2017 was a memorable year in Foxboro, Massachusetts for the defending Super Bowl Champion, New England Patriots. While the ending wasn’t quite for what Pats Nation had hoped, it was a great season, nonetheless. As the team prepares for 2018, FPC Patriots’ own, Sam Puran, takes a look back at the year that was in New England.
Week 1 vs the Kansas City Chiefs
The New England Patriots opened the 2017 NFL season at home on Thursday, September 7, 2017, versus the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. It was Banner night for the home team as the Patriots began the evening by hanging their fifth championship banner in the rafters of Gillette Stadium. There was plenty of joy and celebration to open the evening, which would quickly turn to shock and awe as the Chiefs stunned the Patriots 42-27 on opening night.
The Chiefs didn’t just win this game, they dominated the Pats, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt led the way as the Chiefs offense racked up more yardage and scored more points than any other opponent has against a Bill Belichick-coached team. In total, the Chiefs ran 63 plays for a total of 541 yards (352 passing, 189 rushing) and scored 42 points against the Pats defense which had allowed the fewest points in the NFL during the previous season. The Patriots actually led this game 17-7 in the second quarter, and once again had a lead of 27-21 in the third quarter, but the Chiefs would not be denied as they went on to score 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points.
Tom Brady played arguably his worst game of the season against the Chiefs, completing 16 of 36 passes for 237 yards and no touchdowns. The lone bright spots in the box score were free agent addition Mike Gillislee who ran for 3 scores on 15 carries. Danny Amendola also played well, catching 6 passes for 100 yards. Amendola filled in admirably for the injured Julian Edelman, who was lost for the year during the preseason. Overall it was a huge wake-up call for the defending champs on opening night.
Week 2 @ the New Orleans Saints
After the let down against the Chiefs at home on opening night, the Patriots would look to bounce back on the road against Drew Brees and the Saints. This game featured the top two active quarterbacks in terms of career yards and total touchdowns, but it was Brees who found himself unable to keep up with the pace set by Brady and the Pats. Brady dominated this game from the opening whistle, throwing all three of his touchdown passes in the first quarter. The Patriots lead the game 20-3 after the first quarter and basically never looked back, finishing off the Saints 36-20.
Brady finished the game completing 30 of 39 passes for 447 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He joined Warren Moon as the only quarterbacks aged 40 or older in NFL history to throw for at least 400 yards and 3 touchdowns in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Rob Gronkowski led the way for the pass catchers, totaling 6 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown before exiting in the second half with a groin injury. Mike Gillislee once again showed his nose for the end zone, scoring from 2 yards out in the second quarter. Gillislee was clearly the featured back at this point for the Pats, rushing 18 times for 69 yards and the touchdown.
Week 3 vs the Houston Texans
Week 3 would see the Houston Texans and rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson pay a visit to Gilette Stadium as 13 point underdogs. After the getting back on track against the Saints, most analysts and bettors expected New England to thoroughly dominate this young Texans team. However, the Texans proved otherwise as they actually had a 33-28 lead late in the fourth quarter and had the champs on the ropes.
In typical Patriots fashion, Brady and company would find a way to win as Brandin Cooks caught the game-winning 25-yard touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. It was an interesting day for Cooks as he actually began the day being vehemently booed by the home crowd. Cooks was one of a group of Pats players that knelt during the National Anthem in a display of protest for the criticism President Donald Trump levied against Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players and teams that weekend. “It’s one of those things where you want to stand with your brothers, kneel with your brothers and be by their side,” Cooks said.
However, those boos would quickly turn into deafening cheers as Cooks had his best game as a Patriot, catching 5 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. In total, Brady would throw for 5 touchdowns, completing 25 of his 35 passes for 378 yards. “I think no matter how you get it, you’ve got to figure out how to win the game,” Brady said after the game. The Patriots found a way to win once again, but there were certainly some questions left to be answered after struggling to put away a very young and inexperienced Texans team.
Week 4 vs the Carolina Panthers
After squeaking by the Texans, the Patriots would face another tall task with Cam Newton and the Panthers coming to town. With tons of questions surrounding the Patriots defense, most fans expected a better defensive effort with an elite talent like Newton coming to town. However, the Patriots once again would struggle to contain the opposing offense as they fell 33-30 at home against the Panthers.
Newton completed 22 of 29 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 8 carries for 41 yards and a rushing touchdown. Carolina would finish with 444 total yards, marking the fourth straight game to open the season that the Patriots had given up at least 300 yards. After this game, it was clear that there were several issues that needed to be corrected on the defensive side of the football for the Patriots.
“So much stuff went wrong today,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “Giving up 30 points a game, 400-something yards. If it was one thing, we’d be better one of these weeks. It’s just all of us. It’s all 11 guys who are out there not playing good football.”
Weeks 1-4 analysis
Overall it was a very shaky beginning to the season for the defending champs. The Patriots must have been thrilled to exit the first quarter of the season at (2-2), as they very easily could have been (1-3). The offense appeared to hit the ground running, although there was still a lot left to be desired from the running game as the Patriots averaged under 4 yards per carry through the first four weeks.
The bottom line is that if the offense can score over 30 points per game, the Patriots should be winning games. The Patriots defense gave up 32 points per game and allowed 456.8 yards per game through the first four weeks. Totally unacceptable for a Bill Belichick-coached squad. Known as a team that is nearly unbeatable at home, the Patriots suffered two home losses for the first time in a season since 2012.
–Sam Puran is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. She covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @S_Pats21.