BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots’ defense, and particularly the secondary, was certainly not excellent on Sunday afternoon. And as a whole, the unit may not be one of the better defensive backfields in the NFL. There’s no doubt about that.
However, even though the lasting images from Sunday’s Patriots loss will be of the secondary looking terrible on just about every Russell Wilson deep ball, it was Tom Brady and the offense that were at fault for the loss.
Consider the following:
Just before halftime, the Patriots took over at the Seattle 24 with 40 seconds to go before halftime. Brady hit Wes Welker for a gain of 15. The Patriots should have called timeout or run to the line to run the next play quickly but instead ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. The offense scrambled to the line to run a play, but they instead stood there for a few seconds before finally calling a timeout, leaving them with 19 seconds and one timeout. It was a grand waste of precious time, which proved to be costly when a 10-second runoff took away their chance for a chip shot field goal before halftime. There goes the easy chance for three points.
Brady was lucky not to be intercepted on second down in that sequence, as he threw behind a crossing Rob Gronkowski and hit Earl Thomas in the chest. It should have been a touchdown, and a good pass there would have rendered all the other criticism from that disastrous series meaningless.
The Patriots led 17-10 after the second quarter. The Seahawks’ only three possessions in the third quarter resulted in three punts. The Seahawks were held to 15 total yards and two first downs that quarter. Despite the defense doing its job, the Patriots only scored three points the entire quarter, extending the lead to just 20-10.
Facing a third-and-1 from the 6-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Brady lobbed a pass over the head of Welker and into the arms of Thomas. This time, the defensive back made the pick, and the Patriots again lost the chance at an easy three points (at least).
Even with that huge mistake by Brady, the defense bailed him out on the ensuing possession, with Jerod Mayo forcing and recovering a fumble just three plays later. The ensuing Patriots drive, though, ended with a field goal, and the Patriots wouldn’t score again.
So yes, the defense failed to make plays at the end of the game, yes, the coverage broke down entirely on the game-winning catch by Sidney Rice, and yes, there are plenty of reasons to feel badly about the Patriots’ defensive backfield. But for three quarters, the defense did its job and gave the offense the opportunity to build an insurmountable lead. The offense just couldn’t get it done.
Now let’s get into all the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 24-23 loss to the Seahawks.
–If you think my blaming of Brady and the offense for the loss was harsh, know that Mr. Brady agrees with me.
“That’s why we lose games,” he said, “because we squander opportunities to score points.”
–Bill Belichick doesn’t think his team had a problem closing out the game. He thinks his team had a problem from start to finish.
“We just didn’t play well the whole game today,” Angry Bill Belichick said. “It was the end of the game, it was the first half, it was the second half.”
Well, Angry Bill, did anyone do a good job on Sunday?
“Nothing we did today was good enough,” Angry Bill said. “On offense, defense, special teams, coaches, players, everybody involved in the game. Just wasn’t good enough.”
–Bill almost looked a little happy when he congratulated Russell Wilson and the Seahawks for the victory during his postgame press conference. It looked as if in that very moment, he thought of a real nasty, sarcastic comment he could make to his team when they’re going over the film. I feel little things like that are the only things that make Bill happy.
–Hey, NFL referees. Next time Vince Wilfork busts through the line early and has a free shot to squish the miniature opposing quarterback, maybe you should blow the play dead. It’s just a suggestion, but it just might save a life.
–I’m not an offensive line coach, but I know that this doesn’t look quite right.
–Brandon Lloyd looked like he may have hurt his shoulder pretty badly when making a diving attempt on the Patriots’ final drive, and that looks like it could be bad news. The good news is that he proved that he’s not human with yet another ridiculous sideline grab. This one was a spin-o-rama toe-tapper for a gain of 20. Words can’t really do it justice, but he’s doing this at least once a game. That is ridiculous.
–Speaking of ridiculous, how about Wes Welker? The hit he absorbed from Brandon Browner would have made most men question whether they want to even live anymore; it made Welker miss about 60 seconds.
And what’d he do upon returning to the field? Catch a pass and run for 11 yards on a third-and-10, of course.
To say Welker is tough as nails is an understatement. He’s tough as railroad stakes, and he had 107 receiving yards and a touchdown before halftime. He finished the game with 10 catches for 138 yards, his fourth straight game with 100 or more yards. Despite the three-catch Week 1 performance and the Grand Welker Phase-Out Plan of 2012, Welker is averaging eight catches for 104 yards per game, proving he’s worth every single one of those $9.5 million dollars he’s making this year.
–It was kind of funny that he took a few seconds before realizing, “Yup … yup I can’t breathe. And I kind of want to cry. I’m gonna need a sub for a few plays here.”
–Nothing better defines sports fans and mob mentality better than 68,000 fans ferociously booing a call that was made after a referee watched a slow-motion replay in high definition from eight different angles. “Booooooooooo!!!!!”
–Do you ever wonder what goes through the minds of the guys who sit in their kitchen on Sunday mornings and say, “Kids, honey, gather around the table. I’ve made a big decision. Today I am going to … bring a giant “D” and a poster of a fence to the game. It is my calling in life, and the world will be better off. You needn’t call me a hero … but you can if you want to.”
–If you want to point at Brady’s 395 passing yards as an indication he had a good game, I’d redirect your attention to his 6.81 yards per attempt. For comparison, if that were his season average, he’d rank 25th in the league — right behind Christian Ponder and right ahead of Andrew Luck.
