By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) _ Robert Kraft looked down from his seat high above the field and watched his New England Patriots fall apart.
The offense led by Tom Brady struggled to move the ball. The defense that had been stingy couldn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs from reeling off long gains. And Bill Belichick lost by at least 27 points for just the third time in his 336 games as an NFL head coach.
“It’s horrible,” Kraft said Tuesday after seeing the team he owns lose the previous night in Kansas City 41-14.
The image of Jamaal Charles leaving would-be tacklers in his wake, and scoring three touchdowns, lingered even as Kraft expressed confidence that the Patriots would rebound from the rout.
“He supposedly had an ankle problem,” Kraft said. “We were sitting pretty high and you could have a birds-eye view. He is so fast and quick. It was just a bad day. We’ve got to bury it and move on and, hopefully, get back on track this Sunday.”
That won’t be easy, not against the AFC’s only unbeaten team, the Cincinnati Bengals (3-0), on Sunday night.
“They’re very good,” Kraft said, “but, somehow, I think playing here in Foxborough will be special and this team has a lot of fight and grit. At the same time, I have this empty feeling that so many of our fans, I know, felt.”
In his other 20 seasons as owner, Kraft had rarely seen such ineptitude. In 15 of them, including the last 11, the Patriots had at least 10 wins. They won six AFC championships and three Super Bowls.
“Last night was one of the worst games since I’ve owned the team,” Kraft said, standing in the rain after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an elementary school playground built with the help of a $60,000 grant from the Patriots’ charitable foundation.
“It was very draining, but the worst part was flying home and getting home early a.m. and then having an eight o’clock dentist appointment,” he said with a grin.
Then he tried to cast a positive light on a negative night.
“I feel pretty bad after what happened,” he said, “but, for the record, we are in first place, as strange as that might seem.”
At 2-2, the Patriots are tied with the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins for the lead in the AFC East, a division New England has won 10 of the past 11 seasons.
“We’re not robots,” Kraft said. “It was just a bad night.”
Two rookies started in the shaky offensive line for the first time as Belichick kept searching for the right combination. Brady had two poorly thrown interceptions. Stevan Ridley led the ground game with just 28 yards. The 303 yards the Patriots allowed in the first half were the most since Belichick became coach in 2000.
“We didn’t really just do much to help ourselves,” Belichick said. “The offense didn’t help the defense. The defense didn’t help the offense. We just didn’t play a good complementary game.”
The Patriots punted on their first five possessions and committed three turnovers while getting none.
And they still haven’t had an impressive performance against a top opponent.
They lost at Miami 33-20, beat Minnesota 30-7 when the Vikings played without Adrian Peterson and then managed just one touchdown in a 16-9 win over Oakland that was preserved by a last-minute interception.
“We have a high standard here and we should,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “Every year is a process that you go through, and I don’t think you’re really ever where you’re going to be when you start the year.
“But I think the key thing for us is we’ve got to improve each week,” he said. “You can have patience, but I think you also need to make strides each week.”
After his early-morning flight home, Kraft heard cheers as he sat in front of about 400 pupils seated on the floor of their school gymnasium, many wearing Patriots shirts with the last names of Brady and Rob Gronkowski on the back.
“It was like my mother welcoming me. So it was a good balance” after Monday night’s debacle, he said while standing near the swings and slide he helped pay for. “I still have faith in this team, and it’s really not what happens now. It’s what happens after Thanksgiving that counts.
“So let’s hope things are a lot better by then.”
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