Sunday ultimately painted a pretty tough but fair look of this Patriots team. They have a ton of firepower and unsung heroes on the defensive side of the ball but lack that on the opposite side of the ball, and the opposition, a Chiefs team with Super Bowl aspirations even in a down year, found a way to win with a monster second half performance. Even before that, it was a Tom Brady-esque statement drive by Patrick Mahomes to close out the second quarter, which tipped the scales in favor of Kansas City.
Today, we get to a bit of everything from Sunday's loss. From Travis Kelce getting put in the Steiner Recliner, to the loss of Trent Brown proving vital, Mahomes being Mahomes, and perhaps most importantly, the best game in the young career of Christian Barmore.
BMore Be Great
It was a simple message from Christian Barmore on Monday, after what was (for my money) his best game as an NFL player; "#BMorebegreat." Great would undersell just how good he was against the pass and run. First, here's a handful of pass rush snaps where he doesn't just win, he definitively wins each one.
Barmore played every bit like a guy who's 6'5, 315lbs, and carries a wingspan of 81 inches. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the middle of the trenches, making it a long day for guards Trey Smith and (Unironic Patriots Legend) Joe Thuney. Evan Lazar of Patriots.com had the third-year IDL down for a sack, QB hit, and two additional pressures in the pass rush department.
Also, since the two plays popped up in that reel, let me add firstly, when I tell you the Marte Mapu interception was the first time I was that happy over something Patriots-related since the late season win over the Bills in 2019, believe me. I waited eight excruciating months for that moment, and they finally started using him in the box like they should've been all year. Secondly, I thought the holding call on Alex Austin, which negated that Jabrill Peppers fumble recovery, was a horrendous call, but I didn't take too much issue with the refs on Sunday otherwise. Regardless, that wiped out another turnover that Barmore would have had his hands in.
While Barmore's forte is on passing downs, he looked imposing on a handful of running-down snaps as well, coming away with a triad of run stuffs. Here's a look at two.
Not only was big No. 90 the Patriots' best player on Sunday, but the gap between him and everyone else was notable. Not a knock on anyone either, there were several Patriots' who had great outings, but Barmore was simply on another level. Whoever's running the front office come springtime needs to make extending Barmore priority one. I've had to hear from inside my own household all year that the Patriots don't have any superstars, and it's watching performances like this that drives me insane hearing that. Barmore is as good as it gets.
Why Trent Brown is More Important Than You Think
A big reason the Patriots lost this game can boil down to the left side of the line specifically, but generally speaking, just poor protection. Bailey Zappe was pressured on just south of 50 percent of his dropbacks. After Sunday, I hope Patriots fans can at least appreciate Trent Brown a bit more than they did going in, because with Connor McDermott and Vederian Lowe, it was rough. Never mind losing Cole Strange to what is officially a season-ending knee injury, either. Only going to show a snap of McDermott's last drive of the day, but Zappe was under far too much heat. The Chiefs nearly doubled their seasonal pressure percentage in this game alone. I have a hard time seeing that happen with Brown out at left tackle.
Kelce's Trip to Alcatraz (Taylor's Version)
I want to start this off circling back to something I had said going into Sunday.
"I saw a guy who's playing like a 34-year-old. He doesn't have the speed or ability to separate vs. man coverage efficiently enough, and while the finesse part of his game (finding soft spots against zone, short/intermediate area production, etc.) is not quite his whole bag, it's close to it based on that sample size." - Me on Travis Kelce's tape in games vs the Eagles and Broncos (second game)
Now, how did the Patriots put Travis Kelce in a straight jacket, throw in him a cell, and throw away the key you may be asking? Simple, Jalen Mills in man coverage. Others got their wins as well (Kyle Dugger, Marte Mapu, hell, even Myles Bryant), but it was mainly him that drew No. 87
A few other reps jumped out, but this was the one that should get the point across. This was that 3rd&10 on the Chiefs' opening possession, where Harrison Butker missed the field goal try moments after. This is simply a great rep by Mills; gets some mits on him and has more than enough speed to keep up with Kelce on this corner route. All day, Kelce had nothing going downfield, and outside of a few passes down by the LOS, did virtually nothing in this game. Why more teams don't play man-to-man on him, but let Kelce repeatedly beat them playing soft zone coverage where he can hit hitch routes all game long is beyond me, but it's good to see the Patriots not fall into that trap, even if it meant Rashee Rice having the game he did.
Zappe 2nd Half Disappearing Act
I thought Bailey Zappe had another great first-half performance added to his resume; made smart decisions, made a few big throws, and gave the Patriots a chance to win. It took all of one (1) offensive play into the second half to ensure that wouldn't last beyond 30 minutes of play.
I recently did a scouting report on Caleb Williams, lamenting turnovers just like that that he did three times over vs. Notre Dame (Check it out here. Spoiler; he's really good). Under no circumstances should that ball have left Zappe's hands unless it meant it was going in the radio booth with Scott Zolak and Bob Socci.
We talked about the issues with protection already, and while it's hard to blame Zappe when he was with two backups on the left side of the line in the second half, you have to make do with what you have, and he couldn't make the plays he needed to make. Take this sailed ball to Pop Douglas on the first play of the fourth quarter, for example.
Best in the World
To flip to the opposition to close things out, do you want to know why Mahomes is in a league of his own? Look at what he did to a Patriots defense, who, to this point, held him to 112 yards (and just 64 taking away the CEH screen) with five minutes to go in the first half. I don't know if I can call this art, but this is certainly a master at work. Can't help but tip your cap.
Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 27, New England Patriots 17
Gaffney's Three Stars from Patriots-Chiefs
3rd Star - Hunter Henry (7 Catches, 66 Yards, 1 TD)
2nd Star - Mack Wilson (1 Sack, 2 Tackles, 1 TFL)
1st Star - Christian Barmore (1 Sack, 4 Pressures, 6 Tackles, 2 TFL)
Shoutout to Alex Austin as well. Thought he was solid as an emergency starter in place of J.C. Jackson, and hope J.C. can get into a good mental state soon.
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