FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After reviewing the New England Patriots' 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener, a look at whose performance was "up" and whose was "down."
Tom Brady -- From the first pass of the game, on which he was high on a throw to open tight end Dwayne Allen along the left sideline, he never seemed to truly find his rhythm. The Chiefs played more coverage, and Brady's uneasiness was reflected in a rare illegal forward pass penalty when he lost awareness of where he was on the field. NBC's Al Michaels was right on the ball in noting it was Brady's first such penalty since 2006.
Alan Branch -- The team's most consistent defensive tackle in 2016, he was turned out of gaps and pushed backward with regularity by Kansas City center Mitch Morse, who is one of the NFL’s better players at the position that few talk about. With the Patriots playing a lighter dime defense for most of the game, they were asking their big-bodied defensive tackles to hold up inside with little support around them, and Branch, in particular, seemed to struggle. There were several examples, with the final one coming on Charcandrick West’s 21-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when Branch was pushed out of his gap and West raced right by him.
Everyone on the field in the fourth quarter -- Things went off the rails in the final 15 minutes as the Patriots were outscored 21-0. One can spare Cassius Marsh on Kareem Hunt's 78-yard touchdown reception because that was a tough spot to be put in (he'd just arrived five days earlier), but it looked like there might have been some overall communication issues before the snap. Meanwhile, there was another failed fourth-and-1 run (offensive tackle Nate Solder appeared to be too high as a defender got under him), pass-catchers struggled to separate consistently, right tackle Marcus Cannon was beaten for two sacks, linebacker Elandon Roberts didn't appear to fill his gap assignments on the 58- and 21-yard runs by Hunt and West, defensive linemen weren't two-gapping effectively, and the list goes on and on. That quarter is one of the main reasons why players were talking about attitude, competitiveness and urgency afterward. There wasn't enough of it.
Brandin Cooks -- The speedy wide receiver finished with three catches for 88 yards, but his impact on the game was further highlighted by how he drew four penalties that accounted for significant yardage. While there were a couple of plays on which the connection between him and Brady was slightly off, this was an encouraging debut on which for him to build.
Shaq Mason -- Watch Mike Gillislee's touchdown runs, and the power of the third-year right guard -- with his ability to get low, fire out of his stance and create space -- is hard to miss. When asked to pull, such as on Gillislee's 4-yard run to convert a second-and-1 play in the second quarter, Mason's athleticism and footwork are also hard to miss. Outside of the final drive, when there was one snap on which he didn't block anyone on a three-man rush, he seemed to put together a solid performance and has the look of an ascending player.
Devin McCourty's tackling -- The eighth-year safety and team captain was aces in the open field against some of the NFL's toughest players to take down in those situations: receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. He finished with a team-high 10 tackles, with two passes defended and one fumble recovery, and his hustle to track down Hunt on his 58-yard run in the fourth quarter reflected a player who had the type of attitude and competitiveness that Brady said needed to show up throughout the locker room. Of course, his night included being part of a coverage breakdown on a 75-yard Hill touchdown reception, but when it came to his tackling, it was textbook.