You a little steamed? You look a little steamed. Does that mean you don’t want to talk about this being a moral victory?
Even though the Patriots had to get up at the crack of dawn, get their snot massaged, drive to the airport, get on a plane, fly to Kansas City, take a bus to a hotel, check into a hotel they wouldn’t spend the night in, take a bus to the stadium, warmup, play the best team in the league without their best offensive player and keep it real close for a while? You still don’t want to talk about this being a moral victory.
Yeah, me neither.
Even though I wrote early Monday that the soon-to-be-dismantled Patriots would be able to keep their heads high even after getting drilled by the Chiefs, you just can’t spin it that way now. Because an outcome nobody considered occurred.
The Patriots played badly and still probably should have won. That was not on the list of possible outcomes.
Playing pretty well and lose by a lot? Sure. Play poorly and get pummeled? Yup. Play perfectly and win a narrow one? Doubtful but OK.
But if I were to tell you the Patriots would drop two interceptions, give up a strip-sack in the red zone, give away three points before halftime by taking a sack when the planet knew a sack couldn’t be taken, have a strip-sack of their own wiped out by a hasty whistle and give up a pick-6, what do you figure we’d be talking? Rout, right? 41-10 or so?
They played well enough to win. In spite of all of it. I never thought I’d be saying the Patriots let one get away in Kansas City but that’s what happened.
WHY AGAIN WAS BRIAN HOYER THE BACKUP?
The Patriots coaching staff has been so good for so long that you second-guess them at your own peril.
So when the team opened the season with Brian Hoyer as the backup, I deduced that the steady hand and seasoned head of Hoyer won out over the superior arm of Jarrett Stidham. I got it.
I didn’t take it as a huge indictment of Stidham, just a conservative choice if the poop hit the fan some Sunday and Cam Newton couldn’t go. Best to leave it in the hands of someone who’d been there before. No sense putting Stidham in a bad spot. When Hoyer started this week, that made sense to me too. I figured that he’d had the backup reps and thrusting Stidham ahead of Hoyer didn’t make any sense at all.
Even if Hoyer was outplayed in camp by Stidham, even if Stidham seemed to get more reps most days, at least the Patriots would be in stable hands.
So Hoyer got the start and on his fifth attempt, he threw a pick. Before the end of the half, the Patriots took their final timeout and had second-and-5 at the Chiefs 9 and they wasted 33 seconds on a throw to James White that lost four yards and a Hoyer sack. The sack and its aftermath took the final 13 seconds of the half to execute and cost the Patriots an almost-certain 6-6 tie.
Hoyer played himself onto the bench by getting strip-sacked on a third-and-8 from the Kansas City 10 on the second Patriots drive of the second half.
The two mistakes cost the Patriots a minimum of six points. And both were the result of mistakes that the team was no doubt concerned Stidham might make. What were they so afraid of when it came to Stidham? He’s got a better arm than Hoyer. He’s faster and throws better on the move. If Hoyer’s strong suit was the ability to avoid bad plays – which he immediately went out and did – how bad did they think Stidham was going to be?
Was Stidham brilliant? No. He threw a pick which – fortunately for Stidham – was wiped out by a DPI. The contact came before the ball was thrown and it didn’t impede N’Keal Harry a whole lot. It wasn’t a well-thrown pass.
He also threw a pick that counted when he undershot Damiere Byrd.
Stidham can’t be blamed for the pick-six off the hands of Julian Edelman and he did have a handful of nice throws during his 5-for-13 performance, but his night shouldn’t spark unbridled optimism. It just wasn’t as bad as Hoyer’s night.
The upshot of it all? The Patriots are damn lucky no team with cap space and quarterback uncertainty got to Cam Newton before the Patriots did on June 28. Because without him, the Patriots are not currently in a real good spot at the most important position on the field.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
The Patriots ran for 185 yards with James Ferentz at center, rookie Michael Onwenu at right guard and rookie Justin Herron at right tackle. That’s an impressive performance no matter how shoddy the Chiefs run defense is. Throw in the 17-carry, 100-yard performance of Damien Harris in his first extended NFL work and there’s plenty of non-quarterback stuff to feel pretty optimistic about with the Patriots offense.
Did Harris do anything Sony Michel wouldn’t have given the same carries against the Chiefs? It’s hard to state that with any certainty. But with Michel on IR with his knee issues for the next two games, Harris will get plenty of chances to prove he should remain the lead back when Michel comes back.
TIGHT END REMAINS A HOLE
Ryan Izzo was targeted three times Monday night. He caught none of them. Meanwhile, rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene still haven’t gotten their first NFL catches. And Keene has yet to be active.
Newton’s presence covers up a lot of shortcomings for the Patriots offense. But the fact Izzo isn’t really that good and that neither Asiasi nor Keene are – in the eyes of the coaching staff – ready to take the field for meaningful offensive snaps shows just how far the Patriots let the position slip over the past few years when the rest of the league was snatching up tight ends in the draft.
IN THEIR GRASP
Rail all you want about the Patriots getting hosed by referee Tony Corrente when he ruled that Patrick Mahomes was in the grasp. But if Corrente hadn’t stopped that play and Deatrich Wise earholed the NFL’s marquee, half-billion-dollar player, the league would be getting chewed up for not doing enough to keep quarterbacks safe.
That Mahomes, even after corralled, was able to get in position to attempt a throw made it all the more maddening for Patriots fans when the ball popped loose and was picked. But having a quick whistle when quarterbacks are involved is something the league is never going to apologize for so don’t hold your breath waiting for an “Oops” from the league office.