Fifteen thoughts on the Patriots’ 35-30 loss to the Seahawks …
1. The Patriots couldn’t quite complete the comeback Sunday night, with Cam Newton getting tackled short of the end zone on the final play. Perhaps there will be sports-radio carping about that final play call, or concerns about a defense that allowed Russell Wilson to throw touchdown passes to five different receivers. It was a tough loss to a tough Seattle team. But unless you’re part of the entitled, perpetually aggrieved “U Mad Bro?’’ element of the fan base, I can’t imagine there is any other lasting emotion about the state of the Patriots this morning other than giddiness about what could be to come. Because Cam Newton is still Cam Newton.
2. Newton’s performance against Miami in the opener was encouraging, but it wasn’t complete. He threw just 19 passes, and Josh McDaniels seemed more willing to put trust in his legs than his arm in Week 1. But Sunday night? We got the full 2020 Cam, which was a more than a reasonable facsimile of the 2015 Cam that won the NFL Most Valuable Player award. He finished 30 of 44 for 397 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, against a tough Seattle defense. He was also the Patriots’ leading rusher, with 11 carries for 47 yards and two more touchdowns (and so close to a third). The Cam Newton we saw Sunday is the superstar, Superman Cam Newton we weren’t sure we’d see again. Nothing else from this game matters nearly as much.
3. Any concerns about the health of Newton’s arm should be extinguished by now. He was also strikingly accurate, save for a badly placed throw on his interception. Concerns that the Patriots wouldn’t be able to play from behind or would struggle if they relied on the passing game have evaporated. They can have a productive offense even if he was strictly a pocket passer, and of course he is much more than that. They lost Sunday, and Newton couldn’t convert the final play, but now we know: They’re going to be very good, again and still. Get ready for a lot of people around the league to gripe that he never should have gotten to the Patriots in free agency. It’s probably already begun.
4. It’s kind of amazing that in his second game playing with Newton, and at 34 years old, Julian Edelman just recorded the most receiving yards he’s ever had in a game, with 179 on 8 catches. Who knew Tom Brady was holding him back as a deep threat all these years? (I’m kidding. Or am I? I am.) On the troubling side, Edelman was folded, spindled and nearly mutilated more than once by Jamal Adams and the mean Seattle defense. Edelman and Newton take way too many hits, and something tells me they’re not going to change their fearless approach.
5. That was a reassuring night for those us in the Don’t Write Off N’Keal Harry Club: He had 8 catches on 12 targets for 72 yards, easily the best game of his career so far. He had a couple of receptions on the final drive, and his catch of a Newton laser over the middle on fourth and 3 with 49 seconds left in the first quarter was truly impressive. The second-year receiver took a dirty helmet-to-helmet hit on the play from Seattle safety Quandray Diggs, who was ejected and ought to be suspended. Harry held on to the ball to keep what would be a touchdown drive going.
6. The Seahawks have a second-year receiver of their own who went later than Harry in the 2019 draft and, to the irritation of some Patriots fans, had more early success. D.K. Metcalf had a few moments Sunday that might have left a Patriots fans wondering again how he might have fit in here, including a ridiculously easy 54-yard touchdown on a perfect Wilson “moon ball,’’ as Cris Collinsworth called it. Stephon Gilmore, who didn’t allow a touchdown last season as the primary defender, was in coverage on the Metcalf TD catch, and there wasn’t much he could have done other than grow five inches in height while the ball was in the air.
7. If you absolutely must have something to worry about this morning, the Patriots’ defense has some areas of concern. The Seahawks, who don’t exactly have a Shaun Alexander or Curt Warner in their backfield these days, averaged 5.1 yards per rush, gaining 154 yards on the ground. That’s not going to get it done. I’m less alarmed by the five touchdown passes Russell Wilson dropped on them considering at least three of them came on throws maybe one or two other quarterbacks in the league can make. The Patriots didn’t even hold the Seahawks to a three-and-out until early in the fourth quarter.
8. When free agency and opt outs left glaring voids on the Patriots’ defense, particularly at linebacker, we all wondered which players would fill those voids – or more granularly, which players Belichick had seen something in to believe they were ready to step in. It’s pretty clear Chase Winovich, who nuked would-be blocker Carlos Hyde before sacking Wilson early in the second quarter, is one of those players. Others must emerge. Ja’Whaun Bentley reminds me of Brandon Spike sin coverage. That is not praise.
9. I’m not saying New England sports fans are completely spoiled, but over the last decade if not longer, I think we’ve forgotten what a lousy Celtics coach, a lousy Bruins goalie, a lousy Patriots quarterback, and a lousy Patriots kicker look like. Heck, those last two have been positions of excellence since the mid-‘90s around here. It looks like the excellence at quarterback will continue, but I’m not sold on Nick Folk, who badly missed a 51-yard field goal and made a later chip shot, is up for extending the Adam Vinatieri/Stephen Gostkowski tradition.
10. After JEdelman’s first catch of the night in the second quarter, NBC showed some of his big-game highlights, leading Al Michaels to say, “If there was a Hall of Fame for postseason only, he’d be in.” Isn’t that the whole reason Lynn Swann is in? Edelman isn’t going to be high on any regular season all-time receiving lists, but he’s going to have a very real Canton case.
11. Question: If you could take any quarterback just for this season in the quest to win a Super Bowl, how many QBs would you take before turning to Wilson? I think he tends to get underrated by us East Coasters, in part because he plays in Seattle, in part because it seems like he tries a little too hard sometimes, and in part because of what happened in Super Bowl XLIX. But the only guy I’d take over him for sure is Patrick Mahomes.
12. The Patriots certainly had no answers for him Sunday night. The Seahawks’ first possession resulted in a Pick-6 for Devin McCourty and a 7-0 Patriots lead, but that was no fault of his own – his pass thudded off tight end Greg Olson’s mitts and right to McCourty. Otherwise, Wilson was pretty much flawless, completing 21 of 28 passes, throwing five touchdown passes to five different receivers, and flummoxing the Patriots (particularly Ja’Whuan Bentley) with his mobility.
13. I was ready to mock the NBC broadcast for treating Jamal Adams like he was some sort of superhuman combination of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor … but that’s basically how he played, with 10 tackles, a sack, and two quarterback hits. He did get toasted by Julian Edelman a couple of times in the second half, but the happy refugee from the Jets certainly looks like a defensive player of the year candidate so far.
14. The obligatory weekly takeaway on Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady’s performance: He looks pretty much the same as the guy who was the Patriots quarterback last year. Brady was 21 of 35 for 217 yards, a touchdown, and a pick in Tampa Bay’s 31-17 win over the Panthers. Brady made some sweet throws – he seems to be building a connection with Mike Evans that was absent a week ago – while mixing in the occasional mallard. I’ll never diminish anything he’s accomplished, but I enjoy watching the current Patriots quarterback more.
15. James White is one the nicest, most upbeat people I’ve met in 20 years of covering Boston sports. He’s the kind of person you talk with for the first time and walk away saying, “Now that guy was raised well.” Our heartfelt thoughts are with him after his father, Tyrone, was killed and his mother, Lisa, was reportedly in critical condition after a car accident Sunday in Florida.
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