By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s unbelievable — unbelievable — to have football back.
Sunday night’s matchup between the Patriots and Seahawks was just so great — capital G-R-8 — that it’s important to at least acknowledge that having that particular element back in our lives is a real delight. That the two teams added yet another classic to their unlikely cross-country rivalry by exchanging haymakers and bringing things down to the very final play yet again made it stand out all the more.
Consider where we all were for so long without sports. We binged out Netflix and watched the trashy Tiger show and watched seemingly every movie ever made. Some were all right. Some were terrible. It was all we had for entertainment.
But there’s simply nothing in the world like the heart-pounding, eyeball-magnetizing drama that played out in real time on Sunday evening. There’s just no substitute.
Seeing 80,000 empty seats may be super uncomfortable, and the fake crowd noise may be terrible, and it all certainly doesn’t feel right. But Sunday night’s instant classic showed that without a doubt, these games can still be special. At a time when it feels like there’s not a whole lot of reason to jump for joy, that’s at least one reason to celebrate.
Now, leftover thoughts from the Seahawks’ 35-30 win over the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.
–The James White news was really, really heartbreaking, especially when you see that despite his having been around for some time, he’s still just 28 years old. Sports writers sometimes have a tendency to state the obvious, but it’s impossible to discuss the game without first addressing the horrific circumstances that surrounded it.
–Might as well start with the final play. Lots of people are up in arms with the play call, and its predictability, etc., etc. Honestly, not to sound like Mr. Peter Carroll after the most brutal Super Bowl loss of all time but … it’s a great call if it works.
I say that in jest, yes, but stopping the Patriots’ power run game from the goal line is going to be an absolute bear for defenses all year. Perhaps you had seen it work so well all night? And last week? Perhaps you heard Cris Collinsworth saying “I have no idea how you stop this” just before Josh McDaniels unveiled a wrinkle by popping fullback Jakob Johnson out to the flat for a play-action touchdown pass.
Obviously it didn’t work out, because the Seahawks made a tremendous play, and Newton made a decision that he regrets. He wishes he bounced the play outside, and if he had done that he would have high-stepped his way to a walk-off touchdown. Instead he followed his blocking and it got blown up. That’s sports, baby.
–And rather than just saying “the Seahawks made a play,” let’s take a closer look at who and why and how.
Really, it’s not a bad play call. It’s hat on a hat, and the Patriots are in position to win the game with it. They just need to be the stronger team. They weren’t.
The play should work.
Alas, Ryan Izzo was the only one to successfully block his man. Mike Onwenu held the eventual tackler, L.J. Collier, to no avail. And Johnson got submarined by Lano Hill, thus slamming a door shut if Newton was thinking about popping outside in a flash. It didn’t help that Bobby Wagner sold out to shoot the A gap and get into the backfield, which not only prevented Shaq Mason from getting around as a lead blocker but also pushed Mason back into Newton’s space.
It’s a complex sport. More complicated than the average viewer comprehends on a snap-to-snap basis. But sometimes it’s quite simple: When you’re stronger, you win the down. In this case, when you win the down, you win the game.
–There’s a lot of football to discuss but not before we address the elephant in the room: Pete Carroll, sir, you have a chewing gum problem.
This man is 3-1 against Bill Belichick's Patriots. Granted, yeah, it's a big 1. But still. Life is weird. pic.twitter.com/qMKenOsdFO
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) September 21, 2020
That’s entirely too much chewing gum, Peter. Even for you.
Put the gum down, Peter. Walk away from the gum.
Just a preposterous way to exist right there.
–From the “We Missed Football” department, may we present … Chase Winovich:
–It was a great game but the Patriots’ defense had a brutal night. They did manage to force Seattle to punt four times, which seems like a minor win. We’re going to pin one of those, though, on Peter Carroll being absolutely addicted to calling passing plays when he needs to run the ball for a yard to beat the Patriots. What’s that guy thinking? Even if the Seahawks somehow get stopped on third-and-1, it forces New England to burn its final timeout with 1:50 left. Instead, after a timeout, Peter was like, “Throw it, Bev!” And everyone was like, “Dude, Bev’s not here anymore.” And Peter was like, “Let’s go baby!”
And then they threw incomplete. That was insane.
Anyways, the Patriots’ defense really made a mess of it. The coverage bust on the Freddie Swain touchdown was the worst, no doubt, but watching the Seahawks do pretty much whatever they’d like for the majority of this game provided a blunt reminder that life is going to be very different than it was last year for the New England defense.
Gee, I wonder why …
–I must say, though, the D.K. Metcalf touchdown was pretty spectacular. He got a step on Stephon Gilmore, which is a feat in and of itself. But Gilmore being Gilmore, he made up for that lost step and ended up making a play on the ball that would have disrupted the pass nine times out of 10. This was number 10, though.
That is a legitimately great defensive player. Better throw and catch, though.
