It was 45 degrees when I woke up this morning. Dammit.
So much for easing into Fall.
On the plus side, I haven’t felt his good about a Patriots loss since maybe 2001, when they held their own against the Rams in what would be the first of two meetings between the teams that year. I don’t think anybody thought New England was going to win the game from the outset, so that they were able to be within a yard of a road upset against one of the better teams in the league is as solid a consolation prize as it gets. There are obviously no moral victories in football, but this was a pretty easy pill to swallow.
- First thing’s first: we’re all thinking of James White this week. The outpouring of support he got, both from the Patriots and the Seahawks, illustrates what kind of guy White is and the reach he has within the football community. Hope he’s healing and that his family can grow stronger as he deals with this. 2020 can officially eat a bag of turds.
- As for the game itself...I have yet to talk to a single Patriots fan who’s upset with the results of this one. This was one of those game that, when the schedule first came out, I had pegged as a loss right away. Not only that, I figured the Patriots would get absolutely spanked in this one. So that the final score was 35-30 and the Pats had a chance to win it late and Cam Newton looked great makes this one feel like a win.
- And to the younger Patriots fans out there - last night’s game, and being happy about what you saw and the development of the younger guys and the expanding of the playbook and the big plays and the important stops, was your first foray into normal, regular football fandom. It’s healthy, in a lot of ways, to not expect or demand a win, but look to see progress and think about the team over the next few seasons as opposed to being all in every single time.
- Another reason last night felt like a win: nobody got seriously injured. Approximately two thirds of the NFL was either carted off the field or declared out yesterday, including some big names and key starters. The ripple effect of a lack of meaningful practice and preseason is just starting, alas.
- In case you didn’t notice...Russell Wilson is good. Like really, really good. Every game, he’s all but guaranteed to make some absolutely ridiculous throws that you just can’t do anything about. 21 of 28 with 5 TDs and a pick (that wasn’t even his fault, his guy should have caught that) means that Wilson basically singlehandedly outscored the first half of New England’s 2019 opponents.
- And yet, the Patriots hung in there. Cam had 44 pass attempts for almost 400 yards, a good chunk of his throws were absolute lasers, and he showed poise and comfort in the pocket. Most of his 11 rushes were scrambles as opposed to designed runs, He’s going to be a pocket QB first, which is how you go a full 16 games in the NFL. And this offense is only going to get better. It’s too early to take anything away from the game in earnest - we’re still in the preseason here - but if you weren’t pleased with the offensive performance yesterday, I’d advise you to find a seat as far away from Staltler and Waldorf as possible.
- However, it can’t all be sunshine and roses in these Fan Notes. There has to be at least some obnoxious party poopery in here somewhere - so here goes.
- My first too early, unfair, overly critical, and overall unnecessary observation: Sony Michel has yet to do much of anything to cement himself as New England’s go-to back. He averaged 2.7 yards per carry last night and doesn’t have the versatility that Burkhead or White does. Damien Harris will be back from short-term IR soon, and New England’s short yardage back seems to be their QB. I know that Seattle is pretty solid against the run, but absoutely nothing Michel has done so far this season has stood out to me in any way.
- His stat line is good - eight catches for 72 yards - but I can think of three distinct occasions where they designed the play to get N’Keal Harry into space with the ball so he could make a defender miss and pick up some extra yards. On all three, he was stopped right where he stood. He needs to learn to use his body better and maybe develop a little more starting speed.
- There was also play late in the game where Newton rifled a pass in to Julian Edelman, who had both hands on it in the end zone for what would have been the game-winning score, but he couldn’t quite hold onto it. Yes, you have to make that catch...but I also feel like that’s the kind of throw you should be making to Harry. Harry was drafted, I imagine, to be a big, rangy, outside receiver who can high point the ball and fight for those contested catches. There’s just something about a jump ball intended for a 5’9” guy that doesn’t get me all warm and fuzzy.
- On defense, I don’t really have much negative to say. The corners did their job well, but Wilson did his job well too. New England went with 5 DBs as a base package to open up this game, welcoming the run in what I can only guess is an effort to prevent Wilson from getting into a groove in the passing game. But keeping Wilson out of a groove is like looking for people being nice to each other on the internet. Just not happening.
- Russell Wilson is the best deep bal QB in the NFL and it isn’t even close. I’d make a case here for who is #2 behind him, but whoever it is is just so far behind it doesn’t even matter. What a joy to watch. On Seattle’s 2nd TD, Gilmore was in perfect coverage, but Wilson just put it perfectly in Metcalf’s breadbasket and there isn’t much else to do but tip your cap.
- Also, DK Metcalf seems to be one of those receivers that not enough people talk about. Maybe it’s because it’s only his second year. Or maybe they do talk about him a lot and since I more or less stopped paying attention to any form of mainstream sports media years ago I just don’t notice it. But when you see players like him, or Deebo Samuel, going out and contributing for their teams right away as rookies, it just leaves you wondering what it is about early round receivers that Belichick just can’t figure out.
- I can only think of two instances where Wilson wasn’t able to do more or less whatever he wanted, and one of them wasn’t even his fault. That Devin McCourty pick six was, for the most part, what we’ve been seeing all across the league so far in 2020. Poor catching, poorer tackling, and the mental errors that have resulted from a lack of practises and a preseason. The second was when he failed to react to a Chase Winovich stunt and took a sack.
- Quandre Diggs was ejected from the game after this hit to N’Keal Harry as the Patriots converted on 4th down. Harry jumped right back up and, remarkably, kept his composure. It showed a great amount of maturity; I remember the last time someone smacked Harry in the head, and it didn’t end quite the same.
- Was the crowd noise they pumped into the stadium last night louder than other stadiums? It would be kind of cool if you were allowed to make your speakers louder based on how rowdy the fans are during normal years.
- The problem with that, though, is that based on the Foxboro faithful, this is what they’d have to pump in at Gillette.
- I’ve had zero confidence in the kicking game since about week 3 of last season...but it’s still weird, and I’m still not used to it. The last time I haven’t had any faith in a Patriots kicker was 1995, when I was 14 years old.
- Although that’s not really fair to Matt Bahr, who was New England’s kicker before they drafted Adam Vinatieri in 1996. Bahr actually had a very solid NFL career and has Super Bowl rings with the ‘79 Steelers and the ‘91 Giants. But by the time he came to the Patriots, he was 38 years old and his final season with the team saw him with a 69% field goal rate. The Patriots went 6-10 that year, losing five of their first seven games and then four of their last six to finish dead last in the AFC East.
- There are very few teams in the NFL that can be facing as 3rd and 16 and I’m maybe 50% confident that they won’t convert. The Seahawks are definitely one of those teams.
- One concern I potentially had after the Miami game was whether or not this team could play from behind. A run-heavy, RPO based team is great for killing clock and leaning on points, but if you’re down two scores and need to throw, it could be trouble. But McDaniels seems to be shifting the offensive schemes based on matchup, as he always does, and Cam Newton can run either. This team is going to be a blast to watch this year and whether or not they win games is kind of a nice bonus.
- It became fairly obvious as the game went on that the Seahawks are just a better team than the Patriots - but they aren’t worlds better. They have probably the 2nd or 3rd best QB in the league, a solid running game, efficient receivers, and solid team chemistry. What I’m particularly excited about is that the Patriots can, with a little luck and some more work, be all of those things as well.
- The Patriots ran that 41 personnel, with nine guys on the line and Jakob Johnson in the backfield next to Cam Newton, four times last night. Three times, it worked. The last time, at the one yard line, the Seahawks adjusted, and future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner ended up shedding his block and making the play. No play is going to work every time, but I think that 10 guys crashing forward so a 6’5”, 250lb beast can pick up a yard or two is going to have a pretty solid success rate overall.
- In years past, a Sunday night game that came down to the wire that saw the Patriots lose at the goal line would have kept me up all night, staring at the ceiling, fuming over how close the Pats came to the win. But I slept like a baby last night. Granted, it might have been due to the fact that I decided to kick the rest of the keg of Brooklyn Summer Ale so I can welcome in Fall with a keg of Sam Adams Octoberfest and so I started hydrating at 12:30...but I’d like to think it’s because I’ve really grown as a fan and am just perfectly content to let this season play out as it may.
- The last three times these two teams met, one team was desperately clinging to a lead and trying to keep the other team out of the end zone at the one yard line. All three times, they succeeded and held onto the W. That’s insane.
- That said...I’ll take New England’s one win over Seattle’s last two any day.
I’m hoping that the Patriots can take this game, grow from it, realize that they can hang with anyone, and take some of the lessons learned into the next few weeks and some very good opponents. The Patriots seem to finish every September 2-2, and with the Chiefs game looming, they need a strong bounceback against the Raiders this Sunday.