compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
As is now tradition, we have a special Opening Night Audibles covering the regular-season opener. This year, it's a potential AFC playoff preview between the Chiefs and Patriots.
Kansas City Chiefs 42 at New England Patriots 27
Aaron Schatz: Woo! Actual football! I come to you from high above Gillette Stadium. It will be interesting to see how much the broadcast is willing to show all the fans here who are wearing those "Roger Goodell clown" shirts.
Bryan Knowles: Going to go well out on a limb here and bet tonight's game won't be as good as the last actual football game we saw, but boy oh boy is it good to have some actual, factual football back in our lives.
Malcolm Mitchell is headed to injured reserve for the Pats about two hours before game time, so that's another receiver down for New England before their first snap. This is why people need to pump the brakes on all that "19-0" talk -- no, Mitchell is not going to be the difference between a great season and a terrible one for the Patriots, but it's a long season, and plenty can happen. But every receiver that goes down makes the Brandin Cooks acquisition make more and more sense, proving once again that Bill Belichick is psychic.
Dave Bernreuther: This was the matchup I was hoping to see as a rematch in the playoffs last year, as I thought that KC's defense was the only shot the AFC had at keeping the Patriots out of the Super Bowl. Once Derek Carr got hurt in week 16 and flip-flopped the standings, though, that idea went out the window.
Somehow week 1 just doesn't have quite the same appeal. It should be a good game, but unfortunately I may end up skipping it in favor of hurricane shutter installation. Which is how you all should wish you were spending your opening nights.
Vince Verhei: Wait. Did the Flo Rida concert not make TV? I'm actually bummed. The Patriots throw the best Super Bowl parties.
Bryan Knowles: Well, they've got experience at it by now. You'd hope they'd be good at it!
Aaron Schatz: I love it. We start the season with a wide-open man. Completely wide open, Dwayne Allen, some kind of blown coverage... and Brady overthrows him. I guess he's not perfect after all!
Well, that play was the aberration it looked like it would be. The entire first drive is completely clinical, hurry-up offense marching down the field easily, throwing to whoever is not being covered by Marcus Peters. Some sizeable running holes on handoffs as well.
Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs are really blanketing Rob Gronkowski. Really physical coverage. Sometimes Ron Parker, sometimes Eric Berry. He keeps looking for flags. A couple didn't get thrown because passes looked uncatchable. He just dove for a touchdown in the end zone, looked like his first catch of the year, but got overturned as a trap ball. Of course, the Patriots get five yards anyway because the Chiefs jumped offside. Pretty one-sided so far, ain't it?
Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs get their first actual play of the season, stuffing Mike Gillislee on 4th-and-1 from the 10. Prepare for the incoming stream of "momentum!" tweets, I'm sure, but it was the right call to go for it; just some nice penetration up the middle by the Chiefs D.
Aaron Schatz: It looked like the Chiefs were waiting for the Tom Brady sneak. Two defensive tackles were lined up right over each of the center's shoulders.
Bryan Knowles: Brady didn't actually have any fourth down sneaks a year ago, though he had a few on second and third downs. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he doesn't have another sneak in an expected situation again, considering he's 40 years old at this point.
Scott Kacsmar: Huge stop. When it looked like the Patriots would go up 10-0 or 14-0, the Chiefs tackle well.
Reminder: Patriots are 104-1 at home since 2001 when leading by 8-plus points at any time.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the Chiefs tie it up after stopping the fourth down. A Chiefs special drive, all short stuff mixed with good runs. They ran a Travis Kelce option. They ran a triple option with a shovel pass on second-and-1. Touchdown to Demetrius Harris when Devin McCourty got kind of turned around.
Tom Gower: We lost. It's fourth-and-inches at the 7-yard-line in a 7-7 game, early in the second quarter. Bill Belichick, who has the best job security of anybody on earth not self-employed, and a coach with a demonstrated history of unconventional aggressiveness, kicks the field goal in a game where he has the better team and an offense that has been largely successful.
