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Tom Brady, Patriots look less likely to bounce back this time

Tom Brady shows his disappointment during the Patriots’ sound defeat by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)
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Can the New England Patriots possibly be as bad as they looked in Monday night’s 41-14 loss at Kansas City?

That’s doubtful. But it’s also possible that they’re not nearly as good as it appeared they were entering this season, when it seemed their reworked secondary would make for an upgraded defense and help Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady immensely in their pursuit of a potential fourth Super Bowl triumph in tandem.

Brady rarely has looked as incapable of engineering a victory — or even a touchdown drive — as he did Monday night. He had only 159 passing yards on 14-for-23 throwing accuracy. He threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He was sacked twice. When he wasn’t being harassed by Chiefs pass rushers, he was missing receivers. He rarely, if ever, seemed comfortable in the pocket.

“There’s not much that we’re doing well enough on a consistent basis to score points,” Brady said at his postgame news conference. He added soon after: “I wish there was an easy answer. I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I think we’ve got to fight our way through it and see what kind of team we have.”

Brady exited the game with the score 41-7 before his backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, took over and threw a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was the Patriots’ second-most-lopsided defeat with Belichick as their coach, behind only a 31-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 7, 2003.

“When you get beat like we did, it’s the whole team,” Belichick said.

The Patriots’ record dropped to 2-2. They had seemed to steady themselves a bit with two straight wins following a season-opening defeat to the Miami Dolphins. But the second of those victories came in less-than-impressive fashion over the still-winless Oakland Raiders, who fired Dennis Allen as their coach Monday. That gave way to Monday’s pitiable performance. Now the Patriots have a short work week to ready for Sunday night’s game at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are unbeaten and well rested as they return from a bye week.

“There’s nothing we can do about this game,” Belichick said at his postgame news conference Monday. “We’ve just got to move ahead.”

Belichick said his team will play better this season. But will it? History says so. The 31-point loss to the Bills to open the 2003 season was not a harbinger of things to come. The Patriots went 14-2 in the regular season that year and won the Super Bowl. They’ve had 13 straight winning seasons and have played in five Super Bowls over that span.

But it all must end sometime, and the question is whether that sometime is now. Brady is completing only 59.1 percent of his passes this season. He is averaging 197.8 passing yards per game, and he has a passer rating of 79.1. Compare that to his career passer rating of 95.4. If another 37-year-old quarterback was playing like this, many would wonder if the productive part of his career was behind him.

Brady’s play certainly isn’t the only issue. The offensive line appears overmatched at times, probably only in part due to the trade before the season of guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The running game isn’t helping much and the receiver corps appears lacking.

There is plenty of time, of course, for the Patriots to work things out. They’re actually in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with the Dolphins and Bills.

But somehow, this time, the Patriots managing to work things out doesn’t seem quite as inevitable as it usually does.

“It’s just a disappointing night,” Brady said. “You never expect these things. We’ve been on the other end of this quite a few times. … I know we’re not gonna quit. … We all feel we’ve got a good football team. We just didn’t play like a good football team tonight. But we’ll see what we’re made of this week.”

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