Sloppy Ball Control, Porous Defense Lead to Loss
The Patriots loss puts them at 7-2 and although they still own the AFC’s top record, they are now tied with Kansas City and Oakland. Denver is just a half-game back at 7-3 and the situation now isn’t quite as rosy.
Of course, as soon as the defense struggled, the calls went out, “They’re missing Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins right now” and to be perfectly clear….Bunk. I would use another descriptive term but, you get the drift here.
Jamie Collins wasn’t going to help cover the WRs of the Seahawks in this one, which was the problem and the wheel route that Seattle ran for a big gain to RB C.J. Prosise, Collins wasn’t making that stop either. It is easy and lazy to blanket statement that the absence of those two was the cause. It wasn’t.
So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets…if they dare
Tom Brady threw his first interception of the season, a bad decision given that two Seahawks defenders were in the area. The ball may have slipped out of his hand a bit as it was well underthrown. And Brady didn’t throw any touchdowns for the first time this season as well.
Overall, he was 23 of 32 for 316 yards with the one pick. He averaged 9.9 yards per throw which is outstanding. He also threw a couple of beautiful passes at crunch time to get the Patriots in the position to tie things up. The first to Julian Edelman was for 30 yards and got them to the Seattle side of the field. The second, an over the shoulder throw to Gronk put them on the doorstep.
Brady was facing one of the better defenses in the NFL and he took what was there and played very well. An excellent goal line stand by Seattle stopped the Pats from scoring 30+ points. His play had nothing to do with the loss.
Running Backs: B+
LeGarrette Blount had a very strong game with three rushing touchdowns, two of which were highlight reel scores. Blount’s second score was a one-yard run where the Seahawks stood him up at the line of scrimmage and he kept sliding down the line until he could punch it in. His second was a nice 13-yard run to the left side where he followed his blockers and then burst down the left side for the score.
James White had only two carries in the running game which wasn’t very surprising but had just four catches in the passing game which was. The game started with White catching a pass out of the backfield for a first down. We thought the Patriots should have involved White much more in the passing game this week. James Develin was really solid in the run blocking department. He rarely shows up on the stat sheet but his value has always been as a blocker.
Wide Receivers: C-
The Patriots wide receivers were pretty much invisible in the first half and credit the Seattle secondary there. They were doing a great job in coverage, unlike their Patriots’ opponents. In the second half, things got better as Julian Edelman caught fire and was much more productive. He ended up with seven catches for 99 yards and seems like the Edelman we’ve become accustomed to.
Edelman always does the dirty work over the middle and against a defense as talented and tough as Seattle’s that comes with a steep price. Edelman was hit hard a few times but still came up with a couple of big plays to keep the offense moving. He did lose a key fumble which led to a touchdown
Chris Hogan was questionable with a bad back and was blanked. Danny Amendola had one target and made a key 14-yard catch. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell had a single catch for 13 yards and a costly false start penalty.
Tight Ends: A
The Patriots tight ends especially Rob Gronkowski were obviously going to be a focus of the Seahawks secondary on Sunday night. But as strange as it sounds, as good a job that the Seattle safeties did, they still managed to catch 10 passes for 158 yards.
Gronk caught just three passes for 56 yards but the 34-yarder at the end of the game on a corner was a beauty that put the Patriots in a great position to tie things up. He also drew two penalties, one pass interference and one holding which set them up nicely. He was also flagged for a false start.
You could certainly make a case for holding on the final play of the day for the offense, but that was just two big, physical guys going at it. I had no problem with the non-call. If that play was in the second quarter, perhaps they get it, but at that time of the game? No, it won’t happen.
Bennett had a very strong game with 7 catches for 102 yards. After Gronk was tattooed by Chancellor and Thomas in the first half, he stepped up with a couple of big receptions. Both Bennett and Gronk were outstanding in the blocking department. Bennett looks like he’s getting healthier as his ankle didn’t seem to be a problem.
Offensive Line: B+
The offensive line had a pretty solid day overall. Brady’s protection, for the most part, was very good. Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder did a good job of protecting the edges. Cliff Avril, Seattle’s best pass rusher with Michael Bennett out, was kept away from being a big part of the equation.
