing the fewest points per game this season (11.0).
If the Patriots want to avoid a 2-3 start and a further slide in the rankings, they’ll need better play from their offense, specifically their quarterback.
Expected points added (or efficiency) measures the impact of every play on each team's potential points, accounting for such factors as down and distance, field position and other situational factors.
This season, the Patriots rank eighth in defensive efficiency and 29th in offensive efficiency.
If this trend continues, it would be the first time since 2006 the Patriots defense outweighed the offense (that offense did rank sixth that season).
Contributing to the low efficiency is the fact the Patriots have converted only 36 percent of their third downs, 27th in the NFL. That would be the lowest of the Brady-Belichick era for the Patriots.
With the offense struggling, Brady’s decline in play becomes the focal point.
Off the mark
Brady is on pace for his lowest completion percentage of his career. He has completed 59.1 percent of his passes (29th) and he has seen a league-leading 25.5 percent of his passes fall incomplete due to an over or underthrown pass.
Brady has also averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt (35th out of 36 qualified QBs), better than only Raiders rookie Derek Carr.
Contributing to the low completions and yards per attempt is the Patriots inability to stretch the field.
Brady has completed only one of 16 attempts thrown 20 or more yards downfield this season (6.3 percent). No other quarterback is below 15.0 percent completions on those passes this season.
Brady not the only one to blame
Brady has completed 73.5 percent of his passes to Julian Edelman this season, but only 47.5 percent of his attempts to the rest of the Patriots wide receivers.
Inconsistency in the receiving corps has likely played a factor in that, as no receiver outside of Edelman has been on field for a bulk of the team’s snaps.
The pre-season trade of guard Logan Mankins may be looking like a big mistake too. Brady has been pressured on 26 percent of his dropbacks, which would be the highest since that data became available in 2009.
He’s also been sacked on 6.2 percent of his dropbacks, which would be his highest since 2001. This had led to three lost fumbles for Brady, same as he had in the previous two seasons combined.
Belichick at fault too?
As one of the key decision makers in personnel, Bill Belichick faces some blame in the Patriots current scenario as well.
In the past five drafts, the Patriots have taken more quarterbacks (two) than offensive linemen (one - Nate Solder) in the first three rounds.
The Patriots have also drafted seven wide receivers total in the last five drafts. One of those receivers was Edelman, who has 200 career receptions. The other six have combined for 99 career receptions, but 25 of those weren’t even for the Patriots.
Harrison, a former teammate of Brady's and current NBC Sports football analyst, told WEEI 93.7 FM in Boston that it "hurt" him to see the Patriots struggle as badly as they did in Monday night's 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Patriots' offensive line played musical chairs in the loss as left tackle Nate Solder, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and others were swapped out and moved around at various points during the game. Brady was sacked twice, threw two interceptions and was unable to establish himself in the pocket.
To Harrison, the problem with the Patriots' offense isn't as much Brady as it is those who are protecting him and the players he is throwing to.
"Tom Brady can still play," Harrison said. "But when you surround him -- there's a reason why Brandon LaFell was let go [by Carolina]. He's not a great player. He's a young guy, and he has to make his way in this league.
"And Danny Amendola, you look at him, no one ever said he was a great player. He's always been hurt. The history is behind it. Rob Gronkowski obviously coming off that ACL injury, he's been hurt. So it's not like when you look at the Patriots on paper they just have all these weapons and teams are afraid of them."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick pulled Brady after his second interception was returned for a touchdown by Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah
2. From this view, a flaw in the Patriots’ game plan to run out of the shotgun and use more screens, draws and shovel passes showed up on third-and-2 (13:08 remaining). The ball was on the right hash mark, and the call was to run Shane Vereen around right end. Although the Patriots needed just two yards, to the 40-yard line, Vereen was handed the ball out of the gun at the 47 and only had the short side of the field to work with. That seemed to be an example of the Patriots making life harder on themselves than it had to be. Vereen was stopped for no gain as linebacker Josh Mauga did a nice job penetrating on center Bryan Stork to create some disruption in the backfield.
4. It was mentioned in the first-quarter review that perhaps the Patriots might have considered staying in their base defense against the Chiefs’ three-wide-receiver groupings because of their struggles defending the run in nickel. The play that sparked the thought was Knile Davis' 48-yard run (12:25 remaining). The Chiefs were at their own 14-yard line and came out in a tightly compact 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB package, while the Patriots countered in nickel with three down linemen and Chandler Jones in a two-point stance on the right side of the line. With effective pre-snap motion and quasi-play-action from left to right, the Patriots’ front was manipulated out of position as Davis took a handoff up the middle and Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo appeared to struggle shedding. Too easy for the Chiefs.
6. Another soft edge set in the running game by Chandler Jones, as Jamaal Charles ran for 8 yards over Jones’ side.
7. Assuming all of New England had the same reaction at the 2:43 mark: Why not run it, Tom Brady? Mauga was in the neighborhood, but Brady probably would have had the first down on the third-and-2 play if he tucked it and ran.
8. Tough call on cornerback Logan Ryan for illegal hands to the face, which earned him a stern talk from Bill Belichick on the sideline and a significantly reduced role in the second half. Wonder if Belichick sees it different after watching the ticky-tack call on tape or we are more forgiving.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is struggling mightily.
In the wake of a humbling 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady's season statistics through four games are ghastly. He's completing fewer than 60 percent of his throws. He's on pace for a career-worst passer rating. He ranks 33rd in the league among 34 qualified QBs in yards per attempt.
Some observers suggest he's in decline. Others point to a substandard offensive line and a dearth of weapons at the skill positions.
We tap our experts to answer the question: What's wrong with Brady?
Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus
In short, Brady is declining. We have seen evidence of it the past few seasons, but it was subtle and slow enough that it wasn't easy to identify. Last season, there were many factors outside of Brady's control that affected his play, and many observers attributed the statistical dip to those other influences. But the fact is we have seen the best of Tom Brady, and the only question remaining is how steep the drop-off will be.
The losses of longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins have been a body blow to the offense. Scarnecchia had been able to craft impressive units year after year regardless of turnover, but this season the New England offensive line has crumbled, abandoning Brady at the very time he needs protection the most. The Patriots have already surrendered 55 total pressures (sacks, hits and hurries), two more than any other team in the league, 25 more than the league average and 45 more than the best mark in the NFL.
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)
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.