By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — That football game on Monday night in Missouri was … certainly a lot more competitive than most of us expected it to be. For a while, anyway.
Eventually, the Chiefs were who we thought they were, and the home team did enough to run away with what the scoreboard said was a comfortable 16-point victory. Those who watched the game know that it wasn’t quite so simple a tale.
Uncharacteristic mistakes — both of the mental and physical variety — cost the Patriots dearly, and as a result, they took the loss.
Here are the Four Ups and Four Downs for the Patriots from their 26-10 loss in Kansas City. As always after a loss, you know we’re starting with the Downs.
The veteran quarterback got the start over second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham. It didn’t take long for Hoyer to make that look like a bad decision on the part of the coaching staff.
Hoyer missed his first pass by overthrowing an open Ryan Izzo. He overthrew Damiere Byrd on third down on the Patriots’ second drive. He threw an interception on the team’s third drive with .. yet another overthrow.
BALLHAWK 🦅 @Juan_Thornhill
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 5, 2020
Those throws were bad enough, but Hoyer’s lack of awareness in the red zone was a killer.
Before halftime, with the clock ticking and no timeouts, Hoyer did the one thing he could not do: He took a sack. In doing so, he cost the Patriots their chance at a short field goal to tie the game at 6-6. Worse yet, he signaled to call a timeout after the sack, indicating he didn’t even know the situation.
When asked after the game if there was a communication error from the sideline to Hoyer, head coach Bill Belichick seemingly made it clear that the mistake fell squarely on Hoyer’s shoulders.
“No, we were out of timeouts,” Belichick said.
Was there a communication error in getting the message to Hoyer before the snap, though?
Hoyer made matters worse when he showed no feel in the pocket for a charging Taco Charlton, who stripped the ball from him, leading to a turnover, costing the Patriots another short field goal chance.
Hoyer finished 15-for-24 for 130 yards with no touchdowns, one interception, and two very costly sacks. It was his first ever start for the Patriots … and likely his last.
You can’t help but wonder what might have been if Devin McCourty had just hung on to what would have been the easiest interception of his life.
The opportunity came on the opening drive of the game. Patrick Mahomes threw the ball to seemingly nobody, and the veteran safety was in position to make the pick and give his team a much-needed boost after a wild day of travel and COVID tests.
But McCourty dropped it.
HUGE dropped Interception by Devin McCourty.
— Alex 👋 (@Dubs408) October 5, 2020
The Chiefs ended up being held to a field goal on that drive, which felt like a minor victory at the time. But all night long, the dropped pick felt like it could have been — and should have been — a game-changer.
Make no mistake about it: Referee Tony Corrente botched a huge call that proved extremely costly for the Patriots.
It came when Chase Winovich had Mahomes wrapped up in the second quarter. Anyone who’s ever watched Mahomes knows that the QB never gives up on plays, so Mahomes kept his eyes upfield in an effort to look for a desperation heave. Instead, Deatrich Wise swooped in and knocked the ball loose. Shilique Calhoun caught it in mid-air, and the Patriots were in business after forcing that turnover on the Chiefs’ 35-yard line.
But long after Calhoun recovered the loose football, Corrente blew his whistle, ruling that Mahomes was “being controlled” and thus was ruled down by forward progress.
A live-speed replay showed that the whistle blew long after Mahomes lost the ball, and reason dictates that had Mahomes thrown a pass instead of committed a turnover, no such ruling would have been made.
Bill Belichick loses his mind, also ditches the double mask after the refs rule that Patrick Mahomes didn't fumble. pic.twitter.com/6w5P75g75x
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) October 6, 2020
The fact that such a call cannot be challenged certainly didn’t make matters any better for New England.
It was a tough break for the Patriots, who would take over on the other side of the field for the drive that would end with Hoyer’s sack before halftime.
At 34 years old, Julian Edelman remains a tough and reliable receiver. But his drops are still an issue.
His first drop on Monday ended up not hurting, because there was a Gunner on the spot to dive in and make a dynamite catch.
His second drop? That was a doozy.
It came in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots still in the game but trailing by nine points and needing to be perfect the rest of the way. A Jarrett Stidham pass headed Edelman’s way, but the receiver turned his head upfield before securing the ball.
The pass smashed off both of the receiver’s hand, bounced into the air … and directly into the bread basket of Tyrann Mathieu, who ran it 24 yards the other way for a touchdown that essentially nailed the game shut.
The Landlord will take it 🤷♂️
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 6, 2020
Edelman had just three catches for 35 yards (all three receptions moved the chains, with one coming on a third down and another coming on a fourth down). That costly drop may not have actually mattered in the end, but it was the latest in what has to be a concerning trend for the Patriots.
From @ESPNStatsInfo: Following up on the pick-6, that's the 11th dropped pass by Julian Edelman since the start of last season. No other player has more than 8 in that span.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) October 6, 2020
Bonus Down: Ja’Whaun Bentley’s Personal Foul
In the fourth quarter, Deatrich Wise pursued Mahomes from behind on a short two-yard run. Wise eventually let up and grabbed Mahomes to avoid a big collision. Unfortunately for Wise (and Mahomes), Ja’Whaun Bentley came flying over in pursuit, and though his contact with Mahomes was not egregious, it was enough to draw the penalty flag, giving 15 free yards to a Chiefs offense that doesn’t need any extra help.
The second-year back was kept on mothballs in his rookie year. His second year started with a trip to IR.
Finally, at long last, the running back out of Alabama got his chance to get regular playing time, and the 23-year-old capitalized on his opportunity.
Harris ran for an even 100 yards on 17 carries, on a night that included a 41-yard run just before the third quarter came to an end.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 6, 2020
Considering the offensive line was without David Andrews and Shaq Mason (inactive due to a calf injury), this was an impressive night all around for the Patriots’ ground game, which gained 185 on 35 carries.
While McCourty couldn’t convert his turnover opportunity early, Stephon Gilmore created one when he stepped back, sized up Sammy Watkins, and delivered a full-strength punch with precise accuracy to knock the ball free from the wide receiver on the opening play of the second quarter.
Stephon Gilmore with the forced fumble!
— NFL (@NFL) October 5, 2020
J.C. Jackson recovered the ball at the Patriots’ 15-yard line, taking points off the board for the Chiefs.
It was plays like that one which kept the Patriots in the game for so long.
Jarrett Stidham’s performance wasn’t particularly outstanding. In fact, it wasn’t even good. Stidham was 5-for-13 for 60 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions after entering the game in the third quarter.
Still … his entrance did seem to provide some life for the Patriots, on a drive that ended with Stidham throwing his first career NFL touchdown pass. Fittingly, he threw it to N’Keal Harry, with whom Stidham entered the league a year ago.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 6, 2020
It was Harry’s first touchdown of the year and the Patriots’ first touchdown of the night. For a moment, it made it seem like the Patriots might pull off the (nearly) impossible upset.
Kicking, Punting, Gunning
In what is a small consolation, Nick Folk was good in limited opportunity, hitting a 43-yard field goal and his PAT. Punter Jake Bailey was booming balls to the moon, averaging 52.3 yards per punt, with a long of 58. All three of his punts came down inside the 20, with one hitting the boundary inside the 5-yard line. And while Gunner Olszewski only had one punt return (for 12 yards), he made a heads-up snag on a dropped pass by Edelman that is sure to win him even more favor with the coaching staff.