The New England Patriots have to be feeling conflicted Tuesday afternoon after their Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
On one hand, the Patriots have to be feeling somewhat optimistic that, without starting quarterback Cam Newton, they could have beat the NFL’s best team if they just hadn’t shot themselves in the foot (and gotten hosed by officials) multiple times throughout the game. The Patriots lost 26-10, but the game was closer than the score appeared, and New England kept up. The Patriots’ defense played as well as anyone could have expected and showed potential against the Chiefs’ high-powered passing attack.
Then again, without Newton to lead the Patriots, some glaring weaknesses appeared on offense. There probably was no saving fill-in starter Brian Hoyer, but how long can New England’s offense reasonably survive with wide receiver Damiere Byrd and tight end Ryan Izzo leading the team in snaps?
Byrd probably is a better option than wide receivers lower on the depth chart, but that seems like an easily upgradable position especially as Julian Edelman becomes less dependable by the week.
And rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene have yet to even be targeted through four games. In Keene’s case, that’s because he hasn’t even suited up yet. If Asiasi and Keene aren’t going to contribute in Year 1, then the Patriots have to make a move at the position. Izzo can’t be a starting tight end if wide receiver is also a position of weakness. Newton, the Patriots’ running backs and offensive line can only carry the team so far.
All stats via Pro Football Focus.
Hoyer started the game but gave way to Jarrett Stidham in the third quarter after taking two ill-advised third-down sacks that took points off the board for New England.
— 15-of-24 with two passes dropped, one throwaway for a 73.9-percent accuracy rate, per PFF
— 1-of-2, 25 yards on deep attempts
— 5-of-13 with two passes dropped, one throwaway, one pass batted at the line and one hit as thrown for a 70-percent accuracy rate
— 0-of-1, interception on deep attempts
— Edelman dropped two passes, one of which led to one of Stidham’s two interceptions. Edelman has a 21.7% drop rate which leads qualified NFL pass-catchers.
— Izzo and Byrd also dropped passes.
— Hoyer probably made a higher percentage of quality throws, but Stidham was the better quarterback Monday night when you account for mistakes. If Patriots starting QB Cam Newton can’t play in Week 5, then Stidham should start.
— Rookie tight end Devin Asiasi is still targetless through four games.
— Rookie wide receiver Isaiah Zuber (nine snaps) and returning second-year pro Gunner Olszewski (six snaps) each got one touch as they played sparingly on offense behind Byrd (73 snaps), N’Keal Harry (58 snaps) and Edelman (47 snaps).
The Patriots were forced to start rookie Justin Herron at right tackle when Jermaine Eluemunor suffered from a migraine headache. The Patriots were down three starters on their offensive line against the Chiefs with center David Andrews (hand) on injured reserve, right guard Shaq Mason (calf) inactive and Eluemunor unavailable. The O-line held up exceptionally well given the circumstances and competition, and co-offensive coaches Carmen Bricillo and Cole Popovich deserve credit for their work this season replacing retired legend Dante Scarnecchia.
Rookie Michael Onwenu, who has now played four different positions (tight end, right tackle, left guard and right guard) in four games, and center James Ferentz didn’t allow a single pressure all game.
RT Justin Herron: sack, QB hit, hurry
LT Isaiah Wynn: QB hit, hurry
RB James White: two hurries
FB Jakob Johnson: hurry
LG Joe Thuney: hurry
QB Brian Hoyer: sack
— Izzo and running backs Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris also were clean in pass protection.
— Herron led Patriots offensive linemen in pressures allowed but he was by no means a disaster at tackle.
— Onwenu is one of the Patriots’ best rookies in recent memory. He’s let up just two hurries in 103 pass-block snaps.
The Patriots had another strong day on the ground even without the threat of Newton’s mobility as they picked up 185 yards on 35 carries.
RB James White: 2.67 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle
RB Rex Burkhead: 2.64 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle, 40% breakaway rate
RB Damien Harris: 1.94 yards after contact per attempt, 41% breakaway rate
— Breakaway rate shows percentage of yards on runs of 15 yards or more.
— Harris had a massive hole on his 41-yard carry but should continue to receive top-back reps with Sony Michel on injured reserve.
— Rookie running back J.J. Taylor didn’t play a single offensive snap with Harris and White back in the offense.
The Patriots held Patrick Mahomes to just 236 passing yards. That’s the sixth-fewest yards Mahomes has thrown in a start in his NFL career. The Patriots should have come away with two interceptions, but free safety Devin McCourty and cornerback JC Jackson dropped potential takeaways.
CB Jonathan Jones: eight catches on 11 targets, 86 yards, TD
CB Joejuan Williams: 1-2, 45 yards
S Kyle Dugger: 3-3, 44 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 3-4, 24 yards, TD, forced fumble
S Adrian Phillips: 2-2, 17 yards
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 1-2, 14 yards, PBU
CB JC Jackson: 1-1, 6 yards, PBU, fumble recovery
CB Jason McCourty: 0-3
S Devin McCourty: PBU
— Jones, Gilmore, Jackson and Devin McCourty played every defensive snap. Jason McCourty took on more of a reduced role but covered tight end Travis Kelce well.
— Williams only saw eight snaps and got burned by Kelce on a 45-yard catch. He could have given up another catch to Kelce, but Chiefs fullback Nick Keizer tipped a target intended for the Chiefs’ star tight end as Williams was trailing in coverage. It might be time to reevaluate Williams’ role as a tight end stopper. He was flagged for holding twice against Raiders tight end Darren Waller in Week 3 and didn’t appear fast enough to keep up with Kelce on Monday night.
— PFF charged Gilmore with a touchdown to Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a shovel pass. Gilmore and Jackson both covered Chiefs receivers well.
The Patriots’ front seven was able to get Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable in the pocket without blitzing. Outside linebacker Chase Winovich, who has been one of the Patriots’ best players through four weeks, led the way again with a sack (that should have been an interception) and three total pressures.
OLB Chase Winovich: sack, two hurries
OLB John Simon: three hurries
DE Deatrich Wise: QB hit, hurry
OLB Anfernee Jennings: two hurries
DT Adam Butler: hurry
DT Byron Cowart: hurry
DT Lawrence Guy: hurry
— Jennings produced his two hurries on just two pass-rush snaps. That should earn him more opportunities on defense.
The Patriots, once again, stayed in their sub packages but halted the Chiefs’ rushing attack, allowing just 66 yards on 17 carries to running backs. Mahomes also scrambled eight times for 28 yards.
Bentley: four defensive stops
Wise: three stops
Simon: three stops, missed tackle
Winovich: two stops, tackle for loss
Guy: two stops, tackle for loss
Jones: stop, missed tackle
Devin McCourty: stop
— Wise bulked up over the offseason and has become one of the Patriots’ bigger impact run defenders.