Patriots recap: 5 things we learned in loss to the Seahawks
The Patriots lost to the Seattle Seahawks 27-24 on Sunday, falling to 3-3 on the year. Tom Brady and the Pats offense looked sharp early, but Seattle’s halftime adjustments stymied New England’s attack and held the top-ranked offense in the NFL to only six second-half points.
Bill Belichick will have his hands full this week with a divisional matchup against the resurgent Jets looming in Week 7. With that in mind, here are the five most important takeaways from Sundays’ game:
Missed opportunities on offense
When a muffed punt set the Patriots up on the Seahawks’ 24 yard line with 40 seconds left in the first half and two timeouts, you could be excused for wondering whether they’d be tacking three or seven onto what was then a 17-10 lead.
Instead, they did neither.
On first down, Wes Welker caught a pass to bring the Patriots to the 9-yard line with 35 seconds left. Instead of instantly calling a timeout to set up a first-and-goal with plenty of time to run three plays and kick a field goal if all else failed, they waited until there were 18 seconds left.
After a short completion to Danny Woodhead and the final timeout, the Pats had 12 seconds left. An incompletion to Aaron Hernandez brought the clock to six seconds and the offense looked to run one more play before bringing on the field goal unit.
It was then—at the absolute worst time— that Brady exhibited a rare mental lapse, throwing the ball away over the middle of the field with one second left. The intentional grounding penalty meant a ten-second clock runoff and the end of the half.
For a quarterback who threw for almost 400 yards, Brady had an inconsistent game. One of his two interceptions came in the Seahawks’ endzone, and another intentional grounding penalty stalled a drive with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots were also forced to waste two timeouts in the second half—one to beat the play clock, and another because 12 men were on the field for a defensive play—that could have helped on the failed last drive.
Continued struggles in the secondary
The Patriots’ woeful secondary gave up six catches of at least 20 yards on the day, and the Seahawks’ rookie QB Russell Wilson garnered a personal best 91.4 quarterback rating (via ESPN’s Stats and Information). The most costly big play, of course, was the 46-yard touchdown bomb to Sidney Rice with just over a minute remaining that gave the ‘Hawks the lead.
There was a time when Belichick and the Patriots D feasted on young quarterbacks, confusing them with unusual blitz and coverage schemes. That hasn’t been the case this year, as both Kevin Kolb and Wilson have looked seasoned beyond their station against New England.
Granted, the Patriots secondary has had to deal with injuries, but consistent breakdowns in zone coverage and mediocre man coverage made the usually conservative Seahawks offense look downright lethal.
At one point, right cornerback Kyle Arrington was removed altogether from the Patriots’ base defense in favor of rookie Alfonzo Dennard. Devin McCourty, the other starting cornerback, was beaten for a key 51-yard catch by the Seahawks’ Golden Tate late in the second half.
Rushing attack takes the week off
The Patriots mustered only 87 yards on the ground after back-to-back 200-yard rushing games in Weeks 5 and 6. The shift seemed intentional by the coaching staff—at halftime, the Patriots had 10 rushes and 30 passing attempts—as they sought to attack the Seahawks via the air.
Stevan Ridley couldn’t carry over his momentum from big performances against Buffalo and Denver, and finished the day with just 34 yards on 16 carries. Brandon Bolden had a little more success, to the tune of six carries for 28 yards, before reaggravating a knee injury.
Danny Woodhead, the Patriots’ third-down and scat back, put in some strong work that included muscling for extra yardage to ensure a first down on the first drive of the second half.
Of course, it’s misleading just to blame the rushing struggles on the backs themselves—or in this case even to include the offensive line. The Seahawks deserve credit for simply outmanning the Pats at the point of attack and stringing out edge rushes all day.
Welker shines, Hernandez returns
Wes Welker made the most of his opportunities on Sunday, hauling in ten passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
The shifty slot receiver gave the Seahawks headaches all afternoon as he beat man coverages and found soft spots in zones. At one point in the second quarter, Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner put an absolutely bone-crunching hit on Welker as he made a short reception. Welker was clearly in pain after the shot, but he didn’t just hold on to the ball—he returned to the field just two plays later to pick up a big first down.
Though almost routine by now, Welkers’ grit and competitive fire are incredible to watch on a weekly basis.
Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski‘s partner-in-tight-end-crime, returned to the field for the first time Sunday after a Week 2 ankle injury. Belichick said after the game that he wanted to ease Hernandez back, and the offensive Swiss Army knife looked almost entirely healthy in his six reception, 30 yard, one touchdown performance.
Injury bug bites Patriots
A number of key players suffered injuries in Sunday’s game, leaving a depleted secondary even weaker and the special teams units without some standout contributors.
A pair of fourth-quarter injuries brought down Matthew Slater, the team’s special teams MVP, and safety Patrick Chung, who also plays on two special teams units. Slater limped off the field, suggesting a lower body injury, and Chung hurt his shoulder.
Rookie upstart Brandon Bolden, a contributor on special teams in addition to offense, reaggravated a knee injury, and Brandon Lloyd left the game on the team’s final drive. There’s no official word yet on Lloyd, but the injury looks to have happened while laying out for a deep pass—the landing was consistent with a shoulder separation or dislocation.
Logan Mankins continues to play through pain, although ESPN’s Field Yates saw evidence that it impacted his performance on Sunday.
This week, the Patriots will look to shake off the sting of Sunday’s last-second defeat. Luckily—with the possible exception of the defensive secondary, where it’s possible that there simply isn’t enough coverage talent right now—the issues look to be correctable heading into an important Week 7 date with the Jets.
Here’s hoping the Patriots figure out some quick fixes.