Aaron Schatz: As I pointed out in an ESPN Insider piece this week... Belichick has been surprisingly conservative on fourth down over the last few seasons. Much closer to league average than to Sean Payton territory.
Scott Kacsmar: Seems like I always say this because coaches mix it up, but stick to one strategy. Either you go for both fourth-and-1 situations, or you kick the field goal both times.
Aaron Schatz: 13 yards, 4 yards, no yards. I think the Chris Hogan end around has diminishing returns, kids.
Bryan Knowles: Brady's getting all year to throw back there, and Kansas City keeps rushing just three. Playing coverage and hoping Brady makes a mistake does not seem like a strategy likely to be successful.
Aaron Schatz: People who know more about the rules than me: Is it legal for Tyreek Hill to make the fair catch signal but then have De'Anthony Thomas catch the punt and return it? Or is that illegal and the refs just missed it (although they did throw a flag for holding)?
Tom Gower: If a player on the receiving team calls fair catch, the ball is dead when caught by a player on the receiving team. Hill calls fair catch, Thomas's return doesn't count.
Bryan Knowles: I don't think it's a penalty, but the play is dead then. You can't have one guy call a fair catch and someone else run it back as a trick.
"If the ball is caught or recovered by a teammate who did not make a valid fair-catch signal, the ball is dead immediately, but it is not a fair catch. The ball will next be put in play by a snap by the receiving team at the dead- ball spot (or at the succeeding spot after enforcement of any applicable penalties)."
Vince Verhei: Yeah, I thought it was a penalty too, but apparently not.
Bryan Knowles: There's apparently a five-yard penalty for "undue advance" -- so, if they ignore the whistles and just keep going. Delay of Game, essentially.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, so it is listed in the play-by-play as a dead ball.
4-6-NE 44 (2:55) R.Allen punts 39 yards to KC 17, Center-J.Cardona. D.Thomas, dead ball declared at KC 17 for no gain. PENALTY on KC-F.Zombo, Offensive Holding, 9 yards, enforced at KC 17.
Vince Verhei: This game is freakin' weird. It feels like the whole half has been Tom Brady sitting in the pocket forever and ripping the Chiefs apart, and the Chiefs have no sacks or hits. But he's only 9-of-17, barely completing half his passes. And I don't understand a lot of New England's play-calling. Chris Hogan has three carries. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead have only one each.
Meanwhile, Alex Smith has only thrown three incompletions. Of course it's all short stuff, and he's gotten very lucky on some tipped passes and great catches by his receivers. But somehow, it's working more often than not.
Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, arguably the best offensive players on either team, have one catch each. The more I think about it, the more the teams are playing like mirror images of each other tonight.
It's all just weird. I'm guessing the Pats will settle down a bit more in the second half and go to Mike Gillislee (who has looked good when given the ball) more, and eventually pull away. But at this point who really knows?
Bryan Knowles: The Patriots hadn't allowed a 90-yard drive at home since the Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills put one together in November of 2012. They allowed two in the first half there -- what a strange game so far.
Tom Gower: Kansas City's dilemma is the one a lot of teams are going to face this season. They know they can't cover the Patriots man-to-man, especially with New England's versatility and that anybody can line up almost anywhere, so they've primarily rushed three players and used extra cover players. But Tom Brady's good enough and patient enough and aggressive enough to hold the ball forever, keep reading the field, and put the ball accurately into tight windows. New England has also rushed three a fair amount, and Alex Smith is less aggressive, less willing to take those tight window throws, and Kansas City's offensive line has done a nice job in the run game.
Overall, as Vince notes, it feels like New England has played much better in the first half. But the fourth down stop and the field goal have meant the scoreboard doesn't reflect how it feels like play-by-play has gone. Which makes it feel even more like an Andy Reid against a good team came, especially when added to the dressing up like the Travis Kelce direct snap play, the option, and the usual mix of "we can't beat you running a 'conventional' offense so we'll muck things up a bit."
Scott Kacsmar: Another thing I really like about the Chiefs in this matchup is they know they don't have much at outside receiver, so they don't have to challenge the strength of New England's defense (Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore). So they can throw to the three tight ends, a slot guy like Albert Wilson, the backs, and the versatile Hill.
