What. A. Game.
That seems like the most appropriate way to describe what we saw on Monday evening.
It’s finally week 4 and the Tom Brady-less Patriots team went against the big dog in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs. As one of the most difficult challenges on their schedule this year, it was a highly anticipated game for many reasons.
This game was a mess from the start. Cam Newton tested positive for covid-19 on Saturday, leaving the NFL scrambling to figure out what to do. Originally the game was postponed and then said to be moved to Monday night. The Patriots had to follow the protocols in place for covid and were not able to fly to Kansas City until Monday morning. Imagine flying halfway across the country to then play a football game a few hours later. Yikes!
Despite the circumstances in which they were under, the Patriots did what most expected them to do. The team was given virtually no chance of winning, especially without their new starting quarterback. The bright spot of the game, though, was the defense. Holding the Chiefs to only 6 points in the first half was something many teams have not been able to do. There were some good moments on offense as well, but more self-inflicted wounds than anything.
Most fans of the sport do not enjoy taking moral victories from a game that was lost. And many would say you shouldn’t take multiple moral victories in a single season. However, it is hard to not take away some good feelings from this game as a depleted Patriots team had many opportunities to beat the defending Super Bowl champions.
The long awaited activation of Damien Harris was finally seen on Monday, as Sony Michel was unfortunately placed in injured reserve (IR) earlier in the day. Having only played in two games his rookie year, after being placed on IR early in the season, this left the door wide open for Harris to have a big game in 2020.
Coming off the best rushing game of the season against the Las Vegas Raiders last week, all eyes were on the young running back. Making his season debut with 17 carries for 100 yards, Harris showed he can be a key part to success for this offense.
With a crowded backfield this year, it is great to see the variety in which the team has within the position. The addition of Harris gives the team another option on early downs as well as a reliable, speedy back like Harris displayed in the game with his longest run of the night or 41 yards.
The always reliable backs in Rex Burkhead and James White will help make a great trio of backs for the team to use throughout the rest of the season. With both White and Burkhead being used both for rushing and receiving, Harris will be a great consistent rusher to the team in place of Sony Michel.
When you play against a team that has some of if not the fastest receivers in the league, punts and punt returns becomes a critical part of the game. With the inconsistency at the kicking position, Jake Bailey has proven to be a guy you don’t have to worry about performing well.
Monday’s game against the Chiefs was Bailey’s best performance of the year so far. Having to punt three times in the game, he was able to get all the balls under the Kansas City 20-yard-line, with the longest of the night being for 58 yards. He totaled for 157 yards, which was his highest on the year, and an average kick of 52.3 yards.
Punts are not often discussed nor scream importance to many. However, with a guy like Tyreek Hill lined up and ready to return that football, it’s best to avoid giving him any chance.
It was another game and yet another young player stepped up to the plate. After his big performance in week 2 against the Seahawks, Damiere Byrd was not able to repeat that performance the following week. But that changed against the Chiefs on Monday night.
With all the struggles on offense in this game, Byrd was able to show he could be a go-to receiver for any quarterback on the team. Having catches from both Hoyer and Stidham during the night, Byrd ended with 5/10 receptions for 80 yards, the most yardage he has had to date.
Byrd showed his great ability to beat coverage and remain open several times during the game. The big moment of the night for Byrd would have been a nice touchdown grab from Stidham in the 4th quarter, but the ball was underthrown and picked off. Seeing the insurgence of young players like Byrd this season shows this team is on a great path to success for years to come.
EXTRA: The Defense
The dominant performance by the defense against an extremely fast Chiefs team is not one to look passed. The defense was able to virtually stop the run game, allowing a season low of 94 rushing yards for the Chiefs. They also allowed the second least receiving yards by the Pats so far this season with 236 yards. Making stops on third down was key in this game, as the Chiefs were just 4-for-11 on the night (36%), another low for Kansas City as they came into the game at 58%.
The big game-changing part of the night is now overshadowed by horrible officiating. Chase Winovich strip sacked Patrick Mahomes in the 2nd quarter, with Shilique Calhoun coming up with the football. The referees blew the whistle, calling the play dead. This caused a lot of confusion as a new rule had been put in place to allow turnover plays to continue, using the replay system to determine if the play was meant to go on or not. The Patriots were given virtually no explanation nor time to decipher what to do as the play was called “just a quarterback sack” and the Chiefs punted the ball.
The way the defense played in this game reminded you of the 2019 team. The Chiefs are a difficult team for most defenses to slow down, and the Patriots were able to do just that. Having a successful night covering the team’s top receivers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is also something to point out. With all the worries surrounding the defense this season due to the number of opt outs, this game was a nice reminder that this defense is still a force to be reckoned with.
