Apologies for a belated entry on what is now considered to be old news. I wanted to wait watching the All-22 Coaches Film before reviewing last Sunday’s game and unfortunately that is not available until Wednesday; combined with some other circumstances I wasn’t able to get this posted until today.

 

Unless you have shuttered yourself from any form of media that has anything to do with the Patriots this week, you are well aware that there is plenty of hand wringing and finger pointing going on from fans of the Patriots as well as from the media that cover the team. But after watching the game for a third time (no, I’m not a masochist) it really wasn’t as bad as some are making it out to be. The sky is not falling and I don’t see them destined for their first losing season in twelve years; while there are indeed some issues they seem to be very fixable.

 

Just like against Denver this game came down to a handful of critical plays. The Broncos made fewer of those big plays in Foxboro and lost; they followed that up with making more of those type of plays in their win against San Diego. Similarly the Pats made a few more important plays to beat Denver, but Seattle made a couple more vital plays to win Sunday.

 

Big Play #1 (Pats) – 5:59 1st Quarter; Seattle 3, Pats 0
NEP ball, 1st & 10 on Seattle 46
Tom Brady 46 yard TD pass to Wes Welker

The importance of this play goes far beyond the seven points. Welker getting behind a defender means that Seattle’s defensive backs cannot simply crowd the middle of the field near the line of scrimmage, and that should aid the running game immensely.

Patriots take a 7-3 lead

 

Big Play #2 (Seattle) – 4:25 1st Quarter; Pats 7, Seattle 3
SEA ball, 3rd & 9 on their own 16

A fifty yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin gets Seattle out from deep in their own end and into New England territory.

 

Big Play #3 (Seattle) – 1:59 1st Quarter; Pats 7, Seattle 3
SEA ball, 1st & 15 on Pats 24 yard line
Russell Wilson 24-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin

The Pats have been criticized for having their corners play too far off opposing receivers but on this play they are up close, and Kyle Arrington knocks Baldwin down at the line of scrimmage. However Brandon Spikes missed on a chip on TE Zach Miller, leaving Rob Ninkovich with a nearly impossible task of covering Miller. Patrick Chung sees this and moves up to help out Ninkovich; that in turn means he is not available to give Arrington any of the safety help he expects after Baldwin gets back up and runs his deep route. Even so that shouldn’t have been an issue as the quarterback should not have that much time for a play to develop. However, Trevor Scott moves inside and does not set the edge; this allows Wilson to roll outside the pocket, buy time, and have a better view than the 5’11″ QB would normally have if he was forced to remain in the pocket. Fans pin the blame on Arrington, but it was actually more of a perfect storm of breakdowns by Spikes, Scott, and to a lesser extent Chung that led to the TD.

Seahawks take a 10-7 lead

 

Big Play #4 (Pats) – 14:49 2nd Quarter; Seattle 10, Pats 7
Pats ball, 1st & 10 on Seattle 38

From the no huddle Brandon Bolden runs 13 yards to the 25. I felt this was noteworthy for three reasons: coming into the game there were questions about how effective the no huddle would be in a very loud Century Link Stadium; there were questions about whether or not the Pats could run on the vaunted Seattle run defense; and in the no huddle the Pats this year had almost exclusively used Danny Woodhead. Going forward that means opponents won’t be able to assume that the Pats will not go no huddle when he is in the game.

The Pats went on to score on a 15-play drive that consumed 6:17 to take back the lead.

 

Big Play #5 (Pats) – 7:04, 2nd Quarter; Pats 14, Seattle 10
SEA ball, 3rd & 10 on Pats 48

Chandler Jones strip sacks Russell Wilson and Rob Ninkovich recovers the fumble.

Considering the 3rd down woes and lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks that the defense has had the last few years this play is noteworthy. The positive field position led to a field goal and upped the lead to 7. The success of the New England defense is predicated on forcing turnovers, so this is a very good sign for the Pats.

 

Big Play #6 (Pats) – 0:48, 2nd Quarter; Pats 17, Seattle 10
SEA ball, 4th & 4 on Seattle 38

New England’s special teams unit comes up with their first big play of the year as Trevor Scott and Bobby Carpenter pounce on a fumble by the Seahawks punter. Unfortunately the play went for naught (see below).

