- After 20 years of watching opposing teams and their fans lament the if-onlys and what-could-have-beens after playing the Patriots tough for a while, only to eventually succumb to their powers, it is strange (and not that fun) being on the other side of that. The Patriots could have beaten the Chiefs. Maybe they should have. But they didn’t, because they let opportunities slip from their grasp, the Chiefs seized on the breaks that went their way, and Patrick Mahomes simply cannot be stymied for a full game, much like Tom Brady in his 15-year prime. There’s no shame in being 2-2 at this point in the schedule, but after letting this one get away — and the loss to the Seahawks that went down to the final play — it’s also pretty hard to resist thinking about how they could be 4-0 with just a couple of different plot twists.
- That doesn’t mean that there is no value in a moral victory. Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense not only developed a game plan that bewildered Mahomes for a good part of the game, but – and this is more important in the long run – proved they have the personnel to pull it off. Those among us who thought the Patriots had a thin roster or were about to head south in the standings in the first post-Brady year have to admit now that they underestimated an awful lot about this football team. Had the quarterback play merely been competent, the Patriots would have had a real shot at prevailing. When Cam Newton returns, the quarterback play will be more than competent. Give us the playoff rematch of this one, please.
- The depth and quality of the Patriots’ defensive backfield was on display, holding Mahomes to just 236 passing yards. Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, J.C. Jackson (who was listed at linebacker on CBS’s graphic of the Patriots starting defense), and Jonathan Jones played every snap. Adrian Phillips, who has done a swell Patrick Chung imitation this year, played 75 percent of the plays, while fourth cornerback Jason McCourty played 62 percent. Youngsters Kyle Dugger and Jojuan Williams struggled a bit – the former picked up a cheapo penalty and the latter got toasted by Travis Kelce – but they are both ascending players.
- Of course, the defensive backfield was expected to be the strength of the team. Other, more unexpected strengths, have emerged over the first quarter of the season. The Patriots are second in the NFL in rushing yards, which not only is a tribute to the diversity of talent in their backfield but the quality and depth of the offensive line that is opening holes for them. (Sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu, who played every snap again Sunday, looks like an absolute draft heist.) The Patriots are pretty good on the other side of the trenches, too, with their relatively obscure collection of defensive linemen holding the Chiefs to 94 rushing yards, and just 3.8 yards per attempt.
- Well, now we know what the beat writers were seeing when they raved about Damien Harris’s work during the abbreviated training camp. In his first career start, Harris ran for 100 yards on 17 carries while playing just 23 snaps. I’m not in the Sony Michel Is Worse Than Marion Butts camp, especially since he ran for 117 yards last week, but Harris looked to me like he has more burst and runs with some anger. Curious why he didn’t get more than four carries as a rookie, but perhaps the coaching staff’s patience with him is why he was able to thrive last night.
- Before mercifully being lifted for a relief pitcher in the third quarter, Brian Hoyer’s quarterback rating against the Chiefs was 59.4. In his 11-year NFL career, he’s actually had 10 games worse than that in which he was the primary quarterback. His worst single-game rating, 29.3, came on December 7, 2014, when he went 13 for 30 for 136 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions for the Browns in a 25-24 loss to the Colts.
- Believe it or not, Hoyer has had three games with a rating of better than 120 in his career, the best being a 127.1 rating for a 19-of-25, 290-yard performance in the Browns’ 23-21 loss to the Ravens on September 21, 2014. But Hoyer’s best career game probably occurred on Oct. 9, 2016, when he went 33 of 43 for 397 yards and two touchdowns – good for a 120 rating – while quarterbacking the Colts to a 29-23 loss to the Bears.
- Quarterback rating is hardly a be-all, end-all stat. I could explain how WAR in baseball is calculated better than I can QB rating, and please don’t ask me to do that. But I figure it was a decent way to show that Hoyer had big moments in his career, since his performance Monday night would suggest otherwise.
- Jarrett Stidham actually had a worse rating (39.4) than Hoyer, but he was hurt by the pick-six that ricocheted off Julian Edelman’s hands. He finished 5 of 13, with a nifty touchdown pass to N’Keal Harry, two interceptions, and 60 passing yards. He doesn’t seem especially adept at reading what’s in front of him yet, but the raw skill is obvious, and I still (perhaps stubbornly) believe he is going to be good. Here’s to finding out sometime around 2023.
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