By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s been a couple of days, but people still seem to want to talk about the booing from the home crowd during Sunday’s Chiefs-Patriots game. Bill Belichick’s been asked about, Tom Brady’s been asked about it a couple of times, and all sorts of people in all sorts of places want to offer up some form of commentary on this booing.
On its surface, it is a bit weird for Patriots fans to be booing, right? They’re 10-3, they’re very likely to earn a first-round bye and an AFC East crown yet again, the greatest quarterback of all time is still running onto the field every Sunday, and they still have a shot at making and/or winning a Super Bowl this year. Things aren’t so bad!
At the same time, those who watch closely and those who know what a championship team looks like knows that the offense has not looked too hot since the middle of October. It’s led to plenty of frustration from fans … and from Brady himself, who’s been shown almost weekly in some slow-motion extreme close-ups bursting with rage after yet another failed third down.
And so, with the Chiefs in town for an AFC Championship Game rematch, fans were giddy to see if the Patriots could make it three straight wins against their budding AFC rival. And after the Patriots scored 43 points and 37 points against the Chiefs in last year’s two meetings, there was reason to believe perhaps this would be the week where Brady’s offense discovers something that works.
Instead, with just under four minutes to go in the first half, and with the Patriots trailing 17-7, this is what those fans witness.
This was … this was not the offensive mastery we’ve seen from Brady and Josh McDaniels over the years. This was … well, it looked like a Pop Warner team trying to run an NFL offense. It was not ideal.
Brady threw two passes on the first two downs. The first one traveled one yard forward and landed four yards behind the line of scrimmage. The second one traveled five yards and was caught three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Brady wanted to throw downfield on third down, but the Chiefs dropped seven men into a zone while the line couldn’t fend off the rush. His eventual pass to James White was way off the mark, but it wouldn’t have led to a first down anyway. The whole thing was a mess.
So, the fans booed. Tony Romo even made mention of it on the broadcast.
“Now we got your boos, not for penalties but because they’re actually feeling … ” Romo said without injecting his own guesses of Patriots fans’ feelings into his commentary. They were indeed feeling something, though.
Instead of running a four-minute offense and cutting the Chiefs’ lead to just a field goal, the Patriots punted. The Chiefs then drove down the field and tacked on a field goal to make it 20-7.
That’s not typically how the Patriots function.
Nevertheless, the Patriots were given an absolute gift on the ensuing kick return, when Dorian O’Daniel shoved Nate Ebner into Chase Winovich, knocking the linebacker to the turf and drawing a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
So, the Patriots began their drive at their own 41-yard line, with 54 seconds on the clock and two timeouts at their disposal. At the very last, a 15-yard connection of some sort would lead to a field goal before halftime, but an aggressive drive or a coverage breakdown or any sort of deep shot would’ve possibly led to a touchdown, to further trim that Kansas City lead before the break.
Instead, here’s the entirety of the Patriots’ final drive before halftime:
On first down, the Chiefs blitzed, leading to the quick pass to the side of the blitz. But the Chiefs covered space quickly to limit Edelman to a short gain. The second down play was particularly painful, as the Chiefs only rushed four against the Patriots’ six blockers. Frank Clark buzzed past Isaiah Wynn for the sack. On third down, with the Chiefs in a Cover 2 to prevent any deep shots, Shaq Mason was beaten cleanly by Chris Jones, forcing Brady to run for his life and settle for a checkdown to James White, who was hammered immediately.
Instead of even driving 25 yards to set up a long field goal attempt, the Patriots gained one yard and then let the clock tick down to halftime.
Taken together with the previous drive, the Patriots ran six plays and gained a total of four yards.
The Patriots’ offense now ranks 15th in yards per game. They’re 17th in the league in third-down conversion rate and 21st in fourth-down conversion rate. They rank 20th in yards per pass play and a grisly 29th in yards per rushing play. They have the 27th-ranked red zone offense and they’re 26th in goal-to-go offense.
It’s been trending in the wrong direction for six games now, almost half the season.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) December 10, 2019
This is not what the Patriots want to be. Josh McDaniels would tell you that it’s clearly not good enough. Tom Brady would tell you that it’s clearly not good enough. On Sunday afternoon, the fans were having their turn to say it’s not good enough. It was not a declaration of “The past 20 years, and the nine Super Bowl appearances, and the six Super Bowl victories, they all STINK!” It was a declaration of “This, currently, right here, right now, it stinks, and it’s unpleasant to witness.”
It’s happened a handful of times over the past couple of decades, despite the unreal run of success, because that’s what happens when standards and expectations are raised. It does not seem like it needs to be a very big deal.