The defending champion Patriots will need to bounce back after season-opener upset to Chiefs
The National Football League began Thursday night with the defending champion New England Patriots falling to the Kansas City Chiefs. In a well-played game between two strong teams, the Chiefs were able to prevail thanks mostly to an excellent debut from rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt ran wild against the New England defense, accumulating more than 250 total yards from scrimmage. The first year player out of Kent State University showed no fear as he promptly embarrassed what is believed to be the best team in football.
The Patriots, coming off a string of two Super Bowl victories out of the last three, were thought by most analysts to be the presumptive favorites heading into the 2017 to 2018 season. Led by their larger than life quarterback Tom Brady and stars such as tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman, the club seemed invincible. This sentiment was only strengthened by a strong offseason with acquisitions such as cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
However, things have been less than picture perfect as New England has had a poor start to the season. Even before the game against the Chiefs, the team faced a setback when Edelman went down with a season-ending injury. Replacing Edelman will be a difficult hurdle for the Pats, but one that will be necessary in order to once again raise the Lombardi trophy.
So far, Edelman’s injury has become a burden, as the team struggled occasionally on the offensive end during the loss to Kansas City. While on paper New England seemed to be the favorites, it looked overmatched for much of the game as the Chiefs put together a complete game.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith significantly outplayed Brady with an impressive stat line of 368 passing yards to go along with four touchdowns, as opposed to 267 yards with no TDs. In addition to Hunt, receiver Tyreek Hill showed up in a big way to the tune of 133 receiving yards and a touchdown. Even though Kansas City lost starting running back Spencer Ware before the season even began, Hunt and Hill have already demonstrated that they are capable of picking up the workload.
The defeat for the Pats was a momentous one, as it marked the first time since 2006 that the team had fallen to another team in its own conference while playing at home. This remarkable streak showcases New England’s dominant run over the last decade and a half. The team hopes to continue on this run of domination, even though the first game did not go as planned. However, fans’ anxieties can be quelled by recalling that the Pats are lucky to play in one of the NFL’s worst divisions. While there might be tough games facing the squad on the schedule, including a Super Bowl rematch against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 22, the team will also play a combined six games against their division rivals. The rest of the American Football Conference East Division, the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, are expected to be among the worst teams in the league this season.
With Brady at the helm and Head Coach Bill Belichick steering the ship, the Pats will have a difficult time not being in title contention. However, as the loss to Kansas City demonstrated, the team has real holes that might not simply mend by themselves. However, as last year’s Super Bowl very clearly showed, football fans should not count out the New England Patriots too early. While every season brings new and interesting storylines to follow, this year remains one of high interest.