The NFL season is finally underway after months of anticipation. The New England Patriots are coming off an amazing 2016-2017 season capped with a clutch comeback Super Bowl win. Throughout the NFL offseason, they bolstered their defense by re-signing Malcolm Butler and Alan Branch, while signing pro-bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Their offense received a boost with the acquisitions of wide receiver Brandin Cooks from New Orleans and running back Mike Gillislee from Buffalo.
This season has been highly anticipated for Patriots fans. Before the season started, Tom Brady appeared to be in his prime and was surrounded by possibly his best group of receivers ever. They marched into the NFL. Their first opponent was the young-but-tough Kansas City Chiefs roster lead by Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt. The game got off to a great start for the Patriots. They scored quickly on offense and their defense forced a fumble on the Chiefs’ very first play. They appeared to have all the momentum despite the Chiefs’ best efforts to slow them down. The score at halftime was 17-14 Patriots.
The third quarter saw both teams mount scoring drives, and the Patriots appeared to have the edge. Then, the Patriots’ defense fell apart. Only one minute into the fourth, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw a 78-yard touchdown to Kareem Hunt to give the Chiefs the lead.
For the rest of the game, the Patriots’ offense got bottled up by the Kansas City defense. The Chiefs ended up scoring two more touchdowns in the game to complete their unlikely 42-27 rout of the New England Patriots. As junior Rachel Alexander put it, “It was a disappointing start to the season, but we’ll rebound.”
Many people were talking about how the defense looked bad in the spotlight. Junior Alfred Taylor echoed this after the loss: “Our defense is trash. We need our old defense back.” The Patriots needed to make a statement when they traveled to New Orleans. They had to prove that they were a dominant group that was still the most feared team to play against.
Brady entered the game with focus and hurled three touchdowns in the first quarter, putting the Patriots up comfortably at 20-3. The Patriots continued to dominate on offense and were ahead 30-13 at the half. The defense showed tenacity and had only let up thirteen points entering the fourth. The Patriots easily put away the Saints, 36-20.
This game proved that the Patriots’ defense was tough by stopping one of the best offenses in the league.
As senior Max Lyman said, “The defense made a huge improvement from week one to week two. There is still a long way to go, but Sunday was a huge improvement.” This is true as the defense gave up multiple long plays. These long gains need to be stopped if the Patriots want to win Super Bowl LII.
These two weeks were drastically different for the Patriots but were equally important for the season. They showed both how weak and how dominant the Patriots can be. Fans can take away many things from both games. First off, Mike Gillislee is a great replacement for Legarrette Blount as a goal line running back. Second, Rob Gronkowski is still dominant in the same way he has been, despite a quiet week one. However, his health is a huge concern as he had to sit out for part of week two with a groin injury. Third, the Patriots’ defense can be depended on to stop teams before the end zone.
Week three set the Patriots against the 1-1 Houston Texans. The Texans have long been known as a defense-heavy team with stars like JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. Their offense was lead by Deshaun Watson, who had won the College National Championship last year with Clemson. The week was projected to be an easy win for the Patriots.
The game was very even to begin with and saw the Patriots up by only one at the half. The score stayed steady until late in the fourth quarter, when the Texans put a field goal through to go up 33-28 with less than a two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Brady led the offense 75 yards down the field and threw a touchdown with 23 seconds left to put the Patriots up. The game was sealed at 36-33.
This game was closer than anyone would have expected, but showed the tenacity of the team.
Despite their defense being beaten down, they were still able to close out the game and win in the end.
The season looks bright and will continue to shine, as many key players are out and are set to return soon.
The Patriots’ next home game is on October 1st against the Carolina Panthers at 1:00 PM.
This piece also appears in our September print edition.