Five takeaways from Patriots-Chiefs: Big plays gash Patriots defense


Five takeaways from Patriots-Chiefs: Big plays gash Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- Here are five quick-hit observations from Thursday night's NFL season-opener. 

1. The Patriots gave up a pair of uncharacteristic long scores that changed the complextion of the game. The first came with 9:19 remaining in the third quarter when Alex Smith found Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard score when Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty had a communication breakdown in the secondary. Then the Chiefs got running back Kareem Hunt matched up on Cassius Marsh and hit him for a 78-yard score deep down the middle of the field. Down eight points with about four minutes left, the Patriots gave up a 58-yard run and a 21-yard touchdown run to Charcandrick West on back-to-back plays. The Patriots have long prided themselves on limiting big plays -- "bend but don't break" is how they're often described beyond the Gillette Stadium walls -- but they were unable to do that in the opener and it did them in. 


2. The absence of Julian Edelman made an immediate impact. The Chiefs seemed to do most of their damage defensively with a four-man rush, meaning they dropped seven into coverage to run with five eligible Patriots receivers. While there were mismatches to be had at times -- Patriots backs on Chiefs linebackers, for instance -- Tom Brady and his teammates weren't able to take advantage. Having someone who can quickly uncover like Edelman might have helped to diffuse the Kansas City pass-rush. Instead, low-percentage throws down the field -- away from where the Chiefs had a numbers advantage -- were the norm. Didn't work out. 

3. Danny Amendola was worn out quickly. Without Edelman, the Patriots relied on Amendola in the slot. They've done a good job in recent years of managing Amendola's snaps to maintain his health. But with just four receivers -- including newcomer Phillip Dorsett -- available to them, the Patriots had to rely on Amendola. And Brady targeted him often. He had six catches for 100 yards and was targeted seven times. He also returned three punts -- two of which were called back -- adding to his hits-absorbed total. He eventually left the game with a head injury and was ruled out. Chris Hogan, who many expected to see an increased workload with Edelman injured, was targeted five times and caught one pass for eight yards. His first catch came with 12:56 remaining in the third quarter.

4. Dont'a Hightower went down, leaving the Patriots even thinner at linebacker. When Dont'a Hightower suffered a knee injury in the third quarter, it looked serious. Chiefs lineman Mitch Morse (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) fell on the outside of Hightower's right leg. The linebacker and captain eventually walked off the field under his own power and was examined by Patriots medical personnel. He later did work on a stationary bike but did not return to the game. In his place, the Patriots used Cassius Marsh on the edge and relied on Kyle Van Noy as one of their primary off-the-ball 'backers. The team used Jordan Richards as an edge defender for much of the game, as they worked with dime personnel for long stretches. David Harris, whose strength is not in coverage, barely factored into the game plan. Should Hightower be forced to miss any length of time, one of the most shallow positions on the roster would suddenly be without its best player. 

5. Mike Gillislee ended up one of the lone bright spots for the Patriots. His three touchdown runs gave him the first three-score performance for a running back in a Patriots opener. After having missed much of training camp with a hamstring injury, he was the go-to option as the "big back." Despite his big night, he (and the Patriots offensive line) failed on two fourth-down runs, which surely will be highlighted by the Patriots staff when they review the film. 


Brady tests his 'Brady Bunch' knowledge on NPR

Brady tests his 'Brady Bunch' knowledge on NPR

Tom Brady has been making the media rounds lately with "Good Morning America" and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" appearances this past week to promote his "Tom vs. Time" series and TB12 Method book. On Saturday, Brady was a phone-in guest on NPR's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me" for their "Not My Job" segment. 

Before a mostly cheering live audience in Hartford and after a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks - mostly drawbacks - of tomatoes and strawberries, plus an assessment of the intelligence of most defensive coordinators, Brady settled in to handle three questions about the world's second-most famous Bradys, the family from the classic sitcom - "The Brady Bunch".

Click here to listen and see how he did. 


Eyeing a QB, Jets trade up to No. 3 pick

AP Photo

Eyeing a QB, Jets trade up to No. 3 pick

After missing out on coveted free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater and brought back Josh McCown as short-term solutions at QB, but with the trade they made with the Colts on Saturday, their future franchise QB could be drafted next month.

The Jets acquired the No. 3 overall pick in the April 26 draft from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the sixth overall pick, two 2018 second-round picks (37th and 49th) and a 2019 second-rounder.

UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Wyoming's Josh Allen and USC's Sam Darnold are considered the top QBs in the draft. The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants have the first two picks, the Browns have No. 4, too, and could be eyeing a QB. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley could be among the top picks as well. 

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