Another Classic!: Seattle edges the Pats on SNF

TEAM

1

2

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4

T

SEA 7 7 3 13 35

NE

7 7 14 7 30

Seattle. New England. Sunday Night Football.

When you put these words together, you’re bound to get one hell of a football game, and yesterday was no exception. For the third straight matchup between these teams, the game came down to a goal line stand by the victorious team, with Seattle securing a 35-30 victory. This loss drops the Patriots to 1-1 and second place in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills.

Here are my takeaways from this Week 2 game.

1. Cam & Jules came to play!
After lighting up the Dolphins on the ground in Week 1, many people wondered how Cam Newton & the Patriots would look when #1 was tasked with beating defenses with his arm. Newton delivered yesterday, as he threw for 397 yards, and almost led the Patriots to a dramatic fourth quarter comeback. Newton primarily connected with Julian Edelman, who totaled 179 receiving yards on a career night. For the first time in multiple seasons, Edelman was a deep threat, with several clutch catches against star safety Jamal Adams, including a 49 yard reception to spark a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. However, Edelman was visibly exhausted and dinged up near the end of the game, which is a situation worth monitoring as the season progresses. Other than Edelman, Damiere Byrd & N’Keal Harry both stepped up, as they both recorded 72 receiving yards. It was great to see Byrd step up after being held without a catch in Week 1, but Harry’s game was even more encouraging, as he made some tough contested catches, including a 4th down play in the first quarter, when he got hit illegally by a Seattle defender. Cam Newton has expressed confidence in Harry, and performances like this will only help expand his role in the offense.

The Patriots’ rushing attack was primarily run through Newton, as both Sony Michel & Rex Burkhead struggled to gain any traction. Newton recorded 2 rushing touchdowns on his now-signature goal line draw play, but it’s starting to look like that play may be becoming predictable for opposing defenses. This was evident on a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, when Jamal Adams dispatched him through a gap in the offensive line. In addition, on the game’s last play, the Patriots opted to use that play again, which resulted in Newton getting knocked down a few yards short of the goal line. I’m not going to question Josh McDaniels’ decision making, as the play could have worked with better blocking, but an option play, or play-action pass in that situation could have helped the Patriots win the game.

To sum up New England’s offensive performance, it’s safe to say that Cam Newton was otherworldly (apart from a bad interception in the third quarter), as his dynamic playmaking made the offense look explosive for the first time in a long time. Almost beating one of the NFL’s best teams in a shootout on the road is an encouraging sign for the second showing of an evolving offense. As Newton & the skill players continue to become more comfortable with each other, the offense will only continue to get better.

Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams (33) closes in on a sack of New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

2. Russ & the Seahawks’ offense cooked the Pats

The Patriots’ secondary was thought to be the team’s strongest position group, but they got absolutely annihilated by one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, who threw for 5 touchdowns. Wilson only had 1 mistake the whole game, when a pass went through Greg Olsen’s hands, and was caught by Devin McCourty, who returned it for a 43 yard touchdown. Things went downhill from there, as Wilson targeted key members of the secondary, including Jonathan Jones & Stephon Gilmore, with both players giving up touchdowns. Typically, the Patriots stick to tight man-to-man coverage, but with Wilson’s elusiveness out of the pocket, they chose to use zone coverage, which didn’t really work out in their favor. The Patriots were able to sack Wilson twice, but they struggled to keep up with him, as he also gained 39 yards on the ground.

Seattle also had great success running the ball, with Chris Carson accounting for 72 of the team’s 154 rushing yards. The Patriots struggled to win at the line of scrimmage, which should be an area of emphasis for Bill Belichick as the season progresses. Luckily for them, Seattle opted to pass the ball on a crucial 3rd & 1 near the end of the game, which ended up with an incompletion, and gave the Patriots a chance to win the game.

Bill Belichick will likely be ruthless in his evaluation of this game, as his defense was routinely beaten by a blistering air attack, which is something that cannot continue as New England begins to play teams with high-flying offenses.

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(Photo via the Seattle Seahawks)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 30/44 for 397 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Cam Newton – 11 carries for 47 yards & 2 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 179 yards
  • Defensive: John Simon – 8 total tackles

Seahawks

  • Passing: Russell Wilson – 21/28 for 288 yards, 5 touchdowns & 1 interception
  • Rushing: 17 carries for 72 yards
  • Receiving: DK Metcalf – 4 receptions for 92 yards
  • Defensive: Jamal Adams – 10 total tackles, including 1 sack

Bonus:

1. RIP Tyrone White

James White was inactive last night, due to the tragic death of his father, who perished in a car accident. White’s mother is also in critical condition.

Tributes for White poured into social media, and Devin McCourty chose to shout out his teammate after his pick-six in the first quarter.