The run blocking had a tough task facing the Seahawks front seven but did a decent job, they found most of their success in running to the left behind Solder and Joe Thuney.
Defensive Line: C-
The Patriots defensive line wasn’t very stout in the running game despite the fact that Seattle came into this game unable to run on anyone. Alan Branch and Malcom Brown were frequently forced back by Seattle’s offensive line.
Trey Flowers had a pair of sacks which is good, but he doesn’t do a great job of setting the edge, much like Chandler Jones struggled with. Rob Ninkovich added his first sack of the year. But the pressure was very limited. Chris Long was flagged for a costly offsides call. Jabaal Sheard was basically benched for Flowers this week and barely saw the field.
So they didn’t do a great job in run support and the pass rush was still out to lunch. Where is there to go but up.
Dont’a Hightower had 10 tackles but was hampered by a passive defensive game plan [more to that later]. He picked up a few penalties, was beaten in coverage and had a lackluster game. He had a chance for an interception but couldn’t hold on, it was that kind of game for the defense. And he was the best linebacker on the field.
Elandon Roberts had his worst game in a Patriots uniform and it happened to come at the time when all eyes were watching how he’d replace Collins. He did have one big stop on the goal line but overall his run support, his strong suit wasn’t on display. The Seahawks were pushing him around far more than we envisioned in this one.
He got burned by Prosise on the wheel route but flash back to the SB and Marshawn Lynch burned Collins twice on it. So the Seahawks were going to definitely test the waters on it regardless of who was back there. Shea McClellin looked out of sorts again out there. How bad have the practices been for Barkevious Mingo when he can’t even log a snap on the defense?
The only thing saving this grade from a richly deserved F was the play of Malcolm Butler who was solid. Butler got beat for a short touchdown but the coverage was there, it was just executed perfectly.
The secondary play by whoever was playing opposite of Butler was targeted by Russell Wilson all game long and it was a “target-rich environment.” Eric Rowe was inactive and in his stead, was Justin Coleman. Coleman was in a word, awful. He was burned by Tyler Lockett for a 36-yard pass play and on another for a pass interference call. But the ugly part was, he wasn’t the worst guy out there for the Pats.
Logan Ryan was terrible on Sunday, and on a day when the secondary play was bad, that is saying something. He was in total chase mode as he had his own flashbacks to SB XLIX. How Doug Baldwin could get that far behind him from the 15-yard line on the Seahawks final touchdown will be a burning question for the coaches.
Devin McCourty should repaint his helmet red like a fire truck because he was running all over the field trying to put out fires. A very ugly effort.
Special Teams: C
The Patriots Special Teams units are like Jekyll and Hyde and Sunday’s game wasn’t one of their better efforts. Stephen Gostkowski made all four kicks he was tasked with…which was good. But was flagged for putting a kickoff out of bounds….Bad.
Cyrus Jones had a nice return on a punt and a great one on a kickoff which is fantastic. But Coleman got flagged for a clip and Jones put the ball on the ground again with a fumble on his long kickoff return. Nate Ebner made a heads-up play to recover the fumble.
Mingo had a big hit on a punt return and McClellin blocked an extra point.
Josh McDaniels called a fair game for the offense until their final four plays inside the five-yard line with a chance to tie the score and possibly overtime. While I didn’t have an issue with the first QB sneak on first down, that was the time to throw the fade to Gronkowski.
The second QB sneak reeked of what has plagued McDaniels at times in NE and that is being too cute. Blount already had three scores and you have the jumbo package in. Run the ball with him on third and fourth down. And it cost them big time. Why did he get away from James White in the passing game?
Matt Patricia? He coached passively and afraid on Sunday night. The Patriots were so afraid of Wilson running, that they got very passive on defense and dropped into these deep zones. Against good wide receivers, they will find the holes and exploit them. Seattle did. Forget “bend-but-don’t-break”, not when you’re giving up huge chunks of real estate. And where were the adjustments? A blind man could see that it wasn’t working, so why not change things up? That awful performance lands on his and Belichick’s laps. Last week we heard that they were “way ahead” on their preparation for Seattle. We didn’t see it on defense. It looked like the Patriots were the ones on the short week and not the other way around.