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Mike Lombardi on OMF: I never thought a Bill Belichick defense would give up so many big plays

Alex Reimer
September 08, 2017 - 12:10 pm

Ex-personnel executive Mike Lombardi is Bill Belichick’s whisperer, given his close professional ties to the Patriots head coach. Last year, for example, Lombardi started bashing linebacker Jamie Collins in interviews across the country shortly after the Patriots had jettisoned him to the Browns.

Belichick was unsurprisingly brusque with the media Thursday following the Patriots’ 42-27 loss to the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. He didn’t offer much in the way of analysis, flatly saying the entire team must play better. As a result, listening to Lombardi’s analysis might be the closest we get to hearing Belichick’s actual thoughts on the game. In his weekly interview with OMF Friday, Lombardi lambasted the Patriots defense for its opening act. 

“The first thing (Belichick has) got to do is fix his first down run defense. The way that game went, the Chiefs had to be in 2nd-and-long, 2nd-and-9, and when they were in 2nd-and-4, that put them all in a favorable thing,” Lombardi explained. “I didn’t think you were ever going to see a Bill Belichick-coached defense where they were gonna give up two pass plays that were over 70 yards, a run that was almost 60 yards, and then the other team is 3-for-3 in the red zone. So, it just goes back to basics. ‘We can’t give up big plays, we can’t let them run the ball whenever they want to on first down.’.”

Tom Brady wasn’t much better either, only completing 44 percent of his passes and posting a 70 QB rating. Patriots pass-catchers, including Rob Gronkowski, struggled to gain separation from Kansas City’s defensive backs. While it’s apparent the Patriots need to discover their rhythm offensively without Julian Edelman –– and possibly Danny Amendola, who exited with a concussion –– the way the game was officiated didn’t play into their favor.

“Last night, the officials were not going to let Rob (Gronkowski) have any calls,” Lombardi said. “He’s a hard guy to officiate. I think they pulled and tugged. It was a game that favored the Chiefs with how they want to play in the secondary. I’m not saying that’s the reason the Chiefs won. The reason the Chiefs won is they were the better team last night. But I think the way the referees officiated that game last night favored the Chiefs, because they were going to beat up the receivers.” 

Still, the biggest weak spot for the Patriots was their defense. They allowed their most points in the Belichick era Thursday and also surrendered 537 yards of offense. The Patriots seemed especially thin up front, struggling to get consistent pressure on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. With linebacker Dont’a Hightower spraining his MCL, there’s already been speculation about the Patriots going outside of the organization to bring in help. But Lombardi dismissed that talk.

“This is about getting the players they have on their team better. This is about improving your team. I think that’s what the secret to September is,” he said. “It’s like me: if I try to lose 20 pounds in a day, it’s not going to work. There’s no pill out there I can take to lose 20 pounds in a day. I’ve got to fundamentally get it right and I’ve gotta get it back to the basics. That’s the same thing the Patriots have to do.”