For the third straight meeting between the two teams, it came down to the final play to determine the outcome. Although the Patriots literally came up a yard short, there were plenty positives to take away from that game — especially on offense.
We knew heading into Sunday night that the unit was going to need to score a lot of points in order to hang in with Seattle’s own high-powered attack. They were able to do that by moving the ball through the air a lot better than many expected, and despite needing guys to step up offensively after the news about James White’s father held him out of the contest.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
We were waiting to see how the Patriots would attack Seattle on Sunday night after Cam Newton’s 15 rushing attempts to 19 passing attempts in Week 1. He did not disappoint: Newton was one of the best players on the field Sunday night. He picked up right where he left off in Week 1, punching in two rushing touchdowns to go along with one through the air. He was on the money all night long, hanging in the pocket and delivering lasers all over the field down the stretch.
A few plays that stood out to me is when Jamal Adams had him wrapped up on a free blitz, he evaded it and delivered a strike off balance to Julian Edelman for a big third down conversion. He then converted to Edelman with a beautiful touch to his back shoulder later on that same drive that ended up in three points for the Patriots. He also made some big time throws to Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd on the Patriots’ final drive of the game to keep the chains moving.
It’s clear Josh McDaniels has centered his offense around Newton’s strengths and is utilizing his ability to take control of the game with his legs. On Sunday night, however, he also showed that his arm strength and accuracy are right where they were when he won his MVP award back in 2015. The offense’s potential hasn’t even scratched the surface, yet they are still finding ways to move the ball down the field and put themselves in good position to win games. When you take into how long Newton has been in New England and the cast around him, he has done a great job and is certainly improving each week.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman was Julian Edelman. The veteran wide receiver racked up eight catches for a career-high 179 yards, six of them for a gain of 15+ yards. He made some huge catches down the stretch to keep the Patriots alive. Edelman was clearly playing through some discomfort, it was clear he was banged up after a third down conversion and later again after hauling in a 49-yard pass from over the shoulder. The Patriots’ offense still runs through No. 11 and he showed up big once again on Sunday night.
Loser: RB Sony Michel
With James White, the game against Seattle presented an opportunity for Sony Michel to step up and take on a bigger workload. He could not get anything going offensively, however, as he rushed for just 19 yards on seven attempts and was replaced by Rex Burkhead and his more versatile skillset for most of the second half.
Obviously, the Patriots were trailing for much of the game so they were not going to run the football as much as they normally would. But based on the carries we saw from Michel, it was — unfortunately — the usual from him: a lack of burst, while could hardly get to the second level or make plays after contact.
Loser: OT Jermaine Eluemunor
Some of Michel’s issues, of course, were due to the fact that the blocking up front failed to create the necessary lanes for him to get up to speed. This was a particular problem on the right side of the line, where first-year starting tackle Jermaine Eluemunor had some forgettable plays while once again being rotated in and out of the lineup alongside rookie Mike Onwenu. At one point, Michel even let Eluemunor hear his frustrations.
Winner: S Devin McCourty
A big key for New England to stay in this game was getting out to an early lead. Devin McCourty did just that as he returned his 27th career interception to the house just a minute into the game. McCourty was all around the ball the entire night, also adding a pass breakup to go along with the pick. Seattle’s speed was certainly top priority for the Patriots on Sunday night and using McCourty closer to the line of scrimmage played a big role in that. While this led to some issues on deep passes, the veteran safety himself had a good game — something that cannot be said for New Englands’ entire secondary.
Losers: CB Jason McCourty & CB J.C. Jackson
Not the best night from Jason McCourty as he was beat deep for a touchdown in the third quarter by David Moore and was beat earlier for a touchdown from Tyler Lockett. The deep ball was decent coverage and was with no safety help but it’s no question the Seattle took advantage of McCourty on Sunday night. Jackson, meanwhile, also had an up-and-down performance after a stellar outing on opening week. The two cornerbacks combined to allow five catches on six targets for 86 yards and three of Russell Wilson’s five touchdowns.
Winner: WR N’Keal Harry
N’Keal Harry much intrigue surrounding him just a dozen games into his NFL career. Last week, we saw glimpses of what the former first-round draft pick can bring to this offense, but all positives were — fairly or not — outshined by his fumble out of the end-zone that potentially cost the Patriots six points.
Sunday night, however, saw Harry set new career-highs in catches (7) and receiving yards (72) while he made some big plays for the team down the stretch. He also hung in there on a tough catch on fourth down early in the game and took a hard hit from Quandre Diggs over the middle. Harry held onto the football, stayed in the game and caught two big passes on New England’s final drive to set up a chance at the win.
Winner: WR Damiere Byrd
I thought the Patriots’ wide receivers as a whole played real well on Sunday night. They didn’t get it going until the second half, but they certainly showed signs of improvement from last week. Damiere Byrd racked up 72 yards on six catches and a lot of the success the Patriots had through the air in the first half went through Byrd. He also made a nice catch over the middle of the field on the Patriots’ final drive of the night. Byrd and Newton certainly have chemistry from their Carolina days and they will need to continue building on that foundation as New England will look for more consistent ways to move the ball besides going to No. 11.
Losers: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley & S Adrian Phillips
The Patriots again used the Bentley-Phillips tandem at its off-the-ball linebacker spots, but the Seahawks were willing to go after them. Phillips played as a safety/linebacker hybrid like he did last week, with Seattle having no issues going right after him in the running game. Likewise, the team tried to attack Bentley in coverage and by challenging him in his zone drops. Both plans worked well as New England’s two defenders found themselves in challenging situations throughout the game.
Winner: LB Chase Winovich
The Patriots’ defense as a whole was not good on Sunday night; it got torched for five touchdowns through the air and couldn’t get the crucial stops against the run. We knew Seattle would be a difficult match-up for them defensively but really the only one up front who was able to create plays consistently was Chase Winovich.
Winovich continues to make strides early in his sophomore season. Last year, we saw his ability as a pass rusher but this year he has been stout against the run and causing problems for opposing offenses. He had three tackles, one of them solo, and two quarterback hits on Sunday night and was really one of the only players who stood out defensively for the Patriots.