I have never been one to recognize or accept “moral victories”, but the Patriots’ performance this week is an outlier. New England went across the country for a Sunday night matchup against one of the best teams in the league led by one of the best quarterbacks. I probably saw Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl XLIX interception at least 1,000 times on Twitter last week, but that was five years ago now. Seattle and New England are led by familiar faces, but they are not the same teams from 2015. It was a battle of an established team against one still trying to find their identity. The established won the battle, but the Patriots showcased how dynamic they can be. Let’s look at the highlights of this roller coaster, who popped, and whose stock dropped.
Greg Olsen loves his former quarterback so much that he gifted Newton’s new team 7 points after a bad drop. I credit Olsen for showing that hospitality to Cam in his new home, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that again. The 35-year old had a shaky night, including a false-start penalty that had him substituted for Jacob Hollister. Olsen’s only target was the interception. New England would need to capitalize on every opportunity, and the early mistake was one of a few given out that allowed them to stay in the game.
I found it fitting that Devin McCourty scored the first touchdown in this game. After running back James White was announced as inactive, reports broke about a car accident that occurred earlier Sunday involving his parents. White’s father did not survive, and his mother is in critical condition. McCourty is arguably New England’s most prominent veteran leader, and he showed that with his tribute to White after his second career touchdown. It was a touching moment to lead off a night full of emotions.
Friendly reminder for the N’Keal Harry haters that the Seahawks drafted D.K Metcalf 32 picks after Harry. Metcalf’s size (6’3” 228 lbs.) and speed (4.3 40-yard dash) gave him an advantage over Gilmore, and the two were at each other’s necks all night. The second year receiver beat the Defensive Player of the Year on a corner route for a 54-yard touchdown. Metcalf beat Gilmore off the line, but Gilmore was able to recover when the ball was in the air. He hooked his right arm over Metcalf’s shoulder to break up the play. Unfortunately, Wilson dropped a dime right into Metcalf’s hands. We rarely see Gilmore give up a big play like this, but he was right there at the end. Seattle just made the better play.
Pete Caroll loves to throw the ball when he probably shouldn’t. Chris Carson had 17 carries for 72 yards (4.2 AVG). New England’s front seven struggled slowing down the run, but Seattle drew up a pass play on 3rd and 1 with 1:55 left in the game. Wilson went for the kill shot to Tyler Lockett but missed him deep, forcing as three and out.
Newton was 5-7 for 63 yards in his first Two Minute Drill with New England. He also picked up 12 yards on a scramble to set New England up with a 1st and 10 at Seattle’s 36 with 41 seconds left. N’Keal Harry had 3 receptions for 42 yards on 4 targets. Newton targeted Harry on three of the first four plays. Harry’s final catch for 12 yards set New England up for a chance to win on Seattle’s goal line. It was a career high for targets, receptions and yards for Harry. Newton has spoken highly of his receiver, but his confidence to target Harry more than any other receiver on the final drive speaks volumes to me. I hope the connection and trust continues to grow throughout the year. They need every once they can squeeze out of this receivers group.
On 1st and 10 at Seattle’s 31 with 36 seconds left, Newton hit Edelman on a deep cross for 18 yards. Edelman went down in bounds with 28 seconds left. New England had one timeout left but elected to hurry to the line and run a play as the clock ticked. Newton snapped the ball with 13 seconds left and threw an incomplete pass to Edelman that just went through his hands in the end zone. Newton took blame for the incomplete pass. “It came in with a lot of heat, and it was high...It could have been a better ball.”
Reporters questioned the team’s decision to hold onto the timeout in this situation. They were met with an awkward silence from Coach Belichick. I don’t mind the decision to keep the tempo moving. New England had Seattle with their backs against the wall and went for the kill shot. Unfortunately, Edelman couldn’t come up with it in the end zone. Seattle called a timeout after the incompletion to give their defense a breather and make substitutions.
If they did call the time out, New England would have had 3-4 shots at the end zone, but could have hurt themselves if a player went down in bounds or if Cam took a sack. The Patriots love to run a quick out to gain yards and stop the clock in these situations, but Cam threw an interception on that route earlier in the game. New England used their last timeout on 2nd down after Newton connected with Harry at the goal line to give them one shot to win the game.
I loved New England’s approach to the game overall. They knew they needed to throw the ball to compete in this game, and I credit them for showing as little as they did against Miami last week. The Patriots have received criticism for their play call on the goal line. I didn’t think McDaniels was perfect last night (3rd and 8 shovel pass and 3rd and 4 option calls made me cringe), but I didn’t mind the QB Power even though the entire world knew it was coming. The Patriots have been successful running the QB Power and QB Counter in 14 personnel (one running back/four tight ends). All three offensive touchdowns came in this formation. The below video explains the options New England can run with Newton in this formation.
Yes, they had different options that would not have been as predictable, but New England did not care about that. They told Seattle what they were going to do and dared them to make a play. Seattle stepped up and won the challenge.
He looked comfortable in the pocket. He hung in when Seattle put the pressure on instead of taking off as soon as he felt it. Cam wanted to make plays in the air, not on his feet. I don’t think many expected him to have 44 attempts in any of the team’s first four games, but the Patriots showed they can compete in a shootout against a top-tier team.
I don’t want to overreact after two weeks, but Cam looks like he is 100%. He spent the entire flight to Seattle studying his playbook. His teammates rave about the energy he brings, and he appears to have established a bond with many of them. He has shown willingness to accept coaching from McDaniels and the offense to be a better quarterback. Most of the concepts they have run have been overall successful so far, and McDaniels is only at the surface of the playbook with Cam. I can’t wait to see the two continue to grow with each other over the new few weeks and prove to the rest of the league that New England isn't going anywhere.
Give Rex credit for stepping up in a big game when they needed him to. The situation with James White was obviously unexpected and Burkhead would not have been given as many reps. He struggled on the ground with the rest of the backs, but had four catches for 48 yards. He ran the screen plays well and was a reliable checkdown target for Newton.
I don’t think Jules misses Brady as much as he may have before Sunday night. The 34-year old racked up a career-high 132 yards on 8 targets. Newton and Edelman connected on a 49-yard bomb with Jamal Adams in coverage. Who knew Edelman could also be their deep ball threat? I don’t mind Edelman serving as the third receiver when facing teams like the Dolphins because they are going to need him in big games. Edelman is no stranger to injuries. Bill and Josh need to keep him fresh so he lasts the whole season. I wouldn’t expect much from him next week against the Raiders.
I really hope the beat writers were correct when they said that Damien Harris was the best back in camp, because Sony Michel ain’t it. He had 7 carries for 19 yards (2.7 AVG). He has 56 yards in the first two games, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. The offensive line didn’t help him either, but Michel shows no explosiveness. He takes too much time deciding when to hit the hole and doesn’t have the speed to run outside the tackles. He has no skill to help in the passing game. The Patriots need the ability to run the ball with someone other than Cam Newton if they want to keep him healthy and make a run this season.
Big Kick Nick had a big miss in the second quarter. Folk pushed a field goal left that would’ve given the Patriots a 17-14 lead. 51 yards isn't a bunny, but you need all the points you can get when you’re in a battle like Sunday night. A make there could completely change the course of the game. Maybe New England is kicking a game-winning field goal at the end instead of getting stuffed at the line.
The Patriots are holding onto Justin Rohrwasser because he is either inured or they don’t want to take the heat for missing the pick so they buried him on the Practice Squad. In a weird way, I hope he is battling an injury that caused him to have a poor camp. If so, there is still potential for him to be a viable kicker. Bill was asked for his opinions on the team’s kicking game.
“Nicks our kicker”
Russell Wilson has been the best quarterback in the league so far, but the Patriots have the best secondary. Wilson threw for 288 yards on 21/28 C/Att. Five touchdowns in unacceptable. Tyler Lockett snuck away from Jason McCourty on a double move in the back of the end zone, but Wilson could've walked right in if he didn’t throw the ball. I won't knock them for the Metcalf and Moore touchdowns because those were great plays made by Seattle.
Adrian Phillips watched Chris Carson speed past him on a wheel route and Wilson tossed an airball for him to easily secure. Phillips has played well overall in the Rover spot, but he can’t get caught looking in the backfield. It was an early season mistake that can’t happen again.
Wilson hit Freddie Swain on a short drag for a 21-yard touchdown. New England was in zone coverage, and it looked like J.C Jackson was caught in the mix of the routes which allowed Swain to run free.
Below are the secondary's numbers in coverage from Sunday (via PatsPerfect on Instagram).
Devin McCourty was asked about the secondary’s struggles in their Week Two matchup. “We have to get better, and I think it's all the little things we do this week in practice. We can't let one loss slip us up." This will be the annual September wake up call for New England. Hopefully the defense has a strong week of practice and shows improvement against an inferior opponent on Sunday.