Question: What do the Dolphins’ and Chiefs’ offenses have in common? They both utilize zone-blocking schemes and the one-cut running game.
Question: What else do they have in common? They both gashed the Patriots’ defense on the ground.
A lot of energy has been used to dissect everything that’s wrong with the Patriots’ offense — don’t worry, we’ll get there, too — but we want to highlight the defense, which was equally horrible in Monday night’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the Patriots’ run defense has looked great in the two games against power, straight-ahead run teams (60.5 yards per game against Minnesota and Oakland), and they were gashed by the two zone-run teams (199 yards per game against Miami and Kansas City).
What the Miami and Kansas City games show is a New England defense that isn’t very disciplined at staying in its run lanes, with a bad tendency of overpursuing the play. Knowshon Moreno tore through the defense for 134 yards and a touchdown off the stretch run play, and the two-headed monster of Knile Davis (107 yards) and Jamaal Charles (92) ripped it apart with misdirection and cutback runs.
The Patriots also need to spend a lot of time working on basic tackling fundamentals, because it was atrocious Monday night. I counted 14 legitimate missed tackles involving 12 players, plus a 27-yard play after Malcolm Butler slipped and lost his assignment. Safety Tavon Wilson managed to miss three tackles in a matter of 12 snaps.
We can sit here all day and discuss what’s wrong with Tom Brady and the offense, but it won’t matter much if the defense can’t make basic tackles.
Other notes and observations after watching the tape of Monday night’s game:
When the Patriots had the ball . . .
■ At this point, it has become pretty obvious Brady doesn’t have much faith in his offensive line. He threw five screen or shovel passes and several quick-hitters just to get the ball out of his hands. And he’s getting rid of the ball quickly even when he has a clean pocket, not letting plays develop fully. He threw it in the ground to a tightly-covered Brandon LaFell on the first series, even though he had plenty of time to throw, and Danny Amendola was more open in the middle of the zone. On both of his interceptions, Brady couldn’t have had a cleaner pocket or more time to throw, but he had a miscommunication with Julian Edelman on one, and never saw Husain Abdullah dropping back from a linebacker spot on the second.
Even when Brady made a good play, he could have made a better one. He threw a beautiful ball to Edelman along the sideline to beat double coverage and pick up a first down, but could have had a huge gain if he had scanned the field and seen fullback James Develin streaking across the deep middle with no defender in sight.
■ Which brings me to another point. If the Patriots are going to line Develin up in the slot and send him out into passing routes, then Brady has to start looking his way. In addition to the play mentioned above, Brady missed a huge opportunity in the second quarter. He threw incomplete to Rob Gronkowski, who was double covered, and never saw Develin leaking out by himself into the flat. Had Brady looked his way, Develin could have had at least a 20-yard catch-and-run. Brady is simply not scanning the field enough, and the game is moving too fast for him right now. The Patriots’ offense won’t succeed until he feels comfortable in the pocket and the game slows down.
■ The offensive line didn’t play great by any stretch, but actually did pretty well in the first half, when the game was still competitive. All three of the Chiefs’ sacks came in the second half, when the Patriots trailed by several scores and the Chiefs could just pin their ears back and go after the quarterback.
Cameron Fleming, playing right guard for the first time, had the roughest day among the linemen, allowing a sack to Justin Houston on an inside move, and allowing a pressure to Dontari Poe that led to Houston’s first strip-sack. Nate Solder gave the matador treatment to Tamba Hali for the other strip-sack, and Sebastian Vollmer allowed the other sack.
■ Bill Belichick didn’t show much faith in the offense by punting twice on fourth and 2 from inside the Chiefs’ territory. And the Patriots had a promising third-and-2 run play fail when center Bryan Stork got blown off his block and Shane Vereen got stuffed.
■ The Patriots treated the fourth quarter basically like a preseason game. James White looked pretty good in his first action, gaining 36 yards on six touches. The offensive line constantly rotated — Marcus Cannon played left and right tackle, Ryan Wendell played left and right guard, and everyone shuffled in and out of the game except for Stork, who was one of two players to play all 50 snaps (LaFell).
Jimmy Garoppolo looked good, but the Chiefs didn’t blitz him, either. His best throw came on his only incompletion, a beautiful slant pass to LaFell that he dropped perfectly in between four defenders, but LaFell couldn’t hold on when he was popped.
■ The Chiefs only blitzed seven times on 33 drop-backs. They played mostly zone coverage and did a good job of disguising their Cover-2 and blitz packages. Abdullah had a phenomenal game and was all over the field in coverage and run stopping.
■ The Patriots really miss having a heavy, between-the-tackles running back. Stevan Ridley is the only one who can get any yards after contact (we counted 8 on three runs), but for some reason he only got five carries for 28 yards and played only 12 of 50 snaps. Why Josh McDaniels continues to run Vereen between the tackles is a mystery — we counted just 2 yards after contact on his 13 touches for 67 yards.
■ Why were Amendola (no official targets) and Brandon Bolden (no offensive snaps) active over Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins? Bolden played 20 special teams snaps (as did Don Jones and Matthew Slater), while Amendola actually provided solid blocking on Monday, particularly on the 41-yard catch-and-run to LaFell. Dobson and Thompkins provide nothing on special teams and aren’t very good blockers.
