The 2017 season opener did not go at all how the Patriots were hoping.
On Thursday night, they flat out got worked over by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs kept up with the Patriots in the first half going into the locker room down 17-14.
However Andy Reid and crew made their adjustments and owned the second half en route to a 42-27 win.
Outside of the first drive, the Patriots did not look steady on offense. They could never seem to find a rhythm to play calling Thursday night.
So granted, these grade may be a little harsh, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Tom Brady did not look like… well… Tom Brady.
He went 16-36 for 267 and no touchdowns. Not exactly an elite performance.
He seemed uneasy in the pocket and missed several throws. Outside of the first drive it just never seemed like he was in command and comfortable back there.
Something else that appeared very un-Brady like was the fact he seemed obligated to take a deep shot down the field on every drive. That is not what the Patriots offense is about.
The Patriots offense is predicated on balance, precision and patience. They string together drives and take what the defense gives them, if that happens to be the long ball so be it. However, that’s not what was being given to them on Thursday. Just because you have a deep threat in Brandin Cooks doesn’t mean you MUST throw deep.
Brady gets a C grade because the fact is that he did throw for 267 yards against a strong defense. In addition to that he didn’t turn the ball over against a defense that was best in the NFL at taking the ball away last season.
All this being said, I have all the faith in the world that this game was just a fluke. Brady will be back. Even the G.O.A.T. is allowed a bad game here and there.
Running Backs: B
The running game tallied up 124 yards against a strong Kansas City defense, though wide receiver Chris Hogan accounted for 17 of those. The leading rusher that emerged from the crowded Patriots backfield was the newly acquired Mike Gillislee.
Gillislee announced his arrival with three rushing touchdowns on Thursday night. A feat that is impressive in and of itself, but when you factor in that that the Chiefs defense allowed only 5 rushing touchdowns all of last year, it seems even more herculean.
The Patriots second leading rusher was James White, who showed he is more than just a pass catching back, as he ran for 38 yards against Kansas City and had one of the nastier stiff arms you’ll see.
This stuff arm by James White is absolutely NASTY. pic.twitter.com/vfbO4NlArU
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 8, 2017
The Patriots showed that there doesn’t need to be a number one back, and that a four back committee can work for them.
However, there is a reason they only got a B grade.
The Patriots went for it twice on fourth and less than a yard and failed to convert both times. Those two failed attempts came at pivotal moments in the game and could have significantly altered the outcome of the game.
The first would have allowed the Patriots to go up 14-0 early, the second would have swung momentum back to the offense when they needed it most.
Seeing the running backs score three touchdowns, rush for 107 yards and catching passes is an encouraging sign moving forward, unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to get a win to start the season.
Wide Receivers: C
The lack of Julian Edelman in the offense was very apparent last night.
There were 267 receiving yards in the Patriots loss to the Chiefs, 196 of went to the receivers. The other 71 were to the running backs and Gronkowski.
Danny Amendola ended the night as New England’s leading receiver with 100 yards on four receptions.
Brandin Cooks was second with three catches for 88 yards and Chris Hogan was last with 8 yards on a single reception.
The Chiefs seemed to figure out the formula to shutting down the Patriots explosive passing game. Get in the receivers faces, play tight press coverage and force them to run routes outside, not over the middle.
Granted, that formula did bite them twice when Amendola hauled in a 27 yard reception and Cooks later doubled that with a 54 yard catch, but for the most part, it was effective.
This is a strategy I anticipate defenses using more of as we move forward in the season. If that’s the case it will be on the receivers to win their individual battles.
Speaking of moving forward, the health of Danny Amendola may be in question after he exited the game with a head injury and did not return. If he can’t go the depth of receivers is in serious question.
After he left the game, the Patriots only had three healthy receivers left: Cooks, Hogan and Dorsett.
This could be a huge concern in the coming weeks.
With or without Amendola, the New England receiving corps needs to find a rhythm quickly. The loss of Edelman was truly felt against Kansas City, however that can not continue to be a hindrance moving forward. If that’s the case, the one explosive Patriots offense could be in trouble.
Tight end: D+
This will be the shortest section by far.
Gronk really didn’t do anything. He was completely neutralized. As for Dwayne Allen, nonexistent.
Gronk was targeted six times, but only caught two balls for 33 yards.
Brady tried to get the Gronk connection going, but the Chiefs played great defense on him all game. That being said, if you’re the best tight end in the NFL, you’ve got to find a way to get open and make a play.
The tight end position gets a D+ due to the lack of production and inability to make a play.
I don’t expect this to continue to be an issue though. Gronk is too dominant a player to have this be a weekly issue. Look for him to bounce back in a big way next week against a vulnerable Saints defense.
Offensive line: B-
The offensive line played well for three quarters, but when they were needed most, the levee broke.
The line kept Brady upright through the first 75% of the game, however in the fourth they gave up 3 sacks.
Throughout the game they did struggle with the Kansas City pass rush even though a majority of the time the Chiefs only rushed three. The line did keep the pass rush at bay, but the pressure was able to move Brady off his spot in the pocket.
Another major concern for were the failed fourth down attempts. The line got no push, which is what allowed Kansas City to get the stops.
Situations like those are what a lineman lives for, to assert dominance and own your man even when the opponent knows what you’re going to do.
The line played well enough to stay in the B category of grades, but the late sacks and lack of competitiveness knocked them to the B-.
Expect offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to get everything tightened up. You will see a much better performance from the line moving forward.
Overall Offensive Grade: C
You could see the flashes of spectacular, but there was no sustained greatness. This is a game the Patriots easily could have won if they were playing at their full potential.
They had the opportunity to go up 14-0 in the first 5 minutes which could have changed the entire complexion of the game. However they failed to do so giving the Chiefs momentum.
The Patriots are still loaded on offense and should finish the year as a top 5 unit. They just need to find an identity and get some traction going.
I think they will find all of that in week 2 against a historically weak Saint’s defense. Look for an A type performance from the offense that should continue through the rest of the year.