FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots unveiled their fifth Super Bowl banner, held a pre-game celebration that boasted five oversized Lombardi Trophies and included a performance from rapper Flo Rida, and their fans taunted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with clown noses.
And then the Kansas City Chiefs thumped New England, 42-27.
The performance goes down as the most points and yards (537) allowed in a single game during the Bill Belichick era.
The performance was so stunning that it led to another aberration seldom seen by the Patriots: Star quarterback Tom Brady questioned the team’s effort and disposition.
“We just didn’t make a lot of plays tonight, actually,” Brady said after the game. “So we just have to be better in a lot of areas, starting with our attitude and our competitiveness. We have to do a lot better than tonight.”
It’s quite a damning admission for a team fresh off of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, when New England erased a 25-point deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The loss was quite the departure for a franchise that has been the model of success over the past two decades and had the eyes of the NFL world on it in the regular-season kickoff.
“I just think we needed to have more urgency and go out there and perform a lot better,” Brady continued, when asked to elaborate. “That is a winning attitude that you need to bring every day. We had it handed to us on our own field. It’s a terrible feeling, and the only people that can do something about it are in that locker room. We’ve got to dig a lot deeper than we did tonight, because we didn’t dig very deep tonight.”
New England struggled to get new additions to its roster to play seamlessly. On the other side, the Chiefs racked up numerous explosive plays en route to an upset that few saw coming.
Brady wasn’t the only one who questioned the team’s attitude.
“Whatever he said, go with that,” Belichick said.
“We’ve got to go out and play with a hungry attitude,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore added. “We’ve got to be hungry out there on the field.”
Kansas City recorded three touchdown drives of 90 yards or more. Two of them came on passing plays of 75 yards (to receiver Tyreek Hill) and on 78 yards (to running back Kareem Hunt).
“Bad defense,” Belichick said. “Bad coaching. Bad playing. Bad football.”
In fact, the Chiefs had scoring drives of 90, 92, 75, 90 (again), 60 and 75 yards.
And Kansas City also stuffed two separate New England fourth-and-1 conversion attempts.
Though Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got all the buzz in the leadup to the game, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith took advantage of favorable matchups, and completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
Brady finished the day with 267 yards on 16-of-36 passing.
It might get worse for New England.
The Patriots lost starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) and receiver Danny Amendola (head) to injuries in the second half of the game. Their availability for future weeks was uncertain after the game.
While hype about a perfect season fizzles away, the Patriots will get the chance to reaffirm their status as one of the league's top teams next Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints.
“We didn’t have it the way we needed it tonight,” Brady said. “It has got to be at a much higher level next week and the rest of the year. That’s going to be a big point of emphasis for all of us.”