 

Big Play #7 (Seattle) – 0:06, 2nd Quarter; Pats 17, Seattle 10
NEP ball, 3rd & 3 on Seattle 3

With the game seemingly about to slip away heading into halftime the Seattle defense toughens up. After an incomplete pass to Rob Gronkowski the Pats elect to take one more shot at the end zone with six ticks left on the clock. With nobody open Tom Brady throws the ball away but is called for intentional grounding on the play, thus ending the half and costing the Patriots what would turn out to be a very crucial three points.

More concerning was the (lack of) clock management leading up to that final play. Wes Welker had made a catch with 34 seconds remaining just prior to this, but inexplicably wasted 15 seconds before calling a timeout.

 

Big Play #8 (Pats) – 11:49, 3rd Quarter; Pats 17, Seattle 10
NEP ball, 1st & 10 on Pats own 46

With Nick McDonald and Daniel Fells on the field as eligible receivers it’s surely going to be a run play, right? No, the Pats keep Seattle off balance by doing the opposite as expected and Fells redeems himself from last week’s bad game with a 35 yard pass play to the left, all the way down to the 19-yard line. Unfortunately the Seattle defense stiffens again, but at least the Pats do come away with another field goal to take a 10-point lead.

 

Big Play #9 (Seattle) – 4:52, 3rd Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10
NEP ball, 2nd &5 on Seattle 43

Despite the gaffe at the end of the first half the Pats appear to be on the verge of taking the Seahawks out of this game. Deion Branch runs a route on the right side and is blanketed by Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Rather than look for another receiver, check down to his running back or throw the ball out of bounds, Tom Brady throws it to Branch anyways. If that’s what he is going to do rather than one of those other options then it has got to be to a place where only Branch can catch it or it is incomplete – in this case over Branch’s shoulder near the sideline. Instead the pass is short and just the opposite happens: it goes to a point where Branch cannot possibly get to it and Sherman is the only player who can catch it.

No points for the Pats, which could have made it a 3-score lead; no pinning Seattle deep in their own territory; and no rest for the Pats defense: the drive lasted just six plays, half of which were run from the no huddle. Just when it looked like doubt might creep in on the Seattle sideline, their confidence is given a boost.

 

Big Play #10 (Seattle) – 0:30, 3rd Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10
NEP ball, 3rd & 7 on Seattle 34

Jason Jones is called for unnecessary roughness after clubbing Tom Brady in the head. While the penalty gives the Pats a first down on the Seattle 15-yard line, Brady was very slow to get up. I can’t help but feel that his bell was rung to the point where he wasn’t seeing straight and couldn’t properly focus on the next several plays.

 

Big Play #11 (Seattle) – 13:43, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10
NEP ball, 3rd & 1 on Seattle 6

The Pats smartly ran two running plays after the big hit on Brady, gaining nine yards. Just one more yard and it’s a fresh set of downs; if not it’s a chip-shot field goal and a 13-point lead. Instead the play call is a pass play on which Brady throws slightly high and behind Wes Welker in traffic in the middle of the congested, shortened field, and sure enough it is intercepted. The missed opportunity for at least three more points proved to be costly and the turnover gave the Seahawks some much needed confidence in themselves and their chances in this game.

 

Big Play #12 (Seattle) – 13:29, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10
SEA ball, 1st & 10 on their own 20

On the very next play Seattle picks up 40 yards on a pass interference call on Patrick Chung. Now the Seahawks are feeling confident on offense as well as on defense.

 

Big Play #13 (Pats) – 12:43, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10
SEA ball; 2nd & 7 on Pats 37

With momentum decidedly shifting in Seattle’s favor the Pats defense comes up big as Jerod Mayo forces a fumble and recovers the ball after a pass completion to Zach Miller just two plays after the pass interference call.

 

Big Play #14 (Seattle) – 10:06, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10
NEP ball; 3rd & 2 on Seattle 17

After the turnover the Patriots drive into Seattle territory, picking up a first down on their 25. On 3rd & 2 they hold their ground, stoning Stevan Ridley for no gain. Limiting the Pats to a field goal here keeps this a two-possession game for the Seahawks and has to be considered a victory for them in this circumstance. Seattle was stacked with nine men at the line, selling out to stop the run. Welker and Branch were on the field as H-backs, but they were overmatched to block in the backfield on that play. In retrospect an audible to a pass play would have been the right way to go based on how Seattle lined up.

