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Brady's not the problem

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Things couldn't have gone much worse for the New England Patriots in their 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and emailers to the weekly mailbag want to vent about it.

The floor is yours, as we have a compressed time period to review this game before looking ahead to a short week against the Bengals.

Here we go:

Q. Why is it that Tom Brady has gotten away from what made him great: distributing the football to all his receivers? Early in his career he was throwing to guys like Brown, Givens, Branch, Patten, Faulk, Watson, etc. None, I might add, are Hall of Famers. What do you think is causing Brady to rely on two targets regularly (Edelman & Gronk)? -- Rich A. (Bradenton, Florida)

A. Rich, Brady worked Brandon LaFell into the mix a little more on Monday night, but I think the issue is that the pass-catchers aren't open on a consistent basis. So then you get into the issue of forcing throws, which I thought he did on the interception with 7:15 remaining in the third quarter when Julian Edelman appeared to break off his route to the sideline on the out-and-up and LaFell was also in the area. There were three Chiefs defenders there. I don't think that ball should have been thrown.

Q. Mike, it's that time of year again when the "experts" debate if Tom Brady's skills are eroding after a slow start. I think that's very short-sighted and if we've learned anything about the Pats and their QB it's that the team we see struggling against the Raiders in Week 3 is a far cry from the product they will be putting on the field at the end of the year. Do you have any reason to think this season will be any different regarding Brady or the team in general? -- Brandon (Schereville, Indiana)

A. Brandon, more than the first three games, I thought Brady was closer to the root of the problems on Monday night. But before that, my feeling has been that it's been tough to accurately assess Brady based on the struggles of the offensive line and the inability of receivers outside of Julian Edelman to get open consistently. I thought the O-line gave Brady some time on Monday night, but some of Brady's decisions were questionable (e.g. on a throw to Rob Gronkowski into double coverage, fullback James Develin was wide open to the other side). The O-line and receivers consistently getting open remain issues, and so if I was making a list, I'd still put Brady closer to the bottom of the list of issues at this point. So to answer the question, no, I don't think this season will be any different from the perspective of Brady and improvement. Protect Brady better, and have more players than Edelman getting open consistently, and the results will improve. I guess what I'm saying is that Brady gets a mulligan of sorts from me for his off night because I view it more as the exception than the norm.

Q. Mike, that was a thrashing. The Patriots were out-coached and out-played. One of the problems with the Patriots is that they let some of their toughest players, mentally and physically, walk out the door: Logan Mankins, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Spikes. The toughest guy on the team now is Edelman (did you see him blocking for Lafell down-field late in the fourth quarter). The offensive line, particularly Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, need to develop a mean streak like Mankins; alas, a leopard doesn't not change its spots. I also thought Dont'a Hightower was beaten often by the Chiefs fullback, and Chandler Jones was horrible in containment. Thoughts? -- Paul (Lexington, Massachusetts)

A. Paul, we often find out about a team in adversity. I think the Patriots could ultimately be a mentally tough team that is tough to beat when it counts. I believe the players and coaches are better than they showed. But they aren't that right now after what we saw Monday night.

Q. Mike, I think my two biggest concerns a quarter of the way through the season are the lack of energy I see from the Pats and the lack of plays being made by the core players. We just haven't seen impactful plays from Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Brady, Solder, Vollmer, Rob Ninkovich, etc. I would even put Belichick in that group. The only bigger-name players who have been not bad are Edelman, Gronk and Chandler Jones. For the Patriots to turn this around, they need their best players to play like their best players and start making positive plays. -- Eric (Orlando, Florida)

A. Eric, I think you hit on an important point here. Before we get into any X's and O's -- and there's plenty of that to do -- there is simply this: If you don't come to an environment like Arrowhead Stadium ready to play with the necessary energy, this is what is going to happen. The Chiefs fed off it. The Patriots needed a play or two to stem the tide and those plays never came. Fair points.

Q. Mike: Jeez been reading what reporters are saying about the team, hammering on them, and rightly so. I still can't believe that was the Pats, but outside the Vikings game we have really played terrible so far this season. Where do they go from here? -- Corky (NPR, Florida)

A. Corky, I think this is the type of situation where you go back to the basics and fundamentals of football. That was an embarrassing performance, as some players said afterward. I believe they are better than they showed, but now they have to go out and prove it. I don't think you write the obituary after the fourth game of the season, but there are a lot of issues to address and you should be straightforward about them and not sugarcoat it.

Q. Mike, let me focus on one of the bright spots after a very hard loss. I am impressed with special-team plays of Matthew Slater this season. He has been a good ST player, but in the first four games he is more than brilliant. -- MarkJ (Japan)

A. Mark, I agree that Slater was a bright spot. If all the players came to the game with the same type of energy he did, maybe the game would have been more competitive.

Q. All around a pathetic effort by the Pats. I found the defensive line even more worrisome than the offensive line though. Going into the game, the Chiefs had a week offensive line, but the Pat's barely got pressure on Alex Smith. Even on blitzes they struggled to get pressure. -- John (D.C.)

A. John, there was no pressure, with one of the main examples to me coming on Smith's 33-yard connection with Dwayne Bowe right after the two-minute warning in the second quarter. If you watch the play over again, you see three Patriots rushers sliding to the right and past the pocket, creating such a clear throwing lane for Smith. It was almost like they were on roller skates. That's not good enough.

