The New England Patriots are ready to discuss their Week 4 debacle.
The 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs kept popping up in the Patriots’ bye week before Super Bowl XLIX, and it all started when head coach Bill Belichick told WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” that halftime of that game was the turning point in the season.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork also seemed eager to talk about when the Patriots “sucked” this season.
It’s pretty easy to diagnose what went wrong for the Patriots in that game: everything. The Patriots’ offensive line was terrible, quarterback Tom Brady was off, they were down so early that they couldn’t establish a rushing attack and their run defense was a sieve.
Fortunately for the Patriots, most of these issues have been fixed by now.
The Patriots’ issues began from their first offensive snap, when they made the perplexing decision to start rookie Cameron Fleming at right guard. Fleming was so inexperienced at guard that when asked if he could play the position during his post-draft media session, he laughed and said he played a snap there once during practice as a joke.
The Jordan Devey-starting experiment had failed, moving Marcus Cannon from tackle to guard had failed and the Patriots, for some reason, still were hesitant to allow Ryan Wendell to take his rightful place as a starter. Fleming was their last gasp desperation move to fix the offensive line. It didn’t work, and Wendell started in Week 5, when the offensive line no longer was a disaster.
Brady was off to begin the season because it was obvious that he didn’t trust the offensive line that head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and O-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo were giving him. Brady was feeling real pressure and pressure that wasn’t there, and he was getting rid of the ball too quickly.
That wasn’t allowing receivers like Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell to get open down the field, and receiver Julian Edelman could only shoulder so much of the load before the opposing team was going to take him out of a game, as the Chiefs did, allowing just four catches for 23 yards.
Gronkowski still wasn’t looking totally comfortable after offseason knee surgery, and he finally made his fully-triumphant return in Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals, when the Patriots actually were able to turn their season around.
The improved offensive line and Gronkowski’s return allowed Brady to go from “washed up” to MVP candidate in the course of just six days.
“After we lost to Kansas City, I don?t think there were many people that believed in Tom as a quarterback,” safety Devin McCourty said Friday. “It sounds crazy for me to say that right now, and during that week it sounded crazy for us to hear it.”
The Patriots’ run defense was a slower fix, and they still were having trouble defending the ground game in Week 8 against Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears, but after signing 325-pound behemoth Alan Branch and getting another 325-pounder, defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, off injured reserve, the Patriots’ defense started to look much more balanced, and they allowed just 79 yards per game in the second half of the season.
The Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, actually are built similarly to the Chiefs. They’re a team that relies on its offensive rushing attack and pass defense and could potentially be beat because of so-so receiver play and a defensive front seven that can be moved in the running game.
If this game goes better than Week 4, then the Patriots could be walking away with their fourth Super Bowl championship.
Thumbnail photo via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images