Instant Analysis from the Patriots' 26-10 loss to the Chiefs:
▪ It’s a good thing the Patriots signed Cam Newton in June, because neither of their backup quarterbacks can play. It is laughable to think that the Patriots were even considering starting Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham this year, and they are fortunate that Newton fell in their laps.
The Patriots could have won Monday’s game with simple, safe quarterback play. Instead, Hoyer and Stidham were turnover machines on Monday, sabotaging some great coaching and execution by their teammates with poor decisions and poor throws.
Hoyer was 15 for 24 for 130 yards, an interception and a fumble in 2½ quarters, committing two unforgivable mistakes and leaving at least 6 points on the board.
He was mercifully replaced by Stidham late in the third quarter, and Stidham did throw his first NFL touchdown on a nice 4-yard corner fade to N’Keal Harry. But Stidham wasn’t ready for the opportunity, either. He completed just 5-of-13 passes for 60 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The pick-six wasn’t his fault, but the interception in the end zone certainly was.
This wasn’t an easy environment for Hoyer or Stidham, not getting much practice this week then having to face a good Chiefs team on the road. But the game was there for the taking, if not for the poor quarterback play. The Patriots' season could go downhill quickly if they don’t get Newton back soon from COVID-19.
▪ Bill Belichick really should have replaced Hoyer with Stidham at halftime. The whole point of Hoyer playing is that, in theory, he’s going to make smart decisions. But Hoyer lacked any pocket awareness and made two massive, unforgivable mistakes: Taking the sack and forgetting the timeout situation at the end of the first half, and holding onto the ball way too long en route to a sack and lost fumble. Those two plays cost the Patriots at least six crucial points, in a game where points were a premium.
In addition to the two bad mistakes, Hoyer also held onto the ball too long and had spotty accuracy. After the game, Belichick offered little insight into why he started Hoyer over Stidham, and why he didn’t make the switch sooner.
“We did what we feel was best, so that’s what we did,” Belichick said.
Hoyer did make a few nice throws, moved the Patriots on a couple of drives and seemed to gain confidence as the game wore on. But if Hoyer isn’t making smart plays and managing the game, there’s no reason to have him in there.
▪ If Newton can’t return next week, Stidham should start against Denver. He doesn’t show great pocket awareness, either, but plays with more urgency than Hoyer, who stands like a statue in the pocket. We know what Hoyer is. Might as well see what Stidham can do with a full week of practice.
▪ Belichick came prepared with a terrific game plan, and the Patriots' defense definitely played inspired football against one of the NFL’s best offenses. Using a smaller but faster lineup with six defensive backs, Belichick confused Patrick Mahomes with a variety of coverages and blitzes and kept the Chiefs out of the end zone in the first half, holding them to 6 points on five drives. Holding the Chiefs to 323 yards, 28:26 of possession and 19 offensive points is a good day at the office. Despite the loss, the Patriots' made a statement to the rest of the NFL that their defense will cause problems.
▪ But the Chiefs eventually were able to figure it out, and the Patriots weren’t able to play mistake-free football for four quarters. On the touchdown drive that put the Chiefs up, 19-10, in the fourth quarter, J.C. Jackson dropped an interception, the Patriots committed two penalties for 35 yards, then allowed Mahomes to scramble for 19 yards. You can’t keep giving the Chiefs opportunities like that.
After holding the Chiefs to 6 points on six drives, KC scored touchdowns on its next two, driving 85 and 75 yards.
▪ In 41 games since Mahomes took over in 2018, the Chiefs have been held without a touchdown in the first half just three times. All three games came against the Patriots, including Monday night.
▪ What’s up with Julian Edelman’s drops? He had two more bad ones on Monday night, including one that went right into the hands of Tyrann Mathieu for a 25-yard pick-six that essentially sealed the game for the Chiefs.
Edelman led the NFL with nine drops last year, and already has five this year on 28 targets. One has to wonder if having his snaps limited a bit this year is affecting his ability to keep his head in the game.
▪ The Patriots' offensive line was impressive, especially considering they started backups at center, right guard, and right tackle, including two rookies. The Patriots rushed for 185 yards on 5.3 per carry, even though the Chiefs were loading the box and knew the Patriots didn’t have much of a passing attack. Damien Harris, getting the first real action of his two-year career, rushed 17 times for 100 yards and had a huge hole for a 41-yarder in the third quarter.
▪ The Patriots were able to play keep-away from the Chiefs for a good part of the night, holding onto the football for 10:56 in the second quarter and nearly nine minutes in the third quarter. Center James Ferentz, right guard Mike Onwenu, and right tackle Justin Herron were very impressive.
The one hiccup of the night was a false start penalty on left tackle Isaiah Wynn late in the second quarter, the first offensive penalty committed by the Patriots all season.
▪ And the Patriots dominated the line of scrimmage on defense, too. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was held to just 16 carries for 64 yards, and the Chiefs' only success rushing the ball came on a couple of Mahomes scrambles.
▪ The Patriots were certainly robbed by referee Tony Corrente in the second quarter when Mahomes was ruled in the grasp, negating an obvious fumble and recovery for the Patriots. The play ultimately cost the Patriots about 35 yards of field position, and forced them to grind their way back down the field. But the Patriots did drive back into field goal range a few minutes later, and were in position to score before Hoyer’s lack of focus at the end of the half.