KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The defense was gashed, the offense largely went nowhere, and the Patriots were embarrassed Monday night in one of the most lopsided losses of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.
The Chiefs drubbed the Patriots, 41-14, in a game that only raised more questions about the personnel on the Patriots’ roster as well as the coaching, and whether either is good enough to bring a perennial playoff contender back for another deep postseason run.
“We’ve got to play a lot better if we’re going to be a good team and win games,” cocaptain Devin McCourty said. “I’m disappointed; this is the most embarrassing game I’ve ever been a part of. We lost in every aspect. We’ll definitely learn something from this and learn a good amount.”
Tom Brady didn’t look like himself, playing behind an offensive line that began with three changes on the interior. Linemen were rotating in and out throughout the game.
Brady was replaced in the fourth quarter after throwing an interception that was returned by Husain Abdullah 39 yards for a TD. The score was 41-7.
Jimmy Garoppolo was summoned and engineered a seven-play, 81-yard drive that culminated in his first NFL touchdown, a 13-yard strike to Rob Gronkowski.
Belichick was asked in his postgame news conference if the quarterback position would be evaluated. The question elicited an incredulous smirk and slight shake of the head from Belichick.
The Patriots played five running backs in the game but never committed to the run, though once they got into a big enough hole, running the ball became moot.
And defensively, the Patriots were beaten on the ground and through the air, and oddly, several defenders slipped on the grass field, allowing big plays.
The Kansas City players did not slip with the same frequency, literally and metaphorically.
“This was a tough loss for us,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We didn’t start off fast . . . they had the momentum and they kept the momentum the whole game.”
The slow starts are becoming a pattern for the Patriots, and not a good one: their opponent has scored first in each of their four games, and as Matthew Slater pointed out, the offense has gone three-and-out to start the game each time.
“It’s attention to detail,” Slater said. “It’s not big things, it’s lots of small things.”
The Chiefs raced out to a 17-0 halftime lead, two quarters of football so bad for the Patriots that the lone highlight came courtesy of punt gunner extraordinaire Slater, who held Kansas City returner Frankie Hammond Jr. to a zero-yard return in the first quarter with a tremendous run downfield and tackle.
Otherwise, they were two forgettable quarters. The Chiefs gained 303 yards of offense in the opening half; it was the first time in the Belichick era that the Patriots have given up more than 300 yards in a half. The Chiefs totaled 443 yards for the game.
In their previous two games, against Minnesota and Oakland, the Patriots’ defense had been stingy, allowing fewer than 250 yards to each team. Between them, the Vikings and Raiders only scored one touchdown. That was not the case on Monday.
Eighty-six of the Chiefs’ total yards came on one brief and highly efficient possession, as it took just three plays — a 48-yard run by Knile Davis, a 33-yard catch-and-run by Travis Kelce, and a 5-yard screen to Jamaal Charles — for Kansas City to get into the end zone to make it 14-0.
The Chiefs’ first touchdown drive was 11 plays and 73 yards, a 15-yard completion on third and 8 to Dwayne Bowe, with Revis in coverage, putting them just shy of the goal line. Charles, returning to play after suffering an ankle sprain in Week 2, punched it in.
The Chiefs closed out the half with a chip-shot field goal, although they almost blew the possession. The Patriots had held the Chiefs just short of the goal line on the final play of the half as time ran out, but an illegal-use-of-the-hands penalty on Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan gave the Chiefs one second, and a chip-shot field goal.
In all, Kansas City had 18 plays of 10 or more yards. The Patriots looked slow against the Chiefs’ playmakers, and did not finish tackles.
“We just never got anything going. Nothing,” defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. “Defensively we started the game with a couple of stops in the run game. That’s the only thing we had the whole game. We could never keep them in third-and-long or get a handle on the run game. It wasn’t good enough.
“I give credit to (the Chiefs) – they didn’t do anything we didn’t expect them to do. They just executed. They executed perfectly. We were always out of the game it seemed. We took one on the chin. They beat us like we stole something.”
Add in a dismal offensive showing, and you have the recipe for a rout, the likes of which the vast majority of Patriots have never experienced before.
“This is a little bit of unfamiliar territory, especially for myself,” Slater said. “But the season is young – 75 percent of the season is left. We can’t hang our heads; we have to find a way to improve.”
Wanting to shake things up on the offensive line, New England changed all three interior positions, with Dan Connolly at left guard (Marcus Cannon started there the first three games), rookie Bryan Stork at center (Connolly had been starting at center), and rookie Cameron Fleming at right guard in place of Jordan Devey, who was inactive.
Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer were benched for brief periods during the game, with Cannon subbing in for both. Solder didn’t touch Chiefs edge ruisher Tamba Hali on a third-quarter strip-sack. Brady fumbled at the New England 14, and the Chiefs recovered at the 9. Two plays later, Charles scored on an 8-yard pass from Alex Smith (20 of 26 for 248 yards and three TDs) to make it 24-0.
The Patriots deactivated receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, both healthy scratches, and rookie James White was active for the first time this year, indicating a desire to go run-heavy.
But appearances are deceiving: in 46 plays, Brady attempted 23 passes, and Garoppolo attempted seven. The Patriots ran the ball only 16 times.