FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Well, that was unexpected.

The New England Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl championship legacy Thursday night, unveiling the 2016 banner in a pregame ceremony, but they opened the 2017 season with a stunningly bad performance in a 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tom Brady looked less than mortal against the Chiefs’ defense, completing only 16 of 36 passes. And the Patriots’ secondary, which was supposed to be one of the NFL’s best, allowed Alex Smith to throw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns, one for 75 yards and another for 78.

That was the most points the Patriots have given up in a home game since 1984 against the Miami Dolphins. Dan Marino was the second-year quarterback for the Dolphins that year.

It was a dreadful performance by a team many considered a clear favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champion.

The defense gave up a lot of big plays in the preseason, but no one expected it to carry over like this.


The game was embarrassing, especially since the Patriots spent so much time celebrating their Super Bowl championships in the pregame ceremony.

While the defense is going to take the bulk of the criticism – and it should for the gaping holes that Smith (28 of 35, 368 yards) exploited – the offense deserves its share, too.

Twice, New England had a fourth-and-short situation. Twice, the Chiefs stopped the Patriots.

The first stop may have changed the game.

The Patriots came out fast and scored on their opening drive, putting on an offensive clinic. Then, on Kansas City’s first play, Jordan Richards forced a fumble that Devin McCourty recovered at the Chiefs’ 32.

Brady appeared to throw a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, who made an amazing diving catch. Gillette Stadium was shaking. But on review, the call was reversed because the ball appeared to hit the ground.


New England then had fourth-and-inches at the Chiefs’ 10. But newcomer Mike Gillislee, who scored three touchdowns in the game, was stuffed. The Chiefs took over, drove 90 yards for a touchdown, and the game was on.

The Patriots led 27-21 into the fourth quarter, but Smith found a mismatch and hit rookie Kareem Hunt – remember him from Toledo, UMaine fans? – for a 78-yard touchdown. Hunt burst past newly acquired linebacker Cassius Marsh and raced through the secondary to complete the score.

Hunt also rushed for 148 yards and scored three touchdowns.

There were bright spots for the Patriots. Newcomer Brandin Cooks showed why he is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in football, catching three passes for 88 yards, including a 54-yard reception that set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

And Gillislee displayed his inside running with three short touchdown runs.

But the Patriots’ offense was never in sync in the second half, and maybe that’s no surprise. Julian Edelman isn’t available as Brady’s safety valve, his season ending in the third preseason game when he blew out his knee. He was role was limited to the pregame ceremony celebrating the five Super Bowl championships – he limped out, holding a Vince Lombardi Trophy high while the fans roared.


But he was sorely missed on the field. Edelman was Brady’s binky, the one player he could go to in any tough situation and know the pass would be completed.

Without him, Brady struggled to keep drives going.

Someone is going to have to step up to replace Edelman. Someone is going to have to make the tough catch in traffic.

This is a team that has always been resilient, that has always bounced back. Champions do that.

And if the Patriots are going to be as good as everyone thinks they can, they need to find some answers fast.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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