Vince Verhei: Chiefs are finally starting to rush four in the third quarter and getting a little pressure, and forcing a punt.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure why the Patriots went away from the hurry-up offense that looked so good on the first drive.
Looks like a busted coverage on the Tyreek Hill 75-yard touchdown. Kelce and Hill come off a stacked release, and it looked like Gilmore was backpedalling slowly and looking into the backfield while McCourty took Kelce.
Vince Verhei: I think that was actually McCourty's mistake, not Gilmore's. Looked like Kansas City was playing Cover-2 and McCourty followed Kelce over the middle instead of sticking in the deep half.
Dave Bernreuther: Boy this latest drive has really slowed down... no, wait, that's the broadcast via the app on the AppleTV. When it's not looking worse than 480p, it's not working at all. Like right now.
Oh, good, I missed a Tyreek Hill long score.
Maybe cutting the cable wasn't such a good idea after all.
That looked like a blatant hold by Peters on that deep ball overthrown to Chris Hogan. Subtle, but that's all it takes.
Tom Gower: Long TD looked like a two-deep zone. The corners dropped a bit deeper than they would in normal Cover-2, but from the overhead shot neither seemed to be carrying the outside receiver (the guy on the other side was running a similar route as Hill). The deep safety to Hill's side, I think McCourty, carried the inside route boy Kelce, and Gilmore didn't carry Hill's route.
Aaron Schatz: Terrance Mitchell with a DPI on Brandin Cooks in the end zone. DPI so good it had two officials throwing flags, not just one. What is that, the third penalty on Mitchell tonight? He's entering the Brandon Browner Zone.
Mike Gillislee scores on the second try after he gets stopped by Roy Miller (with GREAT penetration) on the first try. 24-21 Patriots.
Dave Bernreuther: Brady gets a Joe Flacco Special DPI call on an underthrown deep ball to Cooks, and just as Collinsworth mentions that he's 11-24, he gets penalties on two bad throws sandwiching a great gain, and the Pats are set up for yet another Gillislee touchdown.
Pretty bad job by the defensive back but I have always hated seeing poor throws rewarded like that.
Bryan Knowles: Four first downs on penalties for New England so far. All of them on Terrance Mitchell. Not a good day at all.
Vince Verhei: Our old buddy Cian said the same thing on Twitter and... I don't know what you guys want instead. Mitchell ran over the receiver like a freight train and didn't give him a chance to make a play on a catchable ball. He wasn't looking back at the ball at all. It's terrible coverage. So if you're going to hate anyone, hate Mitchell.
Now, I have long advocated that no DPI should count for more than 15 yards. But that's a separate issue than whether or not there was interference on that play.
Dave Bernreuther: Well if Brady was mad at me for criticizing his deep ball, that 54-yarder to Cooks was an effective way to shut me up.
Aaron Schatz: Someone please tell De'Anthony Thomas to stop taking the kickoff out of the end zone.
Vince Verhei: That long touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt was my favorite Alex Smith play since his touchdown on a quarterback sweep against New Orleans in the playoffs in the 2013 season with San Francisco. Patient, waited, checked first read, checked second read, saw a guy over the middle and just made an A-plus throw. That was awesome.
Aaron Schatz: I would like to register my discontent with the decision to run up the gut again when the Patriots had fourth-and-1 at midfield, instead of trying a nice short passing play.
Tom Gower: Not just that they ran, but the between-the-tackles run, when the Chiefs were loading up between the tackles to prevent the obvious QB sneak. I didn't get it on the earlier fourth-and-1, and I really didn't get it on that fourth-and-1 after it failed on the earlier attempt.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, Slater is inactive tonight due to a hamstring issue. They are now down to three wide receivers.
Bryan Knowles: Well, that's just fantastic news for New England.
Rivers McCown: Phillip Dorsett's time to shine, baby!
