1. One lingering question is why second-year receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were inactive, and I think the first play of the second quarter is a good launching point to share a hypothesis as to why that was the case. On third-and-4, the Chiefs blitzed out of their dime defense as the Patriots countered in their “pony” grouping of three WRs and two RBs. The ball had to come out quick to account for the free rusher, and when that is the case, a quarterback has to have trust that his receivers will uncover quickly. I think Tom Brady has that trust with Brandon LaFell (14-yard gain on the play) at a higher level than Dobson and Thompkins. And I think if we’re looking for reasons as to why Dobson and Thompkins were healthy scratches, that’s the place to start when considering how the Patriots decided they wanted to attack -- and figured they would be attacked -- when facing the Chiefs.
2. From this view, a flaw in the Patriots’ game plan to run out of the shotgun and use more screens, draws and shovel passes showed up on third-and-2 (13:08 remaining). The ball was on the right hash mark, and the call was to run Shane Vereen around right end. Although the Patriots needed just two yards, to the 40-yard line, Vereen was handed the ball out of the gun at the 47 and only had the short side of the field to work with. That seemed to be an example of the Patriots making life harder on themselves than it had to be. Vereen was stopped for no gain as linebacker Josh Mauga did a nice job penetrating on center Bryan Stork to create some disruption in the backfield.
3. Other times, a screen simply needs to hit against the defensive play call, and an example where that didn’t happen came with 2:50 remaining in the quarter. With a run-based look with a YY wing to the left side of the line, the Patriots tried to set up a right-side screen for running back Stevan Ridley, but the Chiefs didn’t take the cheese. They just seemed to be a step ahead all day as Brady threw that one away.
4. It was mentioned in the first-quarter review that perhaps the Patriots might have considered staying in their base defense against the Chiefs’ three-wide-receiver groupings because of their struggles defending the run in nickel. The play that sparked the thought was Knile Davis' 48-yard run (12:25 remaining). The Chiefs were at their own 14-yard line and came out in a tightly compact 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB package, while the Patriots countered in nickel with three down linemen and Chandler Jones in a two-point stance on the right side of the line. With effective pre-snap motion and quasi-play-action from left to right, the Patriots’ front was manipulated out of position as Davis took a handoff up the middle and Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo appeared to struggle shedding. Too easy for the Chiefs.
5. A Brady throw to Rob Gronkowski into double coverage (9:50 remaining) with Tamba Hali dropping into coverage is one example where Brady’s decision-making didn’t seem to be at its best. Fullback James Develin appeared to be wide open on the opposite side after coming free off a block on Justin Houston. This seemed to be an example of Brady not necessarily feeling comfortable going through his progressions because of the duress he’s been under.
6. Another soft edge set in the running game by Chandler Jones, as Jamaal Charles ran for 8 yards over Jones’ side.
7. Assuming all of New England had the same reaction at the 2:43 mark: Why not run it, Tom Brady? Mauga was in the neighborhood, but Brady probably would have had the first down on the third-and-2 play if he tucked it and ran.
8. Tough call on cornerback Logan Ryan for illegal hands to the face, which earned him a stern talk from Bill Belichick on the sideline and a significantly reduced role in the second half. Wonder if Belichick sees it different after watching the ticky-tack call on tape or we are more forgiving.