This time once again the shoe was on the other foot as the Patriots were the ones who came up short by a yard against the Seattle Seahawks as the game came down to the final play.
Behind the precision passing of Russell Wilson and a ground game that gashed the Patriots for 154 yards, the Seahawks offense controlled the tempo all night long, but Cam Newton led a Patriots comeback that nearly stole the game away before being stuffed on the one-yard line preserving the Seahawks 35-30 win.
After Wilson’s fifth touchdown pass of the night made the score 35-23 with just over four and a half minutes to play, this one seemed over. But Newton, who was outstanding in his own right, quickly led the Patriots on a scoring drive, powering the ball in from the one, his second touchdown run of the game with 2:16 left to make it 35-30.
But Pete Carroll nearly gave it away again, as he did in the Super Bowl a few years ago with a curious play call. Facing a 3rd and 1 with 1:55 left, Carroll eschewed the ground game which had averaged 5.1 yards per rushing attempt, and opted for a home run ball, a deep pass from Wilson to Tyler Lockett that fell incomplete. The Patriots hadn’t stopped the deep ball all game long but Seattle had gone to the well one time too many and used only 34 seconds of the clock. It opened the door for Newton to bring the Patriots back for the win, as improbable as that seemed just three minutes before.
Beginning at their own 19 with 1:42 left, Newton hit N’Keal Harry for 17 and 13 yards and scrambled for a dozen putting them on the Seattle 36 with 49 seconds left. A penalty and a pass to Edelman for 18 yards put them at the 13. Newton then hit Harry for 12 more with defenders dragging him down at the one. Calling their last timeout with 3 ticks on the clock, it was now the Patriots turn to go to the well one time too many.
They brought in extra offensive linemen and ran the power run with no backs or WRs on the field (only FB Jakob Johnson), which Seattle hadn’t stopped all game long. But this time they were ready. They correctly guessed that Newton would run to the left side and played accordingly. Getting penetration, Newton never had a chance and was tripped up well short of the goal line to preserve a hard-fought but thrilling (when isn’t so when these two teams play?) game to go 2-0.
Wilson was nearly flawless in this game. He completed 21-28 for 288 yards with 5 TDs and 1 INT that was returned for a touchdown on a pick-six by Devin McCourty on the Seahawks first possession. But even that one was delivered on the money, the ball hitting TE Greg Olsen in the hands but he couldn’t corral it and it bounced over his head right in the hands of McCourty.
The Patriots were worried about Wilson making plays with his feet, rightfully so, and came out in a zone, which is not their most effective way to play defense. Wilson exploited them easily. But as soon as they went to man coverage, he scrambled for 21 yards. For the game, he scrambled five times for 39 yards.
This was a game where the Patriots’ lack of depth at linebacker became evident. By going to extra defensive backs to play linebacker, the Seahawks would expertly mix in the run gashing the front seven for 154 yards and 5.1-yards per attempt. Then keeping them off-balance, Wilson picked them apart, throwing touchdowns to five different receivers and having nearly as many TD passes (5) and incompletions (7).
He throws arguably the best deep ball in the NFL and his rainbow 54-yard TD to D.K Metcalf was an absolute perfect drop in the bucket. Metcalf had gotten separation from Stephon Gilmore, who closed late. But Gilmore had no chance to knock it away. Metcalf had four catches for 92 yards on six targets. Lockett had seven receptions on eight targets for 67 yards and a score.
The Patriots running game, after rolling up over 200 yards in the opener, could only manage 67 yards on 25 carries (2.7-yard average), with Newton accounting for 47 of them.
Before the game, in our keys, we said, Newton had to get the passing game going and if there is ever a silver cloud in losing a close game, then this might be it. Newton completed 30-44 passes for 397 yards with one TD and one INT. His lone TD pass came on a nice play call at the one, where Newton faked a run and passed to a wide-open Jakob Johnson for the score.
He and Julian Edelman connected eight times for 179 yards, a career-high for Edelman, including a beauty of a diving 49-yard catch. Not bad for a WR listed as questionable with a knee issue. Newton got Damiere Byrd involved in the passing game, after not being targeted last week, he threw nine passes his way and Byrd caught six for 72 yards. Harry caught eight passes for 72 and had a couple of big ones down the stretch. Rex Burkhead caught four passes out of the backfield for 47 more.
The team was missing third-down passing back, James White who was declared inactive for the game. It was learned that earlier in the day, White’s parents were involved in a bad car accident that claimed the life of his father and left his mother in critical condition.
The opportunities were there for more points by the offense, a drive that stalled at the Seattle 33 ended up with a missed field goal by Nick Folk with the scored tied at 14 in the first half. And in the second half, another promising drive was stuffed by Seattle at the seven-yard line and had Folk this time kick a chip shot for three giving them a brief lead 17-14.
Newton was asked about the play at the end of the game and he placed the blame of it failing on himself.
“We ran it a couple of times and figured it was something we probably went to the well too many times. But at the end of the day, we felt confident about it and you just have to execute,” Newton said.
“I could have bounced it [outside], looking at the clip. I just have to be better at the end. We put ourselves in a position to win. When you do that, you just have to finish.”
“The reason why you play this game is for one stat and one stat only. We didn’t get that statistic, that’s the win. For us, this is a disgusting taste in my mouth. I have to grow and get better in this offense, and hopefully have a better result next week,” Newton added.
Bill Belichick began his post-game press conference praising the Seahawks.
“We’ll start off with congratulating Seattle. It was a heck of a football game. They obviously played a little bit better than we did and deserved to win. They have a good football team. They have a great quarterback. I’m glad that we only have to play him once every four years. I think he’s a tremendous player. They have a lot of good players. In the end, we just came up a little bit short and I’m proud of the way that our guys competed here. We just didn’t quite have enough.”
Pete Carroll was asked about the game and the ending in his own post-game presser.
“So, it made it a really tight game. You saw some great players. I thought that Julian Edelman was just spectacular tonight. What a great football player he is. Of course, he is getting the ball thrown to him, too. Cam did a beautiful job of that. We need to give them a ton of credit.”
“For our guys to hang on all the way to the end and have to go down to two seconds and no time left on the clock, the whole thing, last play of the game. It’s an extraordinary moment for football players and for a team. You either come through or you don’t. There is so much intensity in that moment.”
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