Written by Pat Pryor
On Sunday Night Football the Patriots defense was simply destroyed. They stood no chance of stopping Russell Wilson from throwing beautiful deep passes anytime he wanted. However, the Patriots stuck it out to the last play. While a victory would’ve of course been the best-case scenario, the team learned a lot in the loss and is more ready than ever to come back and win.
1. It was against the best team it could’ve been.
Maybe there are more complete defenses around the league, but overall, the Seahawks have a shot to be fantastic. No one has played these past two weeks like Russell Wilson. In reality, there aren’t a lot of multi-game performances like this in NFL history. He just tore it up with beautifully placed balls, smart decisions, and great reads all night. Playing against Seattle revealed weak spots that wouldn’t have shown against other teams, like the upcoming Raiders, Broncos, or even Chiefs. On the back of Wilson, the Seahawks are likely the best team in the NFL right now, and the Patriots could hang with them despite playing poorly in several areas.
2. It showed the glaring issues on defense.
One of the benefits of having the greatest mind in football running the defense is the knowledge that he won’t take sloppy play and knows exactly what adjustments he needs to make at halftimes and during the week. Stephon Gilmore will never be matched up with a 6’4”, 230-pound wide receiver again. He got exposed, which is a lot to say for the defending DPOY. Bill will know how to adjust and make sure big-bodied wide receivers can’t tear apart the secondary again. Both Jason McCourty and Jonothan Jones were demolished, so they’ll need to work on playing against great deep throwers like Wilson. Through Russell Wilson’s legs, Chris Carson’s underrated game, and Tyler Lockett’s short catches also revealed another large issue: lack of speed from the middle of the defense. Chase Winovich dominated in the pass rush, and he looks to be the core of the next-generation defense, but linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and safety Adrian Phillips struggled to stop anything coming at them. They need more urgency, and the mental ability to recognize a scramble better. Free agency departures and Covid-19 opt-outs took down the skill level of the defense, but they still have a fight, and if anyone can bring it out it’s Bill Belichick.
3. Cam Newton proved he can still ball-out against a quality team.
The lack of wide receivers for New England has been talked about all of last season, in the offseason, and is probably one of the reasons Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay. However, with Cam Newton’s ability to escape pressure and arm strength, he can still make a rag-tag group play well. Damiere Byrd led all receivers in snaps for the past two weeks but wasn’t targeted until the second game. He played nicely, as did Julian Edelman, who would get his career-high in receiving yards with 179. N’Keal Harry finally showed up in the second half and would have 72 yards. After a slow start to passing last week, it's relieving to see a good bit of chemistry in the offense. Despite a bad interception where he stared down Byrd the entire route, Cam Newton played very well. Nearly 400 yards passing and 50 running, with 3 total touchdowns, he showed that his shoulder concerns are a thing of the past, with his 49-yard bomb having the longest air time of any New England pass since the 2017 season. There’s work to be done, like N’Keal Harry’s fit, Cam Newton’s eyes, and just establishing the run in general, but overall it was a comforting offensive performance that reassures fans that this team can hang with good offenses.
4. It is only Week 2.
If history has taught New England fans anything, it's not to panic early in the season. Despite this, they usually do, but in 2020 it’s a different story. There was so much to learn from the loss, and early in the season is the best time to work out issues. The Patriots have one of the hardest schedules this year, and until week 12, they’ll likely only play one sub .500 team in the New York Jets week 9. They’re coming through a gauntlet, and they’ve realized their issues early. Their next opponent, the Las Vegas Raiders, are coming off a good win against the Saints. However, their offense isn’t nearly as dominant as the Seahawks, so it’s the perfect bounce-back opportunity for Stephon Gilmore and his defense.
5. It shows the reality of a future without Tom Brady
Every year, expectations were high with Tom Brady. He was rarely, if ever the underdog. If it was Tom Brady starting down the field with the need to charge for a touchdown and the win, fans’ confidence would never waver. With Newton, there was a lot of uncertainty on whether or not he'd finish the game strong. On that final drive, he decided to prove himself. He came from the Patriots 19 yard line to the Seahawks 1. Due to some blocking issues, he came up short, but overall it was a fantastic showcase that he still has it. This is the future in New England. It’s not going to be a nice win every time that they’re down under 2 minutes in their own territory. It’s going to be hard-fought games. It’s an entirely new style of play for the offense, and there was no better place to display that than Sunday night.