Hannable: Patriots' blowout loss to Chiefs can go 2 ways -- turn into a rallying point, or be the start of an underachieving season

Ryan Hannable
September 08, 2017 - 3:57 am

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — Not too often does a team reach a turning point after Week 1 of the NFL season, but the Patriots have. 

After much of the talk leading into the year was about the Patriots potentially going 16-0, New England got smacked at home on Opening Night by the Chiefs, 42-27. 

It was the most points allowed in the Bill Belichick era, and Tom Brady’s comments after the game said it all.

“We just have to be a lot better in a lot of areas, starting with our attitude and our competitiveness,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a lot better than tonight.”

Brady added: “I just think we need to have more urgency and go out there and perform a lot better. That is a winning attitude and a championship attitude that you need to bring every day. We had it handed to us on our own field. 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.”

How many times in Brady’s 18 years with the team has he referenced the team’s attitude and competitiveness being an issue? 

Not very many. So when he brings it up, you know there’s something to it.

New England did have its fair share of adversity leading into the opener with everything that has taken place to this point in the season. 

Rob Ninkovich retired in the first few days of training camp. Defensive end, and former second-round pick, Kony Ealy was released. Jacoby Brissett was traded. Derek Rivers, Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman were all lost for the season, and then Malcolm Mitchell and Shea McClellin were placed on injured reserve, but have a chance to return.

It wasn’t the run of the mill, simple preseason, but this has never been an excuse for the Patriots before. Overcoming adversity has been one of the Patriots’ biggest strengths over the years.

Kansas City gave the Patriots all it had, but this has happened almost every week for the last 15-plus seasons. Instead of fighting back, the Patriots got punched in the face multiple times, and didn’t do anything to respond. 

After scoring late in the third quarter to take a 27-21 lead going into the fourth quarter, the Chiefs outscored them 21-0 in the final 15 minutes to run away with the win. 

Key contributors Danny Amendola and Dont’a Hightower were both lost in the second half due to injury and it appeared both offensive and defensive units didn’t know what to do without those players. Instead of having the next man up mentality, it appeared the team started to feel bad for itself.

“We can’t think it’s just going to get better just because we’re the Patriots,” defensive captain Devin McCourty said. “We have to get a lot better if we want to win any football games this year.”

The season can now go in one of two directions — the team pulls together and figures it out, or it could be a frustrating season like 2009 when Belichick couldn’t reach the team and it went 10-6 on the way to losing on Wild Card Weekend.

Tough losses like this haven’t necessarily been the worst thing in the world for the Patriots. For instance, just look at 2014 when the team was also blown out by the Chiefs on a national stage in Week 4 and people were saying the team and Brady were both done. 

The 2014 team of course went on to win 13 of its next 15 games on the way to winning Super Bowl XLIX over the Seahawks. After the season, Belichick pointed to that game being a turning point in the season. Despite being blown out, his team battled until the end and he knew what he had.

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning the Patriots have lost season openers in 2001, 2003 and 2014 and in all three years the team went on to win the Super Bowl.

Thursday’s loss has the potential to be the same type of situation, but it also could go in the other direction.

The Patriots have had a great deal of roster turnover following the Super Bowl LI win, so it isn’t even close to the same team as last year. There are also a lot of recent newcomers from the multiple trades made last week. Maybe these players just aren’t typical Patriots players who don’t buy in to the system, which would lead to a disappointing season.

Fortunately for the Patriots, this type of situation has happened so early in the year where if Belichick and his staff see a player or two not having the attitude it should after a game like this, they have the chance to cut him loose and still have time to find a replacement. 

The coach always says he’s still learning about his team the first few weeks of the regular season, and we’ve seen time and time again the second half of the year is when the team start playing its best football.

For players like Duron Harmon who have been on the team for several years, he has the right attitude and wants to take the loss head-on. Belichick and Co. just hope other players can follow suit, or else it could be a surprisingly poor year in New England.

“The only way right now is up,” said Harmon. “We can only get better. We’re going to go back, we’re going to watch the film, we’re going to dissect it. We’re going to get the few positives and a lot of the negatives, and we’re just going to try and fix it.

“One thing about this team is that we have a lot of fighters. We don’t have guys that are going to go in the tank or run from this adversity. We have guys who will look at it in the face, and we’ll be better next week and we’ll be a better football team when we step on the field against the Saints.”