Howe: Patriots can sort this out, but wow the defense was bad in opener
FOXBORO – The Patriots were unprecedentedly bad on defense Thursday night against the Chiefs, surely driving Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia mad in the lead-up to a long weekend that just got longer.
Of course, it takes that type of performance to surrender 42 points in a loss to the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium – on the heels of the Super Bowl LI banner celebration no less. It was the largest output ever yielded by Belichick’s Patriots.
But wait, there’s more. The Patriots allowed three touchdown drives of at least 90 yards for the first time ever under Belichick. For further context, the Patriots only allowed one total 90-yard touchdown drive in the previous three seasons. Belichick’s defenses haven’t coughed up three 90-yard touchdown drives in 13 of his 17 full seasons, so a trifecta in one game is absurd. (There were five prior occasions when teams orchestrated two 90-yard touchdown drives in a single game.)
The Pats also yielded 191 yards on 24 carries (7.96 yards per carry) before Alex Smith’s three kneel-downs. That’s their second worst yards-per-carry margin ever under Belichick, with Tim Tebow’s Broncos leading the charge with 8.13 yards per clip in 2011. In fact, that was the only other time in the past 15 years the Pats have given up at least 7 yards per carry in a game.
Outside of the pressure created by defensive linemen Trey Flowers (two sacks, QB hit, pressure) and Deatrich Wise (sack, two QB hits, pressure), there wasn’t a heck of a lot that went well for the Patriots defense, and Tom Brady’s biting criticism of the team’s lack of a winning attitude stretched across the locker room.
There’s no excuse to surrender 21 consecutive points in the fourth quarter at home, but the Chiefs’ clinching drive was as bad as it gets. The game was still in the balance with the Chiefs holding onto a 35-27 lead, but Kareem Hunt ripped off a 58-yard run and Charcandrick West shut the door with his 21-yard score. Neither run was met with any solid contact.
On Hunt’s run, Travis Kelce walled off Patrick Chung and Malcolm Butler was chopped to the ground. Meanwhile, Elandon Roberts took a bad angle to the inside and Kyle Van Noy couldn’t make up the ground to the edge to prevent Hunt from turning the corner. On the touchdown, Lawrence Guy, Alan Branch, Van Noy and Roberts were all blocked out of their gaps. When four guys lose their…