Because of the late positive test notice on Cam Newton, the team had very little time to decide who would fill in at quarterback in his place. The week leading up the game was like any normal week, with Cam getting most of the reps in practice and Hoyer expected to be in as the backup. With the game being pushed to Monday night, the team announced on Sunday that Hoyer would in fact be the starter, and Stidham would be activated as backup.
This news caused quite a stir online with many believing Jarrett Stidham deserved the starting job. Remember, Stidham did beat Hoyer in 2019 for the backup spot behind Tom Brady, leaving many to believe the team was optimistic with him under center.
It wasn’t sunshine and roses in Brian Hoyer’s debut as the Patriots starting quarterback. (Can you believe it is his third stint in New England and this game was the first time he was the starter?) The first two drives ended in punts and the third ended in a bad interception. Not all was lost though, as the Patriots defense had been able to hold the Chiefs to only 6 points up until this point.
Making a rookie mistake at the end of the first half, in the red zone, was certainly not the way to go into the locker room. Hoyer was sacked at Kansas City’s 26-yard-line for a loss of 13 yards, with no timeouts left, not allowing the team to kick a field goal to tie the game. Then late in the third quarter Hoyer was sacked again for a loss of 6 yards and fumbled the ball. The Chiefs recovered the fumble which then made Belichick take Hoyer out of the game.
Ending the game with 15/24 receptions for 130 yards, 1 interception and a fumble lost was not the performance fans nor Hoyer had hoped for. But throughout his career, Hoyer has been a backup for a reason. This was a tough game for any team and quarterback, and it was made even tougher due to the unusual and tough circumstances the team was under. Hoyer is a great addition to this team, as a veteran in the league and in the system. Expecting an uncharacteristic performance from him was setting the bar too high, but hoping for a better turnout than what he gave is completely fair.
Before the signing of Cam Newton, it seemed as though the Patriots were going with Jarrett Stidham as their new quarterback. Rumors circulated about the team having complete faith in the second-year player. Regardless of the fact he was not named the starter for this game, expectations were high, and many were hopeful to see a great performance from him.
With Brian Hoyer being benched in the third quarter, Stidham was put in and optimism rose among Patriots fans. His first drive started off great, getting down the field with the help of Damien Harris. Stidham then threw a deep pass down the middle for N’Keal Harry in the endzone but was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu. Luckily for the Pats, the interception was omitted due to Mathieu being called for defensive pass interference (DPI), giving New England the ball at Kansas City’s 8-yard-line. Shortly thereafter, Stidham threw the first touchdown pass of the night for the team to N’Keal Harry, bringing the score to 10-13 Chiefs.
Stidham looked great on this drive; disregarding the DPI call on the Chiefs, he was able to get down the field in 1:57. He brought a spark to the team and momentum shifted in New England’s favor. But the great drive was followed up by a pick-6 on the first pass of the next drive. And then an interception once again, on the drive after that.
It is only right to say this game was lost on offense. The quarterbacks were not prepared for the Chiefs and because of their mistakes, they took the team out of the game. It is also fair to say if Cam Newton had been able to play in this game, the result would have been much different.
Many of the mistakes made by the two quarterbacks in this game could have been avoided. Often teams must rely on one side of the ball to win games, as Kansas City did with their defense in this game. But the offense making big mistakes, two of those resulting in the Chiefs scoring touchdowns, is never good. Brian Hoyer leaving points on the field because of getting sacked also does not help.
It has been quite the roller-coaster of a season for Julian Edelman so far and this game was one of those low points. As he is generally the most reliable receiver on the team, it’s disappointing to see some of the issues he had last season rear its ugly head this year as well.
It is well documented that Julian was dealing with several injuries throughout the season last year, which in turn gave the legitimate excuse for some of his bad play in games. As he is seemingly healthy this year, it is disappointing to see the issue of dropped balls continue into this year. Targeted for 6 receptions on the night, it wasn’t until the third quarter that Edelman finally made a catch. He finished the night with 3 catches for 35 yards, one of which was a long for 19, but he was bailed out of another possible bad drop by Gunner Olszewski.
Because of Cam Newton being ruled out of this game, it was assumed Edelman would become the main receiver for whomever the quarterback would be. After his performance against Seattle, it seemed like this would be a big season for him as well. It is hard to say what the issue is exactly with Edelman and of course not all dropped balls can be blamed on him, as some are not good throws. But this is something in need of improvement and hopefully will not become a bigger issue down the road.
This game was certainly one for the books. It is easy to say this team is certainly Cam Newton’s team after this performance. Although he was sorely missed, the defenses’ performance should make fans optimistic about this team going forward. Without the costly mistakes made on offense, the defense would have ended the game holding the Chiefs to only 12 points (or even 9 points if you count Devin McCourty’s early dropped INT). The success defensively in this game is noteworthy and should make fans excited for tough games in the future; maybe even if the Pats and Chiefs meet again in the playoffs?
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @sarmarxo