Patriots

Tom Brady looks like he's at his wit's end with Patriots receivers' communication issues

Tom Brady looks like he's at his wit's end with Patriots receivers' communication issues

Tom Brady lost his mind for a second. He pointed up the field in the direction of Jakobi Meyers and screamed the type of scream he once reserved for Bill O'Brien back when the Texans coach was Patriots offensive coordinator.

"Go!" he shouted as he walked off the field following a failed Patriots third-down attempt.

It was just one in a series of missed connections between Brady and his receivers in Sunday's 28-22 loss to the Texans. While Brady finished with a nice-looking statistical line — 326 yards, three touchdowns, one interception — there was a point late in the third quarter when the Patriots had just nine points on the scoreboard and Brady was 18-for-39 (46 percent) with one touchdown and one pick. 

"We're battling," Brady said after the game. "We're trying as hard as we can. Hopefully we can make enough plays and be the best we can be. It all remains to be seen. 

"You can make a bunch of predictions and so forth. That's not what it's about. It's about going out there and doing it. A lot of guys made some plays tonight. Try to build on it, see if we can do better next week."

Brady took an optimistic approach at the end of his press conference at NRG Stadium, but during the game there were several moments where he seemed irked with the people paid to catch his passes. 

The play to Meyers wasn't the first. The first was Brady's lone target to rookie first-round pick N'Keal Harry. 

Harry's 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame is what makes him an enticing option on slants, but on a third down play in the first quarter, Harry was undercut. Houston corner Bradley Roby worked around Harry after tugging quickly on the receiver to slow him down. Harry stumbled and fell backward, Roby beat him to a spot and picked off Brady's pass.

"I mean, I guess I could've used my body more," Harry said after. "But . . . I haven't watched it on film. I gotta see it first."

On the following series came the Meyers play that set off Brady. On a third-and-six snap in the second quarter, Meyers went in motion and ran a quick out route to the sideline. Brady held onto the ball for an extra second, and he gestured to Meyers to get up the field with the play off schedule.

Meyers didn't. The rookie worked back to Brady to try to give his quarterback a target, he said after the game.

"He was trying to telling me to turn up and go," Meyers said. "I don't know honestly what I thought in the moment. I tried to push up, come back, give him a target. We were just on different pages."

That's what led to Brady's on-field explosion and then a lengthy address to his receivers while on the sidelines. The address just so happened to take place with Brady almost looking directly into an NBC camera. 

"We gotta be faster," Brady said, "quicker, more explosive, everything."

Brady seemed to lament that his pass-catchers were playing robotically and not aggressive enough off the ball. He seemed to be getting to the point of over-heating while trying to encourage them to play faster. 

Not having much in the way of team speed is one thing. But to play as though there's an 11-point checklist that needs to be adhered to from snap-to-snap can make a team without much speed play even slower. That appeared to be Brady's contention. 

It didn't get much better. And it wasn't just the rookies who had their share of miscommunication issues with Brady. 

On a play in the third quarter, Brady gave Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman a finger-gun signal before the snap. Brady expected Dorsett to run a go down the sideline. Edelman was doubled and tried to run to space vertically. Going away from the double, Brady launched to Dorsett. But Dorsett didn't run a go. The ball landed about 50 feet away from the closest receiver. 

Later in the game, on third down, Mohamed Sanu ran a crossing route just shy of the sticks. He came back toward the football, which Brady typically likes, but he came back enough that he marked short of the first down. On the next play, fourth and one, Brady threw to Sanu again on a crosser. This time he was drilled by linebacker Zach Cunningham on what likely should've been called pass interference and had Brady's pass deflect off his hands. 

Neither play was an egregious mistake. But neither play resulted in a first down. Six plays later, the Texans were in the end zone to make the score 21-3.

Brady had his share of wayward throws. He was nearly picked on his team's second drive of the third quarter. He was nearly picked in the end zone on a sprint-out pass while targeting Meyers. He threw once into coverage and was picked but had it back because of a penalty. Brady missed Meyers over the middle for a good gain with under a minute left in the first half on a drive that resulted in a punt.

He wasn't perfect. But Sunday night's game against the Texans — who doubled Edelman throughout the game and took James White away with a defensive back in coverage — seemed to highlight the fact that Brady simply does not feel like the receivers he's playing with consistently know where to be and when. In an offense where timing and communication are the backbone, that's an issue. 

Apparently there's still plenty for the Patriots to correct as they (to steal a phrase from Brady's heated sideline address) grind this . . . sucker . . . out. Thirteen weeks in.

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Patriots on controversial calls in loss to Chiefs: 'A tough pill to swallow'

Patriots on controversial calls in loss to Chiefs: 'A tough pill to swallow'

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick wasn't thrilled. He stood at the podium in the belly of Gillette Stadium, his team coming off of its second consecutive loss, and he was peppered with questions about the officiating. This after he'd said in his opening remarks, "A lot of other circumstances in the game; no point in talking about those."

The officiating queries came anyway.

"You'd have to talk to them about that," he said. "I'm not going to speak for them."

Asked if calls made by Jerome Boger's crew impacted his team's ability to sustain any momentum: "I don't know," he said.

In all, there were 15 penalties called for 161 yards in the game, and penalties were among the calls garnering attention after the fact. But the calls that generated the most buzz in the Patriots locker room weren't penalties. The headliner was the call that took points off the board for Belichick's team early in the fourth quarter.

Tom Brady hit rookie N'Keal Harry with a short pass that he took down to the goal line. Diving into the end zone, it appeared as though Harry had scored a touchdown. He celebrated as though he had. Replays showed he remained in bounds. But one official marked him out of bounds at the three-yard line.

