Season not over: The Patriots can survive the Alex Smith fiasco

Published: 9/8/2017 2:16:56 AM
Modified: 11/12/2008 3:10:12 PM
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Surely, at some point, the New England Patriots were going to have to part ways with the much-hyped, but implausible dream of a perfect season.
But who thought that dream would die with Alex Smith in victory formation? In Week 1?
On a night when the Patriots were supposed to debut a fire-breathing offensive leviathan, it was instead the typically stodgy Kansas City Chiefs who proved improbably unstoppable in a 42-27 victory over New England. Scoring the final 21 points of the game, all in the fourth quarter, Kansas City ran the Patriots out of the building, spoiling a wonderful pre-game banner ceremony featuring Mark Wahlberg and Flo Rida.
Rather than embarking on the enlightened path to perfection, the Patriots found themselves questioning their own competitiveness and attitude.
“We had it handed to us on our own field,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said after the game. “It’s a terrible feeling, and the only people that can do something about it are in that locker room. We’ve got to dig a lot deeper than we did tonight because we didn’t dig very deep tonight.”
Smith, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Game Management, played perhaps the single-greatest game of his life. Completing 28 of 35 pass attempts for 368 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, Smith had a 148.6 passer rating and averaged 10.5 yards per pass attempt. It was completely bananas.
So too was the performance of the Chiefs rookie running back, Kareem Hunt, who lost a fumble on his first career carry. He then proceeded to gather 246 yards from scrimmage with three touchdowns.
This was one of the worst defensive performances in the history of Bill Belichick. According to the NFL Media Research Group, the Chiefs reached the following milestones: Kansas City scored more points than any Patriots’ opponent in the Belichick era; Smith became just the second quarterback to throw for 300 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against Belichick (the other is Drew Brees); and Hunt set an NFL record for the most yards from scrimmage in an NFL debut.
“We didn’t really do much of anything well enough tonight to deserve to win,” Belichick said after the game. “We've got to coach better, got to practice better, got to play better. We've got a lot of work to do. I mean, that’s obvious. We'll have to get back to work and see if we can improve pretty much everything. It's just not good enough.”
Everyone (even the vaunted New England football team) is entitled to a bad game, and that’s what this was. If there is anything to be concerned about, it is not the Patriots’ current record or even the fashion in which they lost this game. New England has the ingredients to compete for another Super Bowl, but those ingredients have not yet congealed. Of course, there is no coaching staff or front office more adept to make those ingredients work together than this one is.
If there is an area of concern, it is the ever-growing injury bug that continues to infest the Patriots’ roster. Prior to Thursday’s game, New England put wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell on injured reserve, further thinning the receiving corps. During the game, Danny Amendola left with a head injury, and it is unclear when he will be ready to play again. In less than a day, the Pats lost 40 percent of their receivers, eroding the depth that began to thin out when Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending ACL tear. The Patriots did not score again after Amendola left the game.
Somehow, even more frightening, the Patriots lost linebacker Dont’a Hightower to a knee injury in the third quarter. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Chiefs scored on three of the six drives that followed Hightower’s departure. Hightower reportedly rode a stationary bike during the game, but the severity of his injury is not yet known.
The Patriots need time to heal and to make all of their new toys work together. They have 15 regular-season games to sort all of this out. Brady was insistent that the first correction will have to be an attitude adjustment.
“We just have to be a lot better in a lot of areas, starting with our attitude and our competitiveness,” Brady said. “We’re going to have to do a lot better than tonight. … Every position that we have is going to have to do a better job than we did tonight. There was nothing really positive about anything that was done, so we’ve got to get back to work. We’ve got nine days before the next game, and hopefully we play a lot better than tonight.”
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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