By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Tom Brady lacked his usual dominance in his first game as a 40-year-old, failing to throw a touchdown pass as his New England Patriots fell 42-27 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s season opener on Thursday.
Brady, who became the 20th quarterback to play in an NFL game after his 40th birthday, had a quick start but ultimately seemed out of sync with the slew of offensive playmakers the reigning Super Bowl champions added during the offseason.
The future Hall of Famer was sacked three times and only completed 16 of 36 pass attempts for 267 yards in front of a crowd that was left in a state of disbelief only hours after a championship banner was unfurled during a raucous pregame ceremony.
For Brady, who is well past the age when quarterbacks tend to be much less efficient, it marked only the 14th time during his career that he completed less than 50 percent of his passes.
At one point, with the Patriots deep in Chiefs territory and looking to pad their 24-21 lead late in the third quarter, Brady was called for an illegal forward pass when he threw from beyond the line of scrimmage, forcing them to settle for a field goal.
It marked the first illegal pass thrown by Brady since 2006.
Despite Brady’s struggles, the Patriots were only down by six points when the fourth quarter started and there was plenty of reason to believe he would find a way to pull off the win having engineered many late-game comebacks in his career.
But Brady, who led New England on a record-setting comeback last February to win a fifth Super Bowl, was unable to find any rhythm in the second half, which was made all the more difficult after losing wide receiver Danny Amendola to a head injury.
Amendola was Brady’s top-targeted receiver at the time he left the game, hauling in six catches for 100 yards.
Brady did well to get New England in front as he led them down the field on the game’s opening drive, which was capped by the first of three rushing touchdowns from Mike Gillislee, who was making his Patriots debut after signing with the team in April.
Brady then hit Rob Gronkowski for a 20-yard touchdown pass but the reception was ruled incomplete upon official review and the Chiefs tied the game on the next series when Alex Smith tossed one of his four touchdown passes in the game.
The Patriots opened the season as a popular pick to repeat as Super Bowl champions, a feat that has not been accomplished since they did it in the 2004 season.
They next play at New Orleans on Sept. 17.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)