The past and the present collided for the Patriots Thursday night in Foxborough and that collision left New England a defeated team.
The 2017 NFL opener at Gillette Stadium was the final obvious link to New England's historic Super Bowl LI comeback last February. The banner was uncovered. The pregame ceremony was a recap of the road from a 28-3 deficit to another Lombardi Trophy.
New England players, many of whom had nothing to do with the Patriots last winter, even wore Super Bowl LI patches on their jerseys.
All this, at a home opener kicking off a new season for a team that Bill Belichick has reminded all summer long that it's yet to accomplish or prove anything.
A day after New England was shockingly upset by the Chiefs 42-27, Belichick's usual day-after-game conference call had the coach as focused as ever on trying to ignore the media and fan noise of his team's history and, at least inside the walls of the football offices at Gillette Stadium, ensure that nothing other than improving the 2017 squad is a consideration.
While Belichick was asked a number of questions regarding specific issues such as depth at wide receiver, Jordan Richards' work in a linebacker-like role, the decision to go for two fourth-down tries and the efforts of newcomer Cassius Marsh, the bulk of the coach's answers offered up generalities surrounding his team's simple need to be better across the board.
"So, like I said, we've got to coach better. We've got to play better. We just didn't do a good job at all," Belichick said.
Here are a few of the highlights of Belichick's first day-after-game conference call of the new season:
1. "I'm not really interested in living in the past":It was hard not to think of New England's infamous 2014 Monday night loss to the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium following last night's most recent Patriots beatdown at the hands of an Andy Reid squad. That previous September embarrassment seemingly ignited a run to the Patriots fourth Super Bowl title later that season.
In the aftermath of that ensuing Super Bowl XLIX victory, Belichick talked about the loss in Kansas City and implied that night that even in ugly defeat he saw signs of a potential championship squad.
Now, a day after another stunning loss to the Chiefs, Belichick was asked about the way his team finished the opener. This coming after Tom Brady had questioned New England's attitude and competitiveness" in the quarterback's postgame press conference.
Friday morning, Belichick used the question as a leaping off point to make a clear statement about the media's general affinity for comparisons in the early stages of analyzing the 2017 New England team.
"I think I said it a thousand times. I think we've got a lot of work to do. I don't think anything that we did really was good enough," Belichick said. "I'm not really interested in living in the past in 2014, 2015, 2003, 2004, which constantly keeps coming up. I mean, everything's about some other year but this year and this team. I don't really think all that's relevant because we're talking about another team, but we've got a thousand questions about it every week. So, I'm really concerned about the 2017 team, what this team is, what this team needs to do. I'm not trying to live in the past like everybody else is."
2. Fourth down "one of the many things that cost us": With the Patriots already leading 7-0 and having gotten the ball back after a Kareem Hunt fumble on Kansas City's first offense play of the night, a Rob Gronkowski ensuing would-be 20-yard touchdown was overturned on replay review. A play later, the Patriots faced a fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs 10 that Belichick decided to go for rather than kicking the short field goal for the early two-score lead.
Running back Mike Gillislee was stuffed on his run. Kansas City took over possession and marched 90 yards to a touchdown to tie the game and erase any home-team hopes of a cakewalk opener.
Belichick was asked about his decision to go for it, something he did again later in the game leading to another turnover on downs.
"It's a decision. There are pros and cons to it," Belichick explained. "You know that when you make it, and then, like I said, you try to do what's best for the team when you make that decision. Obviously, it didn't work out. So, we didn't do a good job on short yardage all night, and it was one of the many things that cost us."
3. "It's no one guy, it's no one play, it's no one thing":One of the more interesting personnel and scheme decisions on defense for the Patriots in the opener against the Chiefs was the use of four safeties for large portions of the game, with Richards playing a linebacker-like role on the line of scrimmage. It's something New England dabbled with in the preseason before the defensive back-heavy look was thrown at Kansas City.
The end result was not good as the Chiefs rolled up more than 500 yards of total offense on the way to six touchdowns, including running at the undersized front to the tune of 185 yards rushing and a 6.9-yard average. Richards did have a forced fumble for a turnover against Hunt on Kansas City's first offensive snap of the night, but after that the theoretical advantages of the defensive package never seemed to come to fruition.
"We did what we thought was best for the game. Obviously, things didn't work out good," Belichick explained of Richards' role. "They gave us a lot of receivers on the field, different combinations of them, so we played more defensive backs or those type of players. That's part of the matchup. But, we didn't do nearly as good a job of it as we need to do. We've just got to do a better job. It's no one guy, it's no one play, it's no one thing."