2. New away uniforms

Yesterday’s game marked the debut of the Patriots’ new away uniforms, which are a marked improvement over the previous set. Hopefully they’ll be more lucky the next time they wear them!

jules v w220
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images

What’s next?: The Patriots return home to host the Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) for their first matchup since the 2017 season.

Showdown in Seattle!

The Patriots will face a stiff test in Week 2, as they head to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (1-0) on Sunday Night Football. This game will help serve as a barometer of how good the Patriots truly are, as the Seahawks are considered to be one of the best teams in the NFC.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 2 contest.

1. Can the Pats stop Russ from cooking?

Let Russ cook” has been a enduring phrase amongst Seahawks’ fans on Twitter who believed that the team had hamstrung their star quarterback by overly relying on their rushing game in certain situations. Pete Carroll appeared to listen last week, as Russell Wilson dissected the Falcons for 4 touchdowns on a day where he completed 31 of 35 passes. The Patriots had some success causing problems for Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, as they forced 3 interceptions, but Wilson will be much more difficult to defend. He remains one of the NFL’s best deep ball throwers, and it’s impossible to understate his ability to extend plays with his legs. Luckily, New England fields one of the NFL’s best secondaries, so it’ll be interesting to see how they match up against a talented receiving corps, that includes Tyler Lockett & DK Metcalf. I’d expect Stephon Gilmore to be matched up one-on-one with Metcalf, with a combination of Jonathan Jones and a safety on Lockett (due to his immense speed).

In addition to Wilson & their receivers, Seattle also has two good running backs in Chris Carson & Carlos Hyde. Due to the Patriots’ inability to stop the run in recent years, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the Seahawks choose to punish them on the ground. Wilson is also a threat as a runner, which may necessitate the usage of a QB spy to monitor him at the line of scrimmage.

All in all, this game will show us how cohesive Bill Belichick’s defense is, as they will have little margin for error against such a talented offense.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

2. What will Cam & the offense look like?

Last week’s win against Miami was a masterpiece on the ground, as the Patriots compiled 217 rushing yards, due to a game plan that seemed to be designed to take advantage of the Dolphins’ lack of depth at linebacker. This week might look a bit different, as the Seahawks have the NFL’s top middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner, who forms a formidable duo with fellow linebacker KJ Wright. Seattle also features one of the NFL’s best safeties in Jamal Adams, who is very familiar to the Patriots, due to his years with the New York Jets. I’d expect Josh McDaniels to design a run-first game plan once again, but it remains to be seen if Sony Michel & the other running backs will be successful.

One would think that Cam Newton will need to use his arm more tomorrow, as we can’t expect him to rush the ball 15 times on a weekly basis. Newton did look sharp throwing the ball against Miami, but he’ll definitely need to be better this week, as the Patriots cannot afford to play from behind. The Seahawks primarily play zone coverage, which may open up opportunities for receivers such as Julian Edelman to find holes in certain areas of the zone. New England will still likely have issues getting the ball down the field, but they’ll need their young receiving corps to step up and give Newton a chance. I’m still intrigued by the speedster Damiere Byrd, who led the receivers in snaps last week, and appeared to be open down the field on more than one occasion (which is notable due to the strength of the Dolphins’ secondary). If Newton could connect with his former Carolina teammate over the top, it would help add a new level to the Patriots’ offense.

I think that the Patriots will look different than they did last week, but with this being Cam Newton’s second game under center, it’s quite hard to forecast how Josh McDaniels will decide to attack Seattle.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Adam Butler (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Brandon Copeland (knee) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Dalton Keene (neck) – Questionable
  • Matthew Slater (knee) – Questionable
  • Josh Uche (ankle) – Out

Seahawks

  • Phillip Dorsett (foot) – Questionable
  • Cedric Ogbuehi (pectoral) – Doubtful
  • Rasheem Green (neck) – Doubtful

Bonus:

1. RIP Jeannette Belichick

Bill Belichick’s mother, Jeannette, passed away this past week at the age of 98. At a press conference on Wednesday, Belichick mentioned that he spent a lot of time watching football with her as a child, and that she was able to speak 7 languages. Hopefully the Patriots canget a win in her memory!

2. Shades of XLIX?

This game is being billed as a rematch of 2015’s legendary Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, but these teams have changed a great deal over the past six years. Prominent figures from that game such as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler, Richard Sherman, & Earl Thomas have all changed teams, with others such as Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor, and Darrelle Revis having retired as well.

Other than their head coaches, here are the players that remain from that eventful game.

Patriots

  • Julian Edelman
  • Matthew Slater
  • Devin McCourty
  • James White

Seahawks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Bobby Wagner
  • KJ Wright
  • Luke Willson
  • Bruce Irvin

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 17

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 2 contests.

