It wasn’t a pretty game to watch for Patriots fans, nor was it one the Patriots were happy to talk about afterward. But there are some positives among the negatives.
Here are some thoughts on Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
1) The secondary is in shambles — Halfway through the second quarter, Kyle Arrington was replaced by Alfonzo Dennard in base coverage. It seemed prudent considering how Arrington had struggled in the first half, getting beat by Doug Baldwin for a 50-yard catch. But Dennard had his own struggles, although much less severe than his counterpart. The rookie was outmaneuvered by Braylon Edwards for a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter on what was likely an offensive pass interference. It doesn’t matter. This secondary is having trouble making plays and each player on the field is having a hard time locating the ball. Rookie Tavon Wilson was beat soundly by Sydney Rice for the winning 46-yard touchdown on a double move. Wilson’s job was to not allow anything to get behind him. Devin McCourty continued to have issues with man-to-man coverage. And Patrick Chung, for all of his talent and experience, has showed that he too has to work on his awareness. He was flagged for pass interference and illegal contact. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson finished with 293 yards and three touchdowns on 16 of 27 passing. The Seahawks weren’t doing anything special. Just their play-action offense. The Patriots’ secondary just has to play better.
2) Injurious losses — Aaron Hernandez returned to action from an ankle injury and it felt like he hadn’t missed a beat, catching the first pass of the day from Tom Brady and hauling in a 1-yard touchdown later on. But as the day wore on, the Patriots got dinged up pretty good. Brandon Bolden (knee), Matthew Slater (unknown), Patrick Chung (shoulder), and Brandon Lloyd (shoulder) were all hurt in the loss. Chung and Slater said they were fine, but both missed playing time at the end of the game. On Seattle’s winning drive, Chung would have likely been back deep in coverage instead of Tavon Wilson. Slater, as the team’s special teams star, missed a critical punt that the Seahawks’ Leon Washington was able to return for 25 yards before the go-ahead touchdown. His coverage could have prevented that. At this point, the injuries are starting to pile up. With Steve Gregory (hip) out, Julian Edelman (hand) out, and Dont’a Hightower (knee) out, the Patriots desperately need to get healthy fast.
3) The Patriots reverted to a pass first team — For two weeks, the Patriots were a running powerhouse. They piled up 498 yards on the ground as the offense steamrolled Buffalo and Denver. On Sunday, the Patriots amassed a measly 87 yards rushing on 26 running plays. It was clear the team abandoned the running game early on. Stevan Ridley was having a tough time finding holes and Brandon Bolden’s knee injury took him out of the equation. Danny Woodhead was still able to get loose, but Sunday’s game was markedly different. Tom Brady dropped back to pass 59 times. It seems, when pressed, the Patriots go to what works best: Brady with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately, he didn’t have his usual superb outing.
4) The one thing nobody seems to be worried about — The offensive line. Seems like that was last millennium’s topic du jour.
5) Small bites — Wes Welker has now caught at least one pass in 100 consecutive games. He had 10 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. His 46-yard TD was the second longest of his career. And he tied Jerry Rice for the most 10-catch, 100-yard games in NFL history with 15. His four straight 100-yard games ties a team record set by Randy Moss in 2007 … Jermaine Cunningham made his first start. He played defensive end while Rob Ninkovich moved to linebacker with Dont’a Hightower out … Chandler Jones had another monster effort, recording his first two-sack game. He had nine tackles, a forced fumble, a tackle for a loss, and three quarterback hits. He has three forced fumbles this season. Praise him, you shall … There were no playing repercussions for Brandon Spikes’s homophobic tweet. He played the entire game.