The Patriots weren't able to challenge the play — they were out of challenges after losing a pass-interference challenge earlier in the game — and they kicked a field goal three plays later to make the score 23-16.

"We still had a chance to win," Brady said. "Wish we could have scored there at the end."

A touchdown and an extra point would've made the score 23-20, meaning on the final Patriots drive of the game, where they entered deep into Chiefs territory, they would've been able to kick a chip-shot field goal to tie it.

"I thought it was a touchdown," said Harry, who left the game with a hip injury. "I'm pretty sure everybody else thought it was a touchdown. It's something that's out of our control, out of my control.

"It's definitely frustrating, but at the end of the day I was always told to control what I could control. I felt like I did that. I felt like my effort was good. That's all I can give."

ESPN's Mike Reiss, serving as the pool reporter, spoke to Boger after the game about the call.

"What led to it was the covering official on the wing was blocked out by defenders," Boger said. "The downfield official who was on the goal line and looking back toward the field of play had that he stepped out at the three-yard line. So, they got together and conferred on that. The final ruling was that he was out of bounds at the three-yard line."

Calling the play a touchdown and then using replay to the crew's advantage — since all scores are reviewed — was not discussed as an option, Boger explained.

"Not really. Those two officials who were covering it, they look at it in real time," he said. "This case was unique in that the guy who would have ruled touchdown had him short. So maybe if that ruling official on the goal line had a touchdown, we could have gotten into that, but he thought that that guy stepped out of bounds. The goal line wasn’t in the play."

The reason the Patriots couldn't challenge the Harry play was because they'd had a challenge fail earlier in the contest. Late in the third quarter, Belichick threw his red hanky when on a third-and-4 play Stephon Gilmore got picked by Travis Kelce, allowing a catch to Sammy Watkins. Watkins was tackled right near the line to gain,  and so Belichick was challenging both the pass interference and the spot of the ball.

The challenge failed, which meant they'd have just one more challenge for the game, even if that next challenge succeeded.

Later in the third quarter, on a third-down pass to Kelce, Devin McCourty punched out the football and Gilmore recovered it quickly with a good deal of open space in front of him. The play was whistled dead.

The Patriots challenged and won. It was a momentum-shifter, but the fact that they had to use their challenge at all — on a play that was clearly fumbled upon review, no guesswork there — bothered the Patriots after the fact.

"It sucks because at the end of the day, we felt like those were plays that were gonna help us change the momentum of the game and put us in a good spot to eventually win the football game," safety Duron Harmon said. "It was taken away from us. I know the refs, they have a hard job. I'm not going to sit here and say obviously  their job is easy. 'Just make a better call, and do this better.' At the end of the day, we all have a job. We all get paid money to do the job and do it well."

Harmon added: "I just feel empty. We played a good team and had a chance to win. We didn't win. Like I said, I'm not going to just sit here and blame the refs. The Chiefs probably feel some calls could've gone their way, didn't go their way, but at the end of the day when you got two touchdowns taken away from you, that's always a tough pill to swallow."

The Patriots finished the game going 1-for-3 in the red zone. They were 3-for-15 on third and fourth down. They averaged — including three sacks — just 4.6 yards per pass. They averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the first half against a defense that was allowing over 5.0 for the season.

There was plenty they could have done to help themselves. But it's not hyperbole to say that final drive — which resulted in a fourth-down pass breakup on a Brady attempt to Julian Edelman — should have been an opportunity for them to tie the game with an easy field goal.

"You don't wanna blame officiating," Harmon said, "because at the end of the day, we still had an opportunity to win."

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Chiefs' Chris Jones reveals his reason for trash talking with Tom Brady

Chiefs' Chris Jones reveals his reason for trash talking with Tom Brady

FOXBORO -- Trash talking New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't sound like a good idea, but Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones had a reason for getting into it with the six-time Super Bowl champion Sunday.

Jones and Brady came helmet-to-helmet with 2:59 left in the first half and Kansas City leading 17-7. The Chiefs defense had just forced an incompletion from Brady to bring up fourth down, and Jones tried his best to frustrate the 42-year-old quarterback as much as possible.

"Just crap-talking," Jones said of his exchange with Brady. "Tom is a heck of a quarterback, a Hall of Famer. Any time you're able to talk crap, you gotta affect him any type of way. I got much respect for Tom Brady, man. He's definitely a GOAT in my eyes, one of the greatest. Any time you're able to affect his game any type of way, whether it's talking, whether it's hitting him, whether it's getting him uncomfortable, you got to."

Does Jones think all of that had any effect?

"I mean, you see the score."

The Chiefs won 23-16 to secure the AFC West title and take another step closer toward earning a top-two seed in the AFC playoff race.

It's hard to imagine any kind of trash talk having a negative impact on Brady's performance. He's one of the most mentally tough players in league history. What we do know is this Chiefs defense is much better-equipped to slow down the Patriots' offense than last season's unit.

The Chiefs, from a physicality standpoint, made an effort to stand up to the Patriots, and that was quite apparent when Kansas City wide receiver Sammy Watkins got tangled up with New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore on the visitors' sideline in the second half.

"You got two good players going up against each other in heated moments," Watkins said. "I know him from (the Buffalo Bills), so I was like, this is my opportunity to take a shot, and I did, and he took his shots also."

The chippiness made for a playoff-like scene in Foxboro, and you can bet all of the trash talk and physical play won't be forgotten if these teams meet again in January.

"First play of the game I knew it was more of a playoff atmosphere, a playoff game," Watkins said. "It definitely was probably one of the hardest battles since last year, and that's what we look forward to. It's going to be the same way in the next six or seven weeks, so we just gotta continue to come out and play with each other and play hard, strong, and keep fighting."

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