Tom Gower: Remember my earlier email about how Brady was the one who stood in the pocket forever and put the ball in tight windows? Yeah, not so much tonight. He's not finding the right sustaining receiver on third downs to replace Edelman, and he's been a bit off on some throws, most recently a third down to Cooks that he failed to bring down in-bounds and would have been short of the sticks when an great throw of the sort you'd expect from Brady likely gets the conversion. A couple of long Kansas City touchdowns that won by scheme, and the Chiefs are up with just under 9 to play.
Rivers McCown: Without Julian Edelman the New England offense doesn't have a receiver that can win his routes quickly, and you can see the choke-hold that presents to Brady on some plays.
Aaron Schatz: Meanwhile, Alex Smith is having one of the best games of his life. He seemed lucky on some of those throws in the first half but he's been firing bullets in the second half and I can't believe I just wrote that about Alex Smith.
Rivers McCown: I have enjoyed Alex Smith's funeral and reappearance from the ashes on Twitter the six times it has happened in this game
Bryan Knowles: That's going to be ballgame, as Charcandrick West rumbles 21 yards into the end zone for another touchdown. Wow, wow, wow.
This is going to significantly impact New England's chances of going 19-0.
Aaron Schatz: Sweet blocks by Eric Fisher and Travis Kelce on that huge long Kareem Hunt run... then a 21-yard touchdown on the next play. I can't believe it but this game is probably over. The Jets are actually in first place.
Vince Verhei: Hunt runs around left end for 58, and Charcandrick West goes up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown, and that should be ballgame. I am floored.
Andrew Potter: This was finally the offense the Chiefs were crying out for last year. If they can sustain this offense, and put it together with last year’s defensive performance, this could very easily be the best team in the league. At the very least, they’ll be a ton of fun to watch.
Alas, word on the street (well, Twitter) is they just lost Eric Berry for the year with a torn Achilles, which would be a huge cost for what is effectively a bonus win. I dearly hope that doesn’t turn out to be the case.
Rivers McCown: The New England defense is going to need some shuffling, especially if Dont’a Hightower is out long-term. I mean, from the very first carry of the game, KC had their way with them in the run game. Hunt fumbled that ball, but it would've gone for like nine yards had it counted. I can excuse the Tyreek Hill touchdown as a blown coverage or whatever, that happens early. But to get whipped up front like that? Bet we're gonna see some bottom-of-the-roster shuffling at the very least.
Bryan Knowles: Before anyone jumps to conclusions, we all remember the last time the Patriots got blown out by Kansas City in prime time.
Still. New England better hope they get their receivers back quickly, because the normally dynamic passing game looked... ordinary with so many injuries out there. Their defense, too, seemed discombobulated at times. It's just one game against arguably the best team in the AFC West, so it's not time to panic in New England or anything crazy like that (though I'm sure talk radio will not take that to heart over the next week and a half), but that was...unexpected.
And wow, Kansas City looked great. Kudos to Andy Reid for not benching Kareem Hunt after that career-starting fumble; he paid off in a big way. If Smith can keep throwing those deep balls and exploiting the speed of Hill, then look out.
Anyway, that feeling of inevitability that had begun to settle over the 2017 NFL season? Punctured. Who's ready for the next 255 games?
Tom Gower: My big takeaway from tonight is that New England's vaunted receiving corps didn't win the way they needed to against Kansas City's coverage. I mean, they still scored 27 points and could have scored a few more with better success in short yardage situations, but we're still waiting for early 2007 New England's offense. And, yeah, early 2007 New England's defense doesn't seem to be walking through that door either.
Kansas City's success this game is as likely to sustain itself as their ability to get chunk plays on offense and big stops on defense. Which feels an awful lot like the Chiefs we've seen the past couple seasons, so I don't really know how much it moves the needle for me. Then again, I thought they were probably co-favorites with Oakland in what should be a very competitive AFC West.
Aside from the game taking forever and Eric Berry's injury, that was an enjoyable start to the regular season.
Aaron Schatz: The good news for Pats fans is this doesn't take away Super Bowl LI. The good news for everyone else is that 2017 looks a lot more interesting.