–Little Tiny Itty-Bitty Small Short Vertically Challenged Danny Woodhead (excuse me for using his full name) gets a lot of credit for doing what he does despite his size, but I’m not sure it can really be overdone. And if you don’t believe me, I’d like you to find another 5-foot-8 (in heels, maybe) running back who can slip through four defenders and barrel over another two guys to gain an extra four yards to pick up a first down. All hail Little Danny Woodhead (I think that’s his Confirmation name, based on how often commentators call him that).
–I thought Aaron Hernandez looked decent early on, but in the second half, he looked to be moving in slow motion. You have to hope that’s just part of the long road back to full health and not an indication of the level of effectiveness Hernandez will have going forward. His biggest asset is his shiftiness and elusiveness, and he struggled to do much without strength in that injured ankle on Sunday.
–As warranted as criticism of Brady is for this game, it still comes due to the high standards Brady has created for himself. Take, for example, the second-and-10 play when he ducked under a defender looking to dislodge his neck, calmly stepped to the side and hit a wide-open Woodhead past the sticks along the sideline. He makes mistakes just like any other quarterback, but he makes plays such as that one which not many QBs can make. It’s those great plays that make the common misplays so surprising to see. You see?
–Brandon Spikes got penalized 15 yards for a “blow to the head of the quarterback,” a blow which was delivered by Spikes’ elbow as he ran toward the quarterback. These penalties are my biggest pet peeve. Football helmets are made of hard plastic with metal facemasks; elbows are made of bones that can break and chip when they hit hard plastic or metal. What stands to suffer more damage in a collision — a bone hitting hard plastic and/or metal at a high speed or a head inside a helmet? The fact that a stray hand or arm tapping a quarterback’s head draws the same 15-yard penalty as launching a helmet into a helmet (Jason Jones on Brady, for example) does not make any sense.
–Congratulations are in order for Nate Solder, who picked up his first career NFL sack on Sunday. He really got in a good lick on Brady there. Do you think it was awkward in the huddle after that one? Did Brady call out the next play, then instruct his linemen to try not to tackle him this time?
–I’ve seen several replays of Braylon Edwards’ touchdown, but I’m still waiting to see one that shows Alfonzo Dennard make contact with Edwards. The only contact I saw was Edwards slightly pushing off. Maybe that didn’t deserve to be called, but certainly defensive pass interference was not a call that should have been made there.
There’s just something fishy about officiating in the end zone in Seattle.
–Deion Branch is maybe the seventh best receiving option Brady has, yet the quarterback still threw Deion’s way four times on Sunday. Brady completed as many of those passes with Deion as he did with Seattle defensive backs. It makes me wonder if Brady wanted to help his buddy have a big game against his old team. If so, that’s not very intelligent. If not, I’d need some sort of explanation as to why Brady kept throwing at a man who couldn’t get any separation all game.
Branch still has some use in this offense, but not when he’s blanketed by 6-foot-3 cornerbacks who aren’t giving him an inch to breathe.
–Richard Sherman had plenty to say on Twitter after the game, but I thought his best play came when he gained a head of steam for about 20 yards while running at Rob Gronkowski, then promptly bounced off the hip of the tight end. Rob Gronkowski is strong.
–There are certain basic principles that apply to all football teams which the Patriots like to sometimes ignore. In this game, they decided to pass on third-and-8 when they were trying to run out the clock in the fourth quarter. But Brady threw to Branch, who may have been hit before the ball got there but still couldn’t make the catch. The clock stopped, allowing the Seahawks to keep a timeout in their back pocket for the ensuing game-winning drive.
Of course, thanks to two rookies (Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner) at safety (one being a rugby player) and some atrocious coverage all around, the Seahawks didn’t necessarily need that timeout. Still, you put yourself in a better position to win when you force the rookie quarterback to drive the entire field without a timeout. And if you’re going to throw to Branch in tight coverage, you might as well just spike the ball.
–On the other side of things, the Patriots blew two of their own timeouts, one after a second-down incompletion in the third quarter and another after a first-down run with 5:35 left in the game. You think they might have wanted those back on that final drive?
–Zoltan Mesko is averaging under 40 yards per punt this season, a noticeable dropoff from his average of 46.5 yards last season. And for the second straight week, Mesko had an awful punt in a big spot. Last week he punted from the Patriots’ 44 to just the opposing 19-yard line, and on Sunday, with the Patriots looking to force Wilson to drive the length of the field, Mesko kicked from the Patriots’ 43-yard line to just the opposing 18-yard line. The punt had little power behind it, and Leon Washington was able to return it 25 yards to cut the field in half for Wilson and the offense.
I’m not sure how you tell a punter to get better, but it would be advisable for Mesko to … kick harder.
–The following week of sports talk radio is likely to include a whole lot of yelling and screaming about who lost this game. Was it the offense? Defense? Coaching? All of the above?
My answer is simple. It doesn’t matter who lost this game, because this guy right here won it.
–After six weeks, the Patriots are 3-3, so it’s going to be hard for them to go 14-2, 15-1 or 16-0 like many people predicted they’d finish the season. While they’ve left themselves open to plenty of criticism, it’s important to remember that they lost their first game by two points and lost their second and third games by one point each. They’ve lost their three games by a combined four points; they’ve won their three games by a combined 55 points.
They’ve got some issues, and they’re making too many mistakes, but when you look at the point differential like that, it’s clear that they’re going to win a lot more games than they’re going to lose. There’s reason for frustration in New England after Sunday’s loss, but there’s absolutely no reason for anyone to think the season is in jeopardy. Not even a little bit.
If Tom Brady is your biggest problem after a one-point loss on the road, things aren’t all that bad.
Screen shots courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind.