Knee Jerk Reactions to Week 6: Patriots vs. Chiefs

Things to consider while wondering how depressing and tragic it must be to live in a town that doesn’t have nights like this:

–You know it was a wild night when Kanye dropping MFers in the Oval Office is no longer the craziest thing you saw all week.

–How do I do a game like this justice? Where do I even begin? I feel like I could put in an 8-hour day on just this blog post alone and still not put a dent in it. And that by tomorrow I’ll need to release a Knee Jerk Reactions Director’s Cut. Or do sequels, then cut the final installment into two parts like they did with Hunger Games, there’s just so much to cover. When I take notes during a Pats game, I draw a key next to any of the most important plays so I know to go back, look over the replays and break it down. Well the notebook from last night has so many keys it looks like that metal hoop your school custodian wore on his belt because he was the most important person in the building.

–So what the hell, with such a target rich environment, you can never go wrong starting at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes isn’t as good as advertised, he’s better. We were expecting an electric factory and Kansas City delivered a goddamned nuclear reactor. After listening to three innings worth of minutiae about David Price’s “spine angle,” we saw a 23-year-old make every conceivable throw from every angle a human spine can achieve. Like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, but running at full speed. Often to his left, which defies the laws of quarterback physics.

–More on Mahomes as we move along here, but the biggest mistake he made was connecting with Tyreek Hill on a quick-strike, 75-yard scoring play to tie it up. That left 3 minutes on the clock for a quarterback who was being drafted by the Montreal Expos around the time his father was pitching for the Red Sox. Meaning, before he was even born. And he found out what dozens of other Next Big Thing QBs have before him. That when both teams are putting up video game numbers, you can’t let Brady hold the controller last because that’s when he puts in the cheat codes to play in God Mode.

–At the School for Lazy Journalists, they teach you to compare a game like this to a prizefight, and remind you not to forget to say both boxers were exchanging haymakers all night. But that cliché won’t fly here. Instead I’ll say this was more Supermarket Sweep, with both offenses running around tossing huge chunk plays into their carts. And in the end, the Patriots just got one more expensive cut of USDA prime chunk into theirs.

–Generally speaking, I thought the Patriots big plays on offense were a result of them creating mismatches, winning the one-on-one battles and just being more physical than KC’s defense. Whereas the Chiefs’ big plays were more breakdowns by New England. The kick return down to the 4. That weird pooch kick by Steven Gostkowski that set them up at the 45 and led to a field goal. Jason McCourty playing Kareem Hunt like he thought Devin McCourty was his help in the deep half of the field, but he wasn’t. (So much for Twin Telepathy.) That bomb to Hill in which Duron Harmon was playing Single High Safety and no cornerback was in coverage on him. That had to be a miscommunication. Though fat lot of good any corner would’ve been. Unless he was carrying a canister of bear spray, no one was stopping Hill on that. But still.

–For the Patriots offensively, it was all about the Chiefs not being able to get off blocks in the run game, not being able to beat Brady’s protection and simply not having the athletes to slow down any of his receivers. They did what Andy Reid’s defenses always do: Play a base 3-4 with man coverage behind it. (Even in goal line situations, like Brady’s touchdown when they doubled three receivers instead of playing zone so he had an opening to run through.) Without Justin Houston, who plays his best against New England and Eric Berry, who plays his best against everybody, they were simply over matched because the Pats offense had a better athlete at almost every position than the defender they were lined up against.

–Strange as this sounds coming off a game where Brady was 24-35 and 340 yards, I thought their biggest advantage was when they ran the ball. They came out running Sony Michel behind James Develin. Then ran him behind Gronk lined up at H-back for a 1st down. Later they picked up a big gain with Develin blowing up Ron Parker, Gronk throwing a kickout block on Dee Ford and Joe Thuney pulling. That set up a draw play where they were in a trips formation with Gronk two yards off the ball, which put the Chiefs in nickel and all it took was one power block by Gronk on Reggie Ragland to spring Michel. Consider the touchdown that made it 24-9, when he ran between Marcus Cannon and Gronk, with Jacob Hollister on the outside and Jimmy Neckroll running over Steven Nelson. If anything, I thought they got away from Michel too early. Or at least thought they had set themselves up beautifully for some play action that never really materialized. But they scored 43 points and gave Ryan Allen the night off, so who am I say?


–Besides, the one guy Kansas City had no answer for was James White. Checkdowns. Screens. Straight up run plays, either behind the halfback or from the spread. Take for example the screen they threw him out of an offset I behind Develin that went for 20+ yards. They simply could not make a stop on him. And to me none was bigger than the 3rd & 2 after Hunt’s touchdown when KC had all the momentum and a 3 & out there would’ve totally swung the game. They put White in as the lone back. Thuney pulled. Andrews blocked down on Chris Jones. Cannon sealed off Anthony Hitchens and White broke it almost to midfield. That drive ended in a field goal to make it a 2-score game again. And I felt like if White didn’t move the chains there, the rest of the night would’ve been a bigger disaster than Lena Dunham’s new HBO show.

