Patriots

Patriots vs. Chiefs Instant Overreactions: Offensive woes a huge problem for Pats

Patriots vs. Chiefs Instant Overreactions: Offensive woes a huge problem for Pats

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots lost more than their 21-game home win streak in a 23-16 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

The Patriots have fallen a game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race, and it's going to be very tough for the defending Super Bowl champions to reclaim that spot, especially since the AFC North club holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. 

New England's defense played well against the NFL's third-highest scoring offense, but again, the Patriots' own offense failed to score enough points late to complete a comeback.

Let's take a look at four instant overreactions from the Patriots' loss and assess their merit.

1. The Patriots offense is a huge problem
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Patriots can't do anything well offensively right now. They can't run the ball effectively (particularly on early downs) and wide receivers are unable to consistently get open.

Let's start with the rushing attack. Sony Michel has been a non-factor most of the season, and the sophomore running back hasn't scored a touchdown in six consecutive games. He also doesn't have a 100-yard rushing game in 2019 after tallying only eight yards on five carries (none in the second half) versus the Chiefs.

The passing attack didn't fare much better. Julian Edelman is the only wideout who quarterback Tom Brady can depend on. Edelman caught eight passes for a team-high 95 yards and a touchdown. No other wide receiver tallied more than a single reception all game. Rookie wideout Jakobi Meyers made one catch overall and dropped a pass on a critical third down in the first half. The Patriots ultimately turned the ball over on downs one play after Meyers' mistake. The team's other rookie wide receiver, N'Keal Harry, didn't play many snaps and caught just one pass. The young receivers aren't the only problem, though. Veteran wideout Mohamed Sanu has failed to make an impact following an impressive performance in a Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In fairness, Sanu has been banged up with an injury over the last couple weeks and didn't play versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12. Still, if he's going to play, he needs to give the Patriots more than six receptions for 31 yards and zero touchdowns over his last three games.

Two of the Patriots' best offensive plays were a 37-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker and a James White pass to Meyers that picked up 35 yards. 

The Patriots have scored an average of 17.6 points over their last five games, and that's nowhere near good enough, even if they have one of the league's best defenses. New England was struggling on offense late last season and switched to a power-running game that benefited them in the playoffs. An effective adjustment similar to that doesn't appear to be in the cards this season.

2. Pats-Chiefs was one of the worst officiated games of 2019 
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

Jerome Boger and his crew should receive a poor grade for their performance Sunday. Many flags were thrown and later picked up, showing a clear indecision amongst the crew. The worst stretch of the crew's day came in the second half, however.

The Patriots knocked the ball out of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce's hands and Stephon Gilmore scooped it up and ran downfield. Gilmore likely would've scored a touchdown, but the officials blew the play dead and ruled Kelce down by contact. A challenge by Bill Belichick ultimately gave the Patriots the ball, but the decision to blow the play dead and not let it play out probably cost New England a touchdown. On the ensuing Patriots drive in the fourth quarter, Harry caught a 12-yard pass and appeared to have reached the end zone. He was ruled out of bounds short of the goal line, even though replay showed the rookie wideout clearly didn't step out of bounds. The Patriots couldn't challenge the play because it had to burn a challenge reviewing the Kelce fumble and had no challenges remaining. New England settled for a field goal to trim the deficit to 23-16.

The Chiefs made more plays than the Patriots and overall were the better team, but the referees certainly cost the Patriots points. If Harry's play was ruled a touchdown, the Patriots could've kicked a field goal on their last possession to tie the score. Instead, the Patriots needed a touchdown and failed on a fourth down throw to the end zone on their final drive.

3. The No. 1 seed is gone for good
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

We mentioned last week how the Patriots' loss to the Texans made it very difficult for them to get back the No. 1 seed. Well, this defeat all but closes the door on that goal. The Patriots are not mathematically eliminated from earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but their best chance is winning out and having the Ravens lose two of their final three games. Baltimore finishes the regular season with matchups versus the New York Jets, at the Cleveland Browns and versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can you find two Ravens losses in there? The likeliest scenario is Baltimore winning all of those games, unless they lock up the No. 1 seed early and don't need to play all their starters against the Steelers in Week 17.

Going on the road for an AFC Championship Game isn't an impossible task for the Patriots, as we saw last season, but it's hard to envision this particular team winning in Baltimore in January.

4. The Chiefs are the second-best team in the AFC
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Chiefs are the only team in the league who've beaten both the Ravens and Patriots. Kansas City has now won three consecutive games following a bad 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. The Chiefs still need the Patriots to lose once more to earn the No. 2 seed, but with reigning MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes healthy again and a defense much-improved from last season, this Kansas City team is going to be a very tough out in the playoffs.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

 

That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.