 

Big Play #15 (Seattle) – 9:17, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 10
SEA ball, 1st & 10 on their own 17

On the first play from scrimmage following that field goal Seattle reverses field position, going from their own 17 to the Pats 17 on a pass interference call on Devin McCourty plus roughing the passer on Brandon Spikes. The play is a huge confidence booster for a Seattle offense that had been stifled since the first quarter.

 

Big Play #16 (Seattle) – 7:26, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 10
SEA ball, 4th & 3 on the Pats 10

The Pats force a 4th down on the following series when Devin McCourty makes a textbook tackle on Golden Tate on the previous play. With time running down the Seahawks have to go for it and they convert a pass to Braylon Edwards in the end zone despite decent coverage by Alfonzo Dennard. Seattle has the momentum and is within a touchdown at this point.

 

Big Play #17 (Seattle) – 2:48, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 20
NEP ball, 4th & 8 on the Pats 43

After the previous score the Pats gained a couple of first downs before having to punt, and then forced a Seattle punt. On this possession though they went three and out as they predictably ran from a formation with no receivers (Dan Connolly at FB and three tight ends) and chewed up a mere 14 seconds of clock as Seattle used their first two timeouts.

Zoltan Mesko‘s punt (39 yards) was not only short despite not being under duress, more importantly it was not high either. As a result Sterling Moore was the only punt coverage player downfield and the Seattle player was able to block him. Leon Washington, who has long been a very good punt returner, took advantage of the situation and returned the punt 25 yards, putting the Seahawks in excellent field position.

The net result of the previous drive was a gain of only 14 yards in field position while using up only 14 seconds of time off the clock.

 

Big Play #18 (Seattle) – 1:27, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 17
SEA ball, 1st & 10 on the Pats 46
Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice for the game-winning 46 yard TD

This time the corners did not get any jam on either receiver, allowing them to run free on their route. The corner passes Rice off to Tavon Wilson, which I do not understand in this situation. In this down & distance it is imperative that he stays with the WR and not force the safety to cover him alone. I don’t know if that was a mistake by the CB or a bad defensive play call, but that just didn’t look right.

As the deep man Tavon Wilson should be solely concerned with the receiver on his side; Seattle had 8-man protection and only two players running pass routes, one on each side. For whatever reason Tavon Wilson was looking into the backfield as if the play was going to be a run. As the sign inside the locker room at Gillette Stadium says, “Do Your Job”. Let the front seven worry about a run; you need to stick to Rice. That slight moment of hesitation means he has to move over a bit more quickly and he crosses his legs to make up for that step. The moment he does that Rice takes advantage, and makes his move inside on the post pattern. Tavon Wilson is beat, the other safety is too far away to help since he’s covering his half of the field, and the corner is of no help since he’s about twenty yards behind the play.

Fans will point their fingers at Tavon Wilson, and rightfully so due to his technique on the play; I just don’t understand what with the CB who had the initial coverage on Sidney Rice at the line of scrimmage. It was either a blown assignment by the CB, or a bad defensive play call in that circumstance.

 

 

Overall count up twelve big plays going Seattle’s way to just six for the Pats, and nine of the last ten of those plays favoring the Seahawks. However when re-watching this game I firmly believe that most of those problems are fixable, and the team is not in as dire straits as some fans (and certain radio talk show hosts) would have you believe. With some minor adjustments these seemingly major problems can and will be fixed, as I am confident we will see this Sunday in Foxboro against the Jets. Offense, defense, special teams and coaching all contributed to the loss – but none of the specific issues cannot be corrected.

 

 

 

 

October 17 in Patriots History

October 17, 1957:
Steve “Mongo” McMichael was born in Houston. The Pats drafted the Texas Longhorn in the third round of the 1980 draft, appearing in six games for the Patriots that year. In one of the worst, if not the worst personnel decisions in the history of the franchise McMichael was released after just one season. The defensive tackle went on to have a stellar career, playing 13 years for the Bears, twice being named a first-team all-pro, and becoming an integral part of Buddy Ryan’s famed 46 defense in Chicago.

October 17, 1965:
Ron Burton has a career-long 73-yard touchdown reception in a 13-13 tie against the Chargers at Fenway Park.

October 17, 1999:
Ty Law and Andy Katzenmoyer both return interceptions for a touchdown, but the Pats still lose to Miami 31-30. It was the only time in the history of the Patriots that a defensive back and a linebacker both returned interceptions for a touchdown in the same game.

 

 

 

 

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October 17, 1999:
Thomas Durden died at the age of 79; he wrote the lyrics to Heartbreak Hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

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