On Sunday night, the New England Patriots visited CenturyLink Field for the first time since quarterback Russell Wilson’s rookie season.
There would be no 12th man in attendance. But the end result would the same as in the fall of 2012.
Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks defeated New England, 35-30, as a final push with three seconds remaining fell feet short.
Patriots go without a captain in the backfield
The Patriots entered the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff without running back and team captain James White in uniform. White’s father, Tyrone, a captain with the Miami-Dade Police Department, was killed Sunday in a car accident that has reportedly left his mother, Lisa, in critical condition.
Three backs were active for New England. Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and J.J. Taylor stepped on. And in that order.
But Cam Newton accounted for two rushing touchdowns a week after powering in for a pair, setting an NFL QB record with his eighth career multi-TD performance on the ground. He’d also lead the way with 47 yards on 11 carries. The Patriots headed into the locker room for halftime having averaged 2.4 yards per carry. That average went to 2.6 by game’s end. In contrast, the offense tallied 217 yards on the ground in the opener against the Miami Dolphins.
Tip leads to McCourty’s second career pick-six
Seattle’s opening drive ended after three plays. And it ended with the football in the hands of Devin McCourty.
The centerfielder of New England’s defense sat in zone as a pass tipped off tight end Greg Olsen’s gloves. What was a crossing route wound up an interception returned for a touchdown from 43 yards out.
It marked the second pick for a touchdown of McCourty’s Patriots tenure. The previous came against Derek Anderson and the Buffalo Bills back in 2018. He would tell the camera in the end zone, “Two-eight. We love you, bro. We love you.”
Rookies share kickoff reps for New England
Kyle Dugger ran six punts back for points during his days at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. And on Sunday, the top pick in New England’s April draft class got his turn back deep for kickoffs.
Dugger platooned with the aforementioned Taylor, a 5-foot-6 undrafted rookie from Arizona, and picked up 30 yards on the initial return versus Seattle. The safety added a trio of tackles and helped disrupt up the middle on a sack split between outside linebackers Chase Winovich and Derek Rivers.
The Patriots had taken the field for three kickoff returns in Week 1. Each resulted in a touchback. In Week 2, four were fielded for 99 yards.
Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year among those tested
Stephon Gilmore conceded one touchdown during his NFL Defensive Player of the Year campaign of 2019. The corner conceded one of the 54-yard variety Sunday against Seahawks wideout D.K. Metcalf.
Lined up in the slot at 6-foot-4, Metcalf got an inside release in the second quarter and tracked the ball outward over the outstretched Gilmore. A deflection it nearly was. But a 14-14 score on a drop in the bucket it became. Metcalf finished the game with four receptions for 92 yards on six targets. The misfires proved to be as physical as the connections. The same went for the run-blocking assignments in a matchup that went beyond the whistle.
Yet Gilmore wasn’t alone on Sunday. There were five passing touchdowns from Wilson to five different targets. The Seahawks struck with wide receiver Tyler Lockett on an in-breaking pattern down at the goal line with cornerback Jason McCourty nearby. And the latter McCourty would witness a Super Bowl XLIX-reminiscent score to receiver David Moore in the third quarter to make it 21-17. A blown coverage for the New England secondary also sent Seahawks rookie Freddie Swain in. Then, running back Chris Carson swung out into the open field against hybrid safety Adrian Phillips.
Product of International Player Pathway program gets No. 1
Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson slipped out from shotgun formation and into the flat to make it a 28-23 game early in the fourth quarter.
In the process, the German native by way of the Tennessee Volunteers and Stuttgart Scorpions became the first member of the NFL International Player Pathway program to secure a touchdown in the regular season.
Johnson had been promoted from the New England practice squad last September. The 25-year-old appeared in four contests as a rookie before going on injured reserve.
New England’s passing game builds its case in time
Newton’s first turnover as Patriot came on a comeback route intended for his ex-Carolina Panthers teammate. But Damiere Byrd was quickly eclipsed by Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar late in the third frame, and a difference of four points soon was 11.
Newton moved forward, going 30-of-44 through the air for 397 yards versus Seattle. He found veteran Julian Edelman for eight of those completions and a career-high 179 of those yards, including a diving 49-yarder soon after the interception. A 33-yarder followed.
Edelman, who had been listed as questionable on the injury report due to a knee issue, got into a rhythm. As did fellow New England wide receivers in Byrd and N’Keal Harry, who posted 72 receiving yards apiece. A positive step. The offensive line had allowed one sack by the time Newton ran out of time against defensive lineman L.J. Collier.