By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
For 20 years, the Patriots have been the standard for clutch, situational, tough play. They execute to perfection. They go the full 60 minutes.
OK, so that’s a little bit of hyperbole. But you get the idea. On offense, especially, New England has had far too many fundamental breakdowns this year, the result of which has been uncharacteristically poor play, particularly in the red zone. That flaw – along with some bad officiating – helped do them in Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
For example: on the next-to-last play of the Patriots final possession, New England had a third-and-12 from the Kansas City 14-yard line. Tom Brady subsequently completed a nine-yard pass to Julian Edelman, but the Pats failed to make a play on fourth down and turned the ball over to the Chiefs, effectively ending the game.
In retrospect, the play on third down offered some perspective as to why the Pats have had trouble this year – and we’re talking about the completion. As this replay shows – from multiple angles, including the all-22 coaches' film – Brady’s throw to Edelman is low, prompting Edelman to go down to the turf to secure the catch. Had the ball hit Edelman in stride, might he have scored? Might he have at least gained a first down at the 2-yard line? There is obviously no real way to know, but the Patriots longtime receiver certainly had a lot of space in front of him.
One other thing to note on this play: go back and watch left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who wears No. 76. At the snap, Wynn steps out to his left, where there are no pass rushers. This allows the blitzing Kendall Fuller (No. 29 for Kansas City) a quick, clear run at Brady, who has to get rid of the ball quickly. Was that bit of disruption enough to alter the throw, even just a little? Again, there is no way to know for certain. You can make your own judgments.
As for the running game, here’s something else we noted on Sunday: the tentative play of Sony Michel. The Patriots starting running back and first-round pick from 2018 had six touches on Sunday, including five runs and one reception. He does not appear the least bit decisive or forceful on any of them, which prompted his removal from the game.
Are these problems fixable? Maybe yes, maybe no.
But as we all know, the Patriots are running out of time.