The New England Patriots opened the 2017 NFL season at home Thursday night. They unfurled their new Super Bowl banner, celebrated with the hometown fans and even had their good friend Roger Goodell over. Then they came out of the locker room and got absolutely torched by the Kansas City Chiefs in a 42-27 loss.
Hoo-boy was it ugly.
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs destroyed the Patriots’ defense on opening night. Team Vanilla hammered the defending Super Bowl champions. One of the most boring offenses the NFL has ever seen, led by captain check-down, Alex Smith, obliterated New England’s defense. There are so many crazy things about this situation that I kind of don’t know where to start.
Want some numbers? Because I’ve got em.
The Chiefs gained 539 total yards, the most allowed by the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. The Chiefs scored 42 points, which were also the most allowed during Belichick’s time in New England. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt — a player most of America had likely never heard of before Thursday night — set records. He piled up 239 yards from scrimmage, the most ever for a rookie in Week 1. He had 148 yards on 17 carries, 98 yards on five receptions and three total touchdowns.
The big, bad New England Patriots couldn’t stop the Chiefs, Andy Reid, Alex Smith or a rookie running back in his first game. Smith completed 80 percent of his passes, threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 10.4 yards per attempt. He was rarely pressured and picked the Pats apart.
The issue is clearly New England’s front seven. While they posted three sacks Thursday night, they rarely got any pressure on Smith. There was absolutely zero push up front and Hunt constantly beat New England’s defense to the edge. Oh, and the leader of that front seven, Dont'a Hightower? He left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Belichick has always seemed to find cheap replacements for his front seven or to make stars out of castoffs. He could obviously turn this around and I’d never count him out. But this looks like a completely talentless front.
Lawrence Guy has 6.5 career sacks in five seasons. Alan Branch and Malcom Brown aren’t exactly Pro Bowl talents at defensive tackle. The newly-acquired Cassius Marsh got lit up and beat up numerous times Thursday night. Rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise had a sack Thursday night but also got pushed around against the run. Trey Flowers has potential, had seven sacks in 2016, and two Thursday night, but he’s the only guy on the d-line who is even worth worrying about. It’s a mess.
That’s a front seven worthy of the Cleveland Browns, not the defending champions and current Super Bowl favorites.
Tom Brady and his offense will be fine, even without Julian Edelman. They always seem to figure things out and become a juggernaut in time to dominate the season. But this Patriots front is a real problem and one that needs to find some solutions quickly.
You know Brady and Belichick will have the Patriots in the mix for a championship by the end of the season. But an inept defense with no pass rush and no push up front is exactly what could sink another Super Bowl run.