–Wilson got absolutely decked by Winovich while delivering that pass, too, which made it all the more impressive. But the most Russ of Russ touchdowns was his first one, when he danced around pressure, bought extra time, and delivered a perfect strike to the end zone.
That Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett connection is TOO PURE 🤯 pic.twitter.com/mJ8GYZfpjx
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 21, 2020
If you’re invested in the success of the Patriots, perhaps that one’s tough to enjoy. But Russell Wilson really is a special quarterback, and he loves to let that show whenever he gets his chance on national TV.
–I stated earlier that the play call on the final play was fine. On a couple of third downs, however … not so much.
Crumple that one up in a ball and throw it in the garbage can. It stinks.
Longtime readers of this column are familiar with the Zero Humans Defense, which has been deployed against the Patriots with shocking regularity week after week, year after year. In this case, the Patriots flipped the script with the Zero Humans Blocking Offense.
It was a poor strategy.
–There were also zero humans who believed Nick Folk was going to hit that 51-yard field goal, am I right?!
(For real though. I don’t know if it was just a talk radio thing or a Twitter thing, but it seems like Stephen Gostkowski was really taken for granted all those years. He was 23-for-30 from 50 yards and longer for the first 12 years of his career. That’s silly. Patriots do need a kicker. Maybe they should draft one or something. Like maybe a kid who can go 4-for-4 on field goals and 2-for-2 on PATs in his second career game. I don’t know, just thinking out loud.)
–I was super impressed with Cam Newton’s entire … everything. I wrote a whole thing about it. You should read it!
One thing that didn’t quite make the cut in that story was Newton’s escapability. Watch this play:
Just a throwaway, right? Wrong, blockhead! (Burned you.) By evading that sack, Newton kept it a third-and-manageable, and he completed a 14-yard pass to Damiere Byrd on the next play to keep the drive moving. They’d eventually score a touchdown to go up 14-7.
And watch this one:
Newton also managed to squeeze two celebrations out of one touchdown. A lesser man would have been winded after scoring an NFL touchdown and then jogging across the field to celebrate. But not Cam. He was charged up, and he scored again.
Dynamite. When I think of Cam Newton, I think, “Dynamite.”
If he can stay healthy — which it seems like he can — this will be a fun year.
–One more thing on Newton: We can probably stop doing shoulder strength analysis. The zip is freaking ZIPPY.
The zip was so zippy that the potential game-winning pass zipped right on through Edelman’s hands.
The inches we need … are everywhere around us.
Every break of the game, every minute, every second.
That movie was pretty bad if we're being honest with one another hey anyways this was a close one. pic.twitter.com/CFDNQVNrc1
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) September 21, 2020
We all wondered if Cam would have that zip. Turned out he has too much zip. A blessing and a curse, turns out.
–I have a tendency to dump on officials here, but in the interest of fairness, we have to shine a light on some incredible work by the goal line by Dave Hawkshaw.
I did that in a tweet, and I simply will not type it twice.
Gotta be honest. If I was the official there, the pylon kick would've made me rule incomplete immediately. Kind of an incredible job of officiating right there.
Side judge Dave Hawkshaw. High five for you. That was some honest-to-goodness officiating right there.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) September 21, 2020
So there. The official did a good job. Whatever. Moving on!
–N’Keal Harry … how did he hold on to the football after absorbing a blatant head shot on a fourth down over the middle? Nobody is sure.
When that happened, I honestly thought we might not be seeing Harry for a few months. Instead, he somehow got up, talked some trash, and ended up having the best game of his career. He still isn’t the power runner or the evasive ball carrier in the open field that he probably should be, but if you’re evaluating progress? He had the best game of his young career last week, and he was better this week.
Now when Metcalf beats the reigning DPOY for a 54-yard touchdown, it’s still not going to look great. But Harry showed a lot in this game that he had not ever before.
Now perhaps it is time for the Patriots to try throwing him the ball down the field instead of at the line of scrimmage…
–It also would have been a rather big story if Quinton Dunbar hadn’t been able to bring Harry down immediately a yard shy of the goal line.
A touchdown would have been neat, but that’s still a big play in a big moment for a second-year receiver who’s building up some confidence with the help of his quarterback.
–Kind of unbelievable that given the looooong and loving relationship that flourished between Julian Edelman and Tom Brady, it took until Week 2 with Cam Newton for Edelman to set a new career high in single-game receiving yards.
It goes without saying around these parts, but nevertheless: Edelman is such a baller. He’s not 100 percent, and he’s out there ripping up the defense, absorbing some serious punishment, landing on his neck, playing while extraordinarily gassed, and looking like his normal self even at 34 years of age.
Who knows how long he wants to play. Maybe he wants to play until he’s 50 like his buddy, Tom. But it’s still probably high time to start looking at these performances with an added level of appreciation, because the guy is certainly not holding back with regard to his physical safety on the football field.
(Snagging that game-winner would have been a good way to ensure that would happen, if we’re being honest here.)
–Sports are beautiful:
Let’s do it again next week, shall we?