Last week: 10-5

Giants at Bears: Giants

Rams at Eagles: Rams

Falcons at Cowboys: Cowboys

Panthers at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

49ers at Jets: 49ers

Broncos at Steelers: Steelers

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

Lions at Packers: Packers

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Vikings at Colts: Vikings

Washington at Cardinals: Cardinals

Ravens at Texans: Ravens

Chiefs at Chargers: Chiefs

Saints at Raiders: Saints

Distractions…

Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, due to his stellar resume and his ability to get the best out of all of his players. Belichick’s success can be attributed to the cold-blooded manner in which he runs the Patriots franchise, as he has been known to offload players who he feels will not benefit the team in the long-run. Examples of this can include Wes Welker, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Vince Wilfork, and countless others.

Throughout Belichick’s 17 years in New England, there has always been one exception, and that is Tom Brady…

brady belichick 2
(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

TB12 and Belichick may not be very close off the field, but they are a dynamic duo that has haunted the NFL for nearly two decades. Brady has bought into the so-called ‘Patriot Way’, by continuing to work hard to improve, and ensuring that he gives Belichick no reason to get rid of him. 

One key aspect of a Bill Belichick coached team is the absence of off-field distractions. The Patriots have been able to maintain their unprecedented run as the NFL’s top dog, due to a lack of  issues that can divide or distract the team. If you want to understand the impact of distractions on a team, just look at the 2016-17 Steelers, when Antonio Brown broadcasted coach Mike Tomlin’s derogatory speech about the Patriots on Facebook Live. The constant media onslaught about this simple incident took the focus off of football for the Steelers, and they were consequently eliminated by the Pats the following week.

ab facebook live
(Photo by WTAE Pittsburgh)

Belichick has also been able to ensure that conflicts do not erupt in his locker room, due to specific players being treated differently than the rest of the team. Belichick has done his best to ensure that he treats everyone on the team the same, starting from Tom Brady to any rookie player. Teams that do not do this run the risk of alienating their players, and a prime example of this is the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots famously defeated the Seahawks in 2015’s thrilling Super Bowl XLIX, where Seattle opted to throw the ball from the one-yard line, instead of handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, and a popular theory as to why this occurred is that Pete Carroll and his staff wanted Russell Wilson to be the hero of the game. As reported by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, the Seattle defense clearly believed this theory, leading to some evident friction between them and their coaching staff (incidents have even occurred on their sidelines during games). Seattle’s ill-fated decision in Super Bowl XLIX led to a divide among the team, from which they have never fully recovered. It also doesn’t help when members of your team are taking shots at each other through interviews and social media, which is a clear sign of dysfunction.

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(Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

The examples of Pittsburgh and Seattle were used to show how the Patriots have been able to remain successful, as they have rarely faced distractions that can hinder the team’s performance. However, Belichick’s recent decision to revoke the privileges of  Tom Brady’s guru/life coach/mentor/friend Alex Guerrero may present him with the distraction that he absolutely abhors. 

Tom Brady has been close with Guerrero for almost a decade, ever since the latter helped TB12 recover from his devastating knee injury suffered in 2008. Brady credits Guerrero and his unique methods with enabling him to maintain his peak performance at the age of 40. However, even if Brady trusts Guerrero, it may be hard for others to do so, as Guerrero has tried to sell ‘veggies that can cure terminal illnesses’ and ‘an elixir that can prevent concussions’ in the past, earning him the title of a glorified snake oil salesman. Due to his close friendship with Brady, Guerrero earned several privileges within the Patriots organization, such as sideline access, flying the team’s charter plane, and even having his own office at Gillette Stadium. Guerrero’s clientele has also grown, with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and other prominent Patriots coming to the controversial trainer. Guerrero’s growing prominence within the Patriots clearly irked New England’s team of trainers (with actual medical certification, unlike Guerrero), leading to some conflict between the two parties. This growing conflict between the trainers and Guerrero most likely led Belichick to curb his influence in the team building. Guerrero can no longer come on the sidelines or the team plane, and can only treat Patriot players (not named Tom Brady) in the nearby TB12 Center. 

brady guerrero.jpg
(Photo by USA TODAY SPORTS)

Belichick’s decision to limit Alex Guerrero’s role with the Patriots does make sense , as Guerrero’s previous transgressions involving fraudulent products, and his lack of a medical license could come back to haunt the Patriots in the future. Belichick’s motivations to protect the team are clear, but it may not have been the best decision. Revoking Guerrero’s privileges runs the risk of alienating Tom Brady, as TB12 is heavily close with his beloved trainer. 

Could this be the distraction that finally divides and conquers the Patriots’ dynasty? Only time will tell…