When the Chiefs had the ball . . .
■ The following players missed a tackle: Devin McCourty, Darrelle Revis, Patrick Chung, Chandler Jones, Logan Ryan, Jamie Collins, Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich, Dominique Easley, Donta Hightower, Jerod Mayo, and Wilson (3).
■ Revis wasn’t great, but he wasn’t as terrible as it initially appeared. Switching liberally between man and zone coverage, Revis allowed four catches to Dwayne Bowe for 48 yards, including two third-down conversions, but he made a nice tackle to keep Bowe out of the end zone at the end of the first half. Even if Revis is giving up more catches than the Patriots would like, he at least is still keeping everything in front of him and has been a sure tackler (except for the one whiff).
■ Andy Reid did a masterful job of play-calling, using one play to set up another. First he used the misdirection run to open up a 12-yard hole for Charles, then used a fake misdirection to Davis that led to a 47-yard run. Half of the Patriots’ defense was chasing down the fake end-around as Davis scampered behind them untouched. The run defense was particularly susceptible to the misdirection and counter play when they were in man-to-man defense. And it felt like whenever Travis Kelce went in motion, the Chiefs threw a play-action pass to him for a big gain.
■ Just an awful game for Chandler Jones in the run game, who got neutralized by left tackle Eric Fisher. Rob Ninkovich was incredibly quiet against right tackle Ryan Harris, Joe Vellano couldn’t do anything against center Rodney Hudson, and even Vince Wilfork was neutralized by the Chiefs’ interior. The only guy who could consistently get off blocks was Chris Jones, who quietly is developing into a really solid player.
■ We counted only five blitzes in 30 drop-backs as Alex Smith had all night to throw — both of his sacks were coverage sacks.
■ Also a terrible game in run defense for Collins, who needs to be more disciplined in staying in his lane, and Mayo looked really slow. And Ryan was replaced by Butler after a rough first half, although Butler didn’t fare any better.
Special teams . . .
■ Second game in a row that Slater had a tackle on a punt for 0 or negative yardage. Slater also stopped another punt return after just 3 yards.
■ Butler didn’t play well in special teams, either. He did a horrible job blocking the gunner on one punt return, allowing Phillip Gaines to get a kill shot on Edelman, who was lucky to hold onto the football.
Offensive snap counts
|WR Brandon LaFell||39||36||43||50||168||61%|
|C Bryan Stork||0||11||15||50||76||28%|
|WR Julian Edelman||83||50||70||47||250||91%|
|OT Cameron Fleming||4||27||12||47||90||33%|
|LT Nate Solder||86||65||75||41||267||97%|
|RT Sebastian Vollmer||85||65||75||39||264||96%|
|QB Tom Brady||86||65||75||38||264||96%|
|C Dan Connolly||86||54||75||38||253||92%|
|TE Rob Gronkowski||38||27||44||31||140||51%|
|RB Shane Vereen||61||19||28||29||137||50%|
|WR Danny Amendola||61||18||27||28||134||49%|
|LG Marcus Cannon||86||57||75||20||238||86%|
|TE Tim Wright||21||8||5||16||50||18%|
|C Ryan Wendell||22||0||0||15||37||13%|
|TE Michael Hoomanawanui||30||42||48||14||134||49%|
|RB James White||0||0||0||14||14||5%|
|RB Stevan Ridley||22||36||43||12||113||41%|
|QB Jimmy Garoppolo||0||0||0||12||12||4%|
|FB James Develin||17||21||12||9||59||21%|
|RG Jordan Devey||64||65||60||0||189||68%|
|WR Kenbrell Thompkins||46||0||36||0||82||30%|
|WR Aaron Dobson||0||31||0||0||31||11%|
|RB Brandon Bolden||9||10||7||0||26||9%|
|G Josh Kline||0||8||0||0||8||3%|
Defensive snap counts
|DE Rob Ninkovich||36||66||58||63||223||84%|
|FS Devin McCourty||73||58||58||63||252||95%|
|LB Jerod Mayo||74||66||58||62||260||98%|
|CB Darrelle Revis||63||58||58||62||241||91%|
|LB Donta Hightower||74||66||58||58||256||97%|
|DT Vince Wilfork||50||37||48||55||190||72%|
|LB Jamie Collins||73||0||19||54||146||55%|
|SS Patrick Chung||46||35||40||47||168||63%|
|DE Chandler Jones||70||66||58||43||237||89%|
|CB Logan Ryan||18||66||58||40||182||69%|
|DT Chris Jones||0||16||27||33||76||29%|
|DE Dominique Easley||26||30||16||31||103||39%|
|CB Malcolm Butler||27||8||0||30||65||25%|
|CB Kyle Arrington||31||41||21||24||117||44%|
|DT Joe Vellano||33||1||14||24||72||27%|
|SS Duron Harmon||5||27||12||13||57||22%|
|SS Tavon Wilson||22||11||15||12||60||23%|
|DE Michael Buchanan||0||0||0||12||12||5%|
|LB Deontae Skinner||0||20||0||6||26||10%|
|SS Nate Ebner||1||14||10||1||26||10%|
|DT Sealver Siliga||41||37||10||0||88||33%|
|SS Don Jones||0||3||0||0||3||1%|
|CB Alfonzo Dennard||51||0||0||0||51||19%|