Football finally returned Thursday night when the Kansas City Chiefs entered Foxborough for a matchup with the defending champion Patriots.
In front of a sellout crowd raucous for a Goodell sighting the Patriots came out and laid an egg. Overall, it was really an uninspiring performance from the team.
Maybe they bought into the hype surrounding them, or maybe it was just an off game. Either way, something like this cannot happen again and there is no excuse for the team.
There’s plenty to look out for in every game, but before diving into the 5 Takeaways it’s important to remember this is only Week 1. A lot can change between now and the end of the season.
The players and formations we saw from the Patriots tonight are guaranteed to be changed a couple months from know. So, that being said let’s get into what stood out from the game.
1.) Extremely up-tempo offense
I’ll try to start off on a positive note since there weren’t many from this game, the Patriots established on their very first drive a desire to play up-tempo. The use of the no huddle has been a niche of Belichick and Brady’s offense for years but this instance was particularly impressive. When the Patriots offense is healthy and moving at the sort of pace they were on the first drive it is almost impossible to stop them. Essentially the defense needs to pick their poison. If they choose the wrong personnel on the first play then they could be at a disadvantage for the remainder of the drive. The hurry up shouldn’t come as a surprise and it was good to see New England execute it as well as they did. The issue was, after the first drive they got away from it. I can’t think of a reason for this but it obviously hurt the team as the game went on. Maybe some of the blame will fall to injuries, but in week two I would anticipate a much higher use of the hurry up and no huddle from New England.
2.) The Running Backs
Early on the running back rotation was pretty consistent. Rex Burkhead handled first and second down while James White was used as the third down running back. Goal line and short yardage situations went to Mike Gillislee while Dion Lewis was regulated primarily to special teams. Gillislee was money on the goal line, racking up 3 touchdowns. If Gillislee can continue to produce on the goal line then the departure of Legarrette Blount should not be an issue. As for the rest of the running backs, there roles should continue to cement and evolve as the season goes on. The start for the committee was encouraging.
3.) The Defensive Personnel
One starter named for Thursday night’s game that surprised me was third year safety Jordan Richards. Then, he went and stripped Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt on the first play on offense for the Chiefs. Richards was a part of some different packages the Pats rolled out. The middle linebackers were consistently Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin, or a safety would drop down into the linebacker spot. Donta Hightower played a lot as an edge rusher and was allowed to rush the quarterback much more than handle coverage. The Patriots are struggling a bit with their defensive line. Between the injuries, retirement of Ninkovich, and overall lack of depth at the middle and outside linebacker spots the D is a bit soft. Maybe we will see more adjustments from the coaches, but the performance from the defense tonight was not encouraging.
4.) Big Plays
Big plays were unfortunately a negative point for New England in this game. You don’t have to look any further than the 75 yard bomb they gave up to Tyreek Hill to see it was an issue. Then, as if that wasn’t enough they surrendered the 78 yard score to rookie Kareem Hunt (who was extremely impressive in this one). In addition to those plays it sort of just felt like that Patriots were consistently giving up 10 yard gains. Last year, when the Patriots led the NFL in least amount of points allowed per game their motto was “bend, but don’t break”. In this one they literally just broke. If the team wants to have any thoughts of a title defense they will need to shore up these issues and not allow such consistent big plays.
Donta Hightower going down was one of the worst case scenarios and not something the Patriots wanted to see in week one of the new season. He was able to walk off and was riding the stationary bike but it was a scary looking injury. Anytime a player gets rolled up on it is tough to watch and usually does not end well, but hope fully Hightower will be okay. Also, Danny Amendola entering concussion protocol was unfortunate to see too. Since he has a past history of concussions hopefully this one wasn’t to bad and Danny can return to full health soon.
Kareem Hunt was a man amongst boys. This is not an article dedicated to the Chiefs but it is really hard not to mention his performance. He showed great ability both running and catching the ball. It was really hard to not enjoy the performance of the rookie. The Chiefs may have found another talented youngster for their future to complement emerging star Tyreek Hill.
That was certainly not the type of opener the players, coaches, or fans wanted to see. However, try to take a step back and remember it is only Week 1. The Patriots are still one of the most talented and deepest teams in the NFL and they should figure things out going forward.
That performance was ugly. But the last time the Patriots got walloped by the Chiefs — a primetime 41-14 Week 4 rout in Kansas City in 2014 — they answered with two more Super Bowl victories. The sky is not falling and the Patriots will find their footing. It’s more than OK for Patriots fans to be angry at the performance, but know it’s not the end of the world. Water always finds its level and the Patriots will even out soon.
Lastly, I hope the injury to Eric Berry is not to damaging. Berry is one of the greatest stories in the NFL. He beat Leukemia and is a five time Pro Bowler and one of the most dynamic safeties in the league. Maybe the achilles injury isn’t a tear, but regardless of what it is here’s to hoping Berry can make a strong recovery and return better than before.