–The game hinged on so many of what Belichick calls “4-point plays,” those plays that turn field goal tries into touchdowns or vice versa. So 3rd down plays on your opponent’s side of the field. Missed red zone opportunities, and so on. So, for instance, with the Patriots up 10-3 and the Chiefs with a 3rd & 5, New England went to a look with no down linemen, just five guys standing around. Call it The State Worker Defense. Except this actually did some work. Adrian Clayborn came off the edge and Adam Butler got in Mahomes’ face forcing an incompletion. Another came right after a huge run by Hunt put KC in a 1st & goal, but on 3rd down Elandon Roberts got his paw on a ball to hold them to 3.

–A bad 4-point play was Brady throwing just behind Josh Gordon in the end zone. Because while he’s great creating space for himself on slants and double moves and such, he’s the best hands-catcher they’ve maybe ever had and seems to be getting it, he and Brady’s chemistry guage is still reading “Third Week of Training Camp.” But they’re getting there.

–But Brady is very much psychically plugged into his Pliability Brother, Rob Gronkowski. With the Chiefs still playing their basic man coverages, he read in his presnap that Gronk would be iso’d against Josh Shaw, did not miss and that was the ballgame. Then there was the earlier play when David Amerson – a 205 lb corner – went up against the planetary Trent Brown. And as soon as Brady saw him coming off the edge, he knew no one was on Gronk. So he took a 3-step drop, planted and hit him in stride for 40 yards. I just hope Parker was wearing some sort of jewelry on that play so search teams can use metal detectors to find the location Gronk buried him.

–Of course Brady was going to feed the ball to Gronk in crunch time. When a good boy obeys commands you give him a treat:


–Trent Brown has been immense. In every sense of the word. I did a call a couple of weeks ago to a terrestrial radio show in New York to promote my book. And off the air the host asked me “What the hell is up with Nate Solder?” Music to my ears.

–Did I mention I like Patrick Mahomes? Because I do. I get some Russell Wilson out of him, except he’s an even better athlete. I don’t even mind his voice. It’s oddly comforting. Like he’s a Fraggle Rock character. And Andy Reid is his kindly, nurturing, glasses-wearing sentient trash pile.

–Dont’a Hightower is back. All the way back. Being a disruptive force up on the line. Filling holes when he’s in the middle. He suckered Mahomes into that interception by faking the A-gap blitz and then jumping under Travis Kelce’s route. He was constantly chipping Kelce, jamming him, keeping him from getting into his routes. Even a few times splitting outside the numbers. He looked like he was at the end of the line the first three games or so. But he’s becoming what he was a couple of years ago: An impact defender you have to account for on every play.

–This sounds ridiculous in my head even as I type the words, but I liked the defensive game plan. Put the linebacker and Jason McCourty on Kelce. Have Stephon Gilmore throw an Invisibility Cloak over Sammy Watkins. Check and check. Granted I was not a fan of the part where they leave Hill unattended to and let Hunt run around with all the space a guy could hope for on a 100 x 53.3 yard field. But again, I chalk those up to breakdowns. The Chiefs are a deep team and you pick your poison.

–Still, Hill and Hunt treated the McCourty family like one of those horror movies where there’s a home invasion by people wearing animal masks.

–This Week’s Applicable Move Quote: “Goddamn it, Chief. You’re as big as a damn mountain!” – Randall P. McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

–The ad for Rock “The Dwayne” Johnson’s new show where he says “You haven’t seen anything like this” cut out before he finished “… unless you’ve ever watched American Ninja Warrior. Then you’ve seen something exactly like this.”

–It feels like Josh McDaniels is a kid who’s been given a chemistry set and is still figuring out all the crap he can make with it. He had the right mixture to get first downs out of Kenyon Barner. Including one where he motioned Julian Edelman into the backfield next to Barner for some ungodly reason but it froze Kendall Fuller and Gronk went off for a 16 yard catch. Another time he had White, Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson all around Brady like he was a guy getting triple teamed in the low post. Instead, Edelman motioned, Patterson ran to the flat, caught a bubble screen, juked Dee Ford and got the 1st. The best part of this season will be watching what McDaniels can produce once he gets the chemicals right. Unlike me and my brothers, who got a chemistry set and never made anything but stinkbombs. Because they were hilarious.

–Then again, if you’re McDaniels, you can always just call for your QB to  to stare down Edelman in the flat until Chris Hogan comes open, then launch a perfect ball to him. It worked well enough last night.

–The thing about McDaniels I don’t get is that at least once a game they cut to him talking into his headset with a case of Resting Pissyface that just seems way out of character. Like I don’t know who’s in his ear but you can almost hear his eyes rolling as he’s listening. It’s the look the Irish Rose gives me when I’ve promised I’d take care of some simple thing around the house but I totally blew it off because I got Shawshanked by Rudy again.

–Though the cameras did catch Belichick and Brady having a heart to heart on the sidelines. You can’t tell me the love has gone out of their marriage. You could see the sparkle in Tom’s eyes reflected in the glaze of Bill’s.


–No matter how bad your day is going, just be thankful you’re not the rookie who had Tom Brady wrapped up and let him go like a fish you toss back in the water. Be nice to Breeland Speaks today, everyone.

–On a final note, this means Brady has passed Adam Vinatieri as the guy with the most career wins. By way of perspective, Vinatieri came into the league in 1996. And played for a Super Bowl team his rookie year. This also means Brady’s career record is 227-67. Meaning he is TEN perfect seasons above .500.

–Let’s hope for a nice, manageable game against Chicago. Without a billion Fantasy points being scored. My brain can’t take all this processing.