Going into the Patriots clash with the Seahawks on Sunday night, many people, including us here at PatsBuzz, thought of the Week 2 matchup as a good measuring stick game for New England. The result of the game was a 35-30 loss for the Patriots. With that being said, even with a loss, New England’s performance, particularly on offense, will surely increase the Patriots’ confidence moving forward. Let’s jump into some of those high-level performances, as well as some of the struggles in our latest edition of “Winners and Losers“.
For the second week in a row, Cam Newton is our biggest winner. His stat line tonight was ridiculously good. Newton completed 30/44 passing for 397 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Additionally, he had 11 carries for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
His big mistake was the interception. It was a late throw and behind the receiver. But even then, it’s hard to place much, if any, fault on Newton for the loss. It was a truly masterful performance, and a majority of it came through the air. Just look at the beauty he threw to Julian Edelman in the third quarter.
The most impressive aspect of Newton’s performance was his ability to drive the ball in crunch time. With 4:32 left in the game, the Patriots received the ball down 35-23. Newton led the offense to the endzone on that very drive and nearly did it again minutes later, after being stopped a couple of yards short as time expired. If Newton can sling it like that throughout the entirety of the season, the Patriots are going to cause problems for a lot of defenses.
Julian Edelman is a warrior. He clearly battled some injuries throughout the majority of the game, but that didnt stop him from putting up massive numbers. In fact, it was a career night for Edelman. His 179 receiving yards were a career-high. Below you can see one of his eight catches on the night. He lays out for this one and makes an incredible catch.
It truly is so impressive how Edelman, always the focus of opposing secondaries and battling through injuries, consistently produces. The Patriots would love for Edelman to bounce back health-wise and be ready to go against the Raiders. His chemistry with Newton is invaluable.
Offensive Line (Pass Blocking)
The offensive line followed up a strong Week 1 performance, with another one in Week 2. They weren’t as dominant in the run game, but they weren’t the sole reason for the running struggles (we’ll discuss that later). Regardless, they were very strong in pass protection.
Newton threw over 40 times and was only sacked once. He did take a few pressures, but overall he had plenty of time to throw. The Seahawks pass rush isn’t the best, but it’s still a notable performance from the big guys upfront.
One thing we knew about the Patriots offense coming into the season was the talent of the offensive line, and thus far they haven’t disappointed.
What Damiere Byrd did on Sunday night is exactly what the Patriots were looking for when they signed him this offseason. He played very well, finishing with six catches for 72 yards. His connection with old teammate, Newton was on full display.
If the Patriots want to get to where they want to go, this is the type of production they need from Byrd. It’s clear through two games that Byrd is going to be a big piece of this puzzle moving forward. He’s played a ton of snaps through the first two weeks of the season.
N’Keal Harry wasn’t perfect Sunday night by any means, but he made some nice plays, especially down the stretch. Harry had eight catches for 72 yards, on a whopping 12 targets. He made three of those eight catches on the final drive of the game. Those three catches resulted in 42 yards.
Earlier in the game, Harry had a tough catch, that resulted in the ejection of Quandre Diggs. This play is toughness personified.
As with any player, there are also some spots Harry can improve. One of those being his run after the catch. As many have discussed, Harry has been unable to create in the open field through two games. He’s got more work to do, but those struggles don’t discredit the obvious jump in play we saw from Harry last night. He’s getting better each week and that’s exactly what you want.
The running back group as a whole, in this case Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, was flat out not good when running the football on Sunday night. Because Burkhead made a couple of nice plays in the passing game, we decided to keep him off this portion of the list. Michel, on the other hand, had seven carries for 19 yards, which resulted in 2.7 yards per carry . To be fair, football is a team sport and collectively the Patriots need to do better when running with the backs, but it’s very tough to ignore the elusiveness issues for Michel.
It will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle the running back postion when Damien Harris is cleared to come off the injured reserve.
Some guys in the secondary struggled more than others, but as a whole, the group just didn’t play well in Week 2. Granted, they were facing one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but it’s still a down performance.
The group surrendered 288 passing yards from Russell Wilson to go along with five touchdown passes. That’s just not good enough for a group as talented as the Patriots secondary. In particular, we thought Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty had a number of noticeable struggles in coverage. Even Stephon Gilmore allowed a deep touchdown pass. Although, as you can see in the clip below that was more about the greatness of Wilson than bad play from Gilmore.
We wouldn’t sound the alarms just yet, even after this uncharacteristic performance from the secondary. The talent is still there, sometimes you just face a great player and that’s what happened in Seattle.
We were believers in Ja’Whaun Bentley coming into the season, and we still feel he has a role on this team, but he had a rough game Sunday night. His lack of speed was on full display, particularly when Wilson ran right around him in the first quarter on a scramble. It also looked like he had a few issues in coverage.
The problem is the Patriots don’t have a whole lot of depth at linebacker. When Bentley came out, the Patriots brought in extra defensive backs to play the linebacker role. Unfortunately, that then opened them up to vulnerability on run defense. Josh Uche could presumably help out at the linebacker spot when he’s back from injury, but it’s hard to rely on a rookie.
The Patriots defensive line struggled both with a pass rush and the run defense. The group managed little natural pass rush with most pressure coming off the blitz. The Patriots ended with only two sacks. Wilson was left with plenty of time to make big plays. They’ll need to create more pressure moving forward to help out the secondary.
As for the run defense, it was also a struggle. Seattle rushed 30 times for 154 yards, good for 5.1 yards per carry. The Patriots probably would have rather given up a few extra yards rushing if it meant selling out to stop Wilson from a big performance, but they did neither.
We won’t harp on the kicker situation too much, but it’s safe to wonder if the Patriots will make a change some point soon. Nick Folk missed another field goal Sunday night. This time a 51-yarder, moving him to 1-3 on the year. Hopefully, Folk can bounce back next week against the Raiders and stabilize the kicker postion.