It’s not that the Patriots could have beaten Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs Monday night. Nope. It’s much worse than that.
New England really SHOULD have beaten Kansas City.
Despite traveling the day of a game that was delayed more than 24 hours, playing without COVID-19-postive star QB Cam Newton and facing arguably the best team on the planet in the defending Super Bowl champions, there is no other way to describe Monday night’s 26-10 loss at Arrowhead Stadium than as a frustrating wasted opportunity for the Patriots.
Thanks to mentally and physically poor quarterback play from fill-in starter Brian Hoyer as well as missed chances to make big plays on the defensive side of the ball, Andy Reid’s team escaped to improve to 4-0 on the new season while Bill Belichick’s squad fell to 2-2.
Oh what should have been, if only…
If Devin McCourty had hauled in what appeared to be an easy interception on the Chiefs game-opening drive.
If Hoyer hadn’t thrown an ugly interception intended for Ryan Izzo on the first snap after Kansas City took a 6-0 lead on its second field goal of the first quarter.
If a Chase Winovich sack of Mahomes hadn’t been blown dead midway through the second quarter, negating an obvious turnover in Chiefs territory.
If the experienced journeyman veteran Hoyer hadn’t taken a 13-yard sack on the final play of the second quarter with no timeouts, eliminating what should have been a short field goal to attempt to tie the game at 6 at halftime.
If Hoyer didn’t hold onto the ball too long on third-and-8 from the Chiefs 10 in the third quarter, opening himself up to the Taco Charlton strip sack that took another three points off the board.
If Belichick hadn’t waited so long to pull Hoyer in favor of Jarrett Stidham, who led the Patriots 75 yards to a touchdown pass to N’Keal Harry to pull within 13-10 early in the fourth quarter.
If J.C. Jackson hadn’t dropped another would-be interception in the fourth-quarter.
And maybe the worst, biggest if of all, if Julian Edelman hadn’t put forth such a hideous drop on a Stidham throw in the flat that deflected up into the air resulting in an easy pick-6 touchdown for Tyrann Mathieu, one play after the Chiefs offense made the lead 19-10. Two plays, less than 15 seconds of action with about nine minutes to play in the game, and suddenly 13-10 was 26-10.
Game over. Thanks for coming. Enjoy the flight home.
It’s not so much that the Chiefs beat the Patriots, as it was New England losing to Kansas City. There is a difference.
If if was a fifth, we’d all be drunk.
And after Monday night’s game most Patriots fans, players and coaches would probably prefer to be drunk. It might ease the pain of the would-be massive upset win that coulda and shoulda been but never was.
No one expected the Newton-less Patriots to compete with Mahomes and his many weapons. But that’s just what they did.
Despite an offensive huddle that looked more like a third unit from a fourth preseason game – Hoyer worked behind an offensive line that included practice squad call-up James Ferentz at center, sixth-round rookie Michael Onwenu playing his fourth position by starting in place of Shaq Mason at right guard and fellow sixth-round rookie Justin Herron at right tackle with Damien Harris making his first NFL start at running back – than an attack that’s worthy of competing with the Chiefs, the Patriots hung around. Harris even notched a 100-yard night – exactly – on 17 attempts in his first game back from IR, first real chance to show his stuff in his second season.
And the Patriots defense answered the challenge all night long. It forced field goals on Kansas City’s two first-half scoring drives with red zone stops. It mixed up man and zone coverages, keeping the league’s most dangerous, explosive offense from hitting its speedy stride.
It was far from a losing effort, but it went down as one.
“It was obviously a disappointing night,” Belichick said.
“We had some opportunities tonight and weren’t able to take advantage of them.
You can’t give a good football team those kind of opportunities. We competed hard we just didn’t make enough good plays.
“We just have to do a better job of coaching and playing and take advantage of our opportunities. We missed some tonight in all three phases of the game.”
Hoyer refused to use the strange travel and uncertainty of the weekend created by Newton’s positive COVID-19 test as an excuse.
“Definitely a missed opportunity,” Hoyer said. “For sure.
I cost us at least six points.
“Frustrating, obviously. Disappointing. Frustrating. All those combined.”
Stidham, who threw a second interception on a deep ball late intended for Damiere Byrd, also described the game as frustrating. But, for him, it was also his first real taste of NFL action. A learning experience.
“Good to get out there, but pretty frustrating not to get the win,” Stidham said.
Yes, yes it is. Especially when you have so many chances to make winning plays.
There is plenty of football left to be played, three quarters of a season ahead on the horizon of the NFL schedule. New England is very much in the mix in the AFC East and conference as a whole, in line to compete for one of seven playoff spots.
That’s all true.
But the reality is that the Patriots SHOULD have upset the Chiefs on Monday night.
This was nothing like the moral victory of New England’s Week 2 loss in Seattle.
Nope. This roundtrip trek to Kansas City was more of an unexpected lost opportunity. And that's not something to feel too good about.