The Patriots imploded last week in Seattle. They failed to clamp down on the Seahawk's somehow revived offensive attack and missed converting on key third downs to run out the final minutes of the clock.
At 3-3, they now sit uneasy in a four way tie with the rest of the AFC East.
Here we will break down how the Patriot's offense, defense and special teams played in last Sunday's game. Reader beware.
We will also peer into next week's match up against the Jets and see what is in store for New England.
The Patriots came into last Sunday’s game deploying one of the top ranked passing and rushing attacks. They even brought with them a new up-tempo, no-huddle style of offense. On Sunday, however, this offense was virtually non-existent; they ran the no-huddle only about 25% of the time.
Instead, on their second drive of the game, New England began to slow their pace, used 2-3 wide receiver sets and worked out of the shotgun formation. Doing so allowed Tom Brady to better survey the field and take advantage of match ups, particularly the battle between Seattle’s cornerback Marcus Trufant and wide receiver Wes Welker.
Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels noted in a piece now on ESPN Boston.com that the offense basically conceded to the type of defense Seattle used. The Seahawks ranked number 1 in defense and they often placed an eighth man in the box to stop the Patriot's seemingly-improving rushing attack. Seattle may have also felt an eighth man could help them better defend tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Groknowski, although both had 6 receptions. New England essentially took advantage of Seattle’s stacked line and threw the ball 58 times for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns.Not entirely a bad strategy.
“We knew that there’s certainly some challenges playing there, in that stadium. And then couple that with their scheme, where they really play with a safety down…we knew we were going to rely a little bit more heavily on our passing game…” said McDaniels.
Many have knocked the Patriot's pass first, run second strategy. However, I believe it was a good strategy. Conversely, their inability to score while in the red zone lost them the game. New England failed to score off punter Jon Ryan’s muffed punt at Seattle’s 47-yard line and later drove 82 yards only to turn the ball over in the end zone on an interception by safety Earl Thomas. These two drives counted for at least a 6-point swing and at best a 14-point advantage--enough to win the game.
If the Patriots had scored touchdowns more than once in six chances in the redzone, we would not be talking about their failed rushing attack or their attempts to close out the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots held running back Marshawn Lynch, the man who helped create seismic waves on his touchdown stampede during the 2011 playoffs, to only 41 yards on 15 carries. They faced rookie third round pick Russell Wilson, a quarterback that was leading one of the worst passing offenses in the league. So, in conclusion, the Patriots should have been in prime position to take advantage of Seattle’s main weakness—their passing game.
However, instead, we all discovered the Patriot's weakness (their secondary) was actually much greater than the Seahawk's weakness. Russell Wilson hit 16 of 27 completions for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns.
New England used their base defense on 40 out of 56 plays Sunday, displaying their strong desire to contain Marshawn Lynch and let Wilson beat them with his arm. Further, to ensure they did not put themselves in to vulnerable of a position against the pass, the Patriots, at times, replaced one of their safeties with a speedier cornerback like Alfonzo Dennard.
But still, they failed.
Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia noted: “I can't really say that an extra defender or an extra player here or there could have really helped us, just that obviously we just have to do a better job overall coaching and playing just to handle the situation better."
Patricia is correct. The Patriots could have placed more defensive backs on the field by using nickel or dime packages. However, this would still not solve New England’s inability to cover receivers in single coverage. Wilson was completing jump balls to his receivers all day.
Many wonder why the Patriot’s hardly pressure opposing quarterbacks with their second or third levels of defense. Sunday’s performance is likely the reason why.How many times this year have we seen New England blitz defenders from the second and third levels?
It comes down to trust and it is fair to believe the coaching staff has little confidence in its secondary to hold up under extreme pressure (e.g., in blitzing scenarios). The result you likely see is a lot of cover defenses that ask lineman to create maximum pressure and rarely ask defenders to cover man-to-man.
Special Teams Snapshot
Receiver Wes Welker and running back Danny Woodhead handled most of the snaps on special teams after lackluster performances in recent weeks from cornerback Devin McCourty. However, the results were much the same, as the Patriot’s best starting field position after a Seattle punt or kick off was from their 41-yard line. More so, they did not begin from the 41-yard line until their second-to-last possession of the fourth quarter.
Zoltan Mesko’s 39-yard punt to running back Leon Washington was returned 25 yards to Seattle’s 42. Four plays later, Seattle scored the game winning touchdown.
Peering into Next Week’s Jets Match up
You know the Patriots are playing the Jets when Rex Ryan gets giddy and proclaims, “I want them to know---and they know—I think we’re going to beat them.”
*sigh* It is great entertainment.
The Jets are without cornerback Darrel Revis and top receiver Santonio Holmes this season. Tight end Dustin Keller has also been banged up.
However, they have many of the same players from recent seasons. Linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott and cornerback Antionio Cromartie led the defense, while Shonn Greene and (name your player) leads the offense. New England’s should not be concerned with any single aspect of the Jet's offense, but instead their own secondary’s ability to make crucial stops.
Russell Wilson was special because he bought tons of time with his legs—many times when he was about to get sacked—and quarterback Mark Sanchez does not possess that kind of athleticism. However, the Jets might see this Patriot's secondary and think that they are ripe for the pickin’.
They could be right.