Q. Hey Mike. Tough loss to recover from for the Pats. Do you have an idea as to why Logan Ryan is starting over Alfonzo Dennard? I feel Dennard is much better then Ryan in coverage and against the run. He was a good duo with Aqib Talib last year or so. -- taha (Danbury, Connecticut)

A. Dennard has been rested with a shoulder injury.

Q. After a summer-long series of articles on the Pats and how good they are going to be this season (from all the sports "experts") I have greatly lowered my expectations of the team. To wit: Brady has no time and when he does he is not very accurate; the OL speaks for itself; Belichick needs to go back to 2007 and study Randy Moss so he can remember how the WR position can positively impact a game (Where is Aaron Dobson?); and finally match up Darrelle Revis in press coverage against the other team's best. These guys have been playing together for months and I can't recall the last time they looked so out of sorts as we enter October. -- torka (Peru, Vermont)

A. A few things to digest here, Torka. I think we will see Revis matched up against A.J. Green next week. Some weeks it makes sense to do that. Other weeks, there isn't a clear-cut reason to. I don't think that's a big issue. We are in agreement on the offensive line and the Dobson disappearance highlights the struggles the team has had drafting and developing at that position. That's on them and they deserve the criticism from this viewpoint. It's a missed opportunity to not surround Brady with better weapons. We see plenty of other second-year receivers doing good things for their teams. Not in New England.

Q. Mike, I don't understand your line of thinking with Aaron Dobson. He didn't play much of last year especially towards the end, he didn't do much at all during the offseason, and barely participated in training camp. And yet it seems as though Week 1 you expected him to be some vertical threat. I was one of the few who was saying in July that WR was still an issue. Now, you have the offense sputtering, due to the OL and WR. -- zilla (Enemy Territory, New Jersey)

A. Zilla, credit to you. When Dobson came back in the preseason finale and caught a long touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo against the Giants, it made me think that is exactly what they need. But instead of building on that, he's been a healthy scratch outside of Week 2 in Minnesota. I'm surprised at that. A big disappointment for the Patriots -- and while part of that obviously falls on Dobson himself, and his injury, I think we also need to look at the team's scouting and how they're bringing these players along, because there's a disconnect there.

Q. Mike, it seems that the offense needs to take the chameleon route and be constantly in flux until this O-line gets figured out. Why not give James White a shot in the backfield with a two-RB set? I know he didn't have the greatest preseason, but let's give the kid with the high ceiling a chance in a time where there is so much doubt in the offense. -- Guy S. (America)

A. Guy, we saw it Monday night, and to make that move they had to go lighter at receiver to make it happen. So it's just a matter of redistributing assets and making sure you have all the special-teams spots accounted for, which White isn't a big factor on.

Q. Mike, we all know that "Rome wasn't built in a day," but I've always found it fascinating that the Pats players need what seems to be significant time to "gel" before excelling. I understand that every year is different, and that "you don't know what kind of team you have until 6-8 games," but it seems to me that the wide receiver group, D-Line and O-Line have mostly veterans that have been in the system for at minimum one year, they've gone thru the OTAs, mini-camp, and July-August together. With that said, any idea on why the delay in coming together? -- Tom (Boston)

A. Tom, I'd focus more on the offensive line with this one, because that's what stands out to me. That's a position group where it's extremely important to play together, and for players to build a chemistry and rapport with each other, and the trade of Logan Mankins on Aug. 26 created a change and trickle-down effect across the line. Consider that Marcus Cannon didn't play a single preseason snap at guard. So that, in turn, had a trickle-down effect on left tackle Nate Solder and center Dan Connolly. At the same time, those types of changes could happen at any time with an injury, so that's not to make an excuse for them. Maybe on the offensive line, it was simply a case of a missed talent evaluation -- specific to Cannon being able to play guard at an acceptable level, and Jordan Devey being a starting-caliber player.

Q. Hey Mike, I'm just wondering how Marcus Cannon is a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. I have season tickets to the Patriots and usually do not miss a snap of a game. Over the past couple years watching him in the preseason and once in a while in the regular season, he is horrible. Solder got absolutely humiliated by Tuck on Sunday too. Are the Patriots starting to really regret that trade with Mankins? Even if he's not what he was, he still was the heart and soul of that offensive line and a team captain. -- Adam (Boston)

A. Adam, I feel like my take on Cannon has been consistent -- he's a starting-caliber tackle but not a guard. This is something I was talking about back in the preseason, and I think the staff erred in not having him play guard in preseason games to come to this conclusion themselves. It was apparent to me in one-on-one and two-on-two drills in training camp that Cannon was a different player at guard than at tackle. It's a different world in there and now you have a player whose confidence has to be shaken after his rough start to the season.

Q. With the problems on the offensive line, wouldn't the signing of Richie Incognito be a smart move? -- John W. (Richmond, Virginia)

A. John, I'd be surprised at an Incognito signing. Even before considering the off-field factors in play, I don't think he is very good. I think the answers are in-house.

Q. Hey Mike, what do you think is going on with Danny Amendola? The Wes Welker replacement is looking more like the Chad Johnson replacement. Do you think he would have any trade value? Any receiver-needy teams out there? Thanks! -- Michael R. (Las Vegas)

A. Michael, I don't see Amendola having much trade value based on his contract, not to mention that he hasn't put much on film to increase his value in that regard. Perhaps the Eagles would consider it, as they were interested in him last year as a free agent, given some of their struggles of late. But I think it's awfully tough to trade for a player at that position midseason and expect immediate results based on the dynamics in play (e.g. learning a new system, etc.).