The Patriots four-game winning streak came to a sudden and stunning halt Sunday night in Foxborough when they failed to pick up 1 final yard and ultimately fell 31-24 to the Seattle Seahawks.
Despite the loss, New England remains atop the AFC East at 6-2 as they prepare to visit San Francisco next week. Here are some random thought from the Seahawks game.
Not even trying – The game ultimately came down to four plays for the Patriots offense that started at the Seahawks 2. Tom Brady tried to sneak his way in on first down but was stopped at the 1 – or was he? After the game Brady explained how he wanted to get close but indicated that he wasn't necessarily looking to score. Bill Belichick said the clock was definitely a factor as well. There were just 43 seconds to go and Seattle had just one timeout, so the idea of not wanting to score on first down seemed curious. Had Brady gotten in the Seahawks would have needed to move about 50 yards (assuming a touchback) in less than 40 seconds with just one timeout. Instead the Patriots failed to score on the three ensuing plays and Seattle walked off with the win.
Still searching – Bill Belichick has spent the better part of the season trying to settle on his lineup in the secondary. A couple of weeks ago he explained how Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman and Eric Rowe were all playing well enough in practice to earn playing time. All three have played periodically with Rowe earning starts over Ryan in the two games that preceded the bye. On Sunday against Seattle he was inactive, leaving Ryan as the starter and Coleman coming into the game as the third corner. Clearly Belichick is looking to keep Ryan in the slot while trying to figure out which guy is best on the outside of Coleman and Rowe. Coleman struggled against the Seahawks, getting beaten twice deep by Tyler Lockett early in the game, the first resulting in a 36-yard reception and the second a 22-yard pass interference penalty.
Early defensive shakeup – The Patriots had some changes in the starting lineup on defense with Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long on the bench to open the game. Trey Flowers (right) and Rob Ninkovich (left) opened at the end spots before Long came in the game for Ninkovich one the second series. Sheard didn't see the field until the final play of the first quarter but played regularly thereafter. The manner in which Sheard was used early almost made it look like his inactivity could have been discipline related, but it could have simply been a planned rotation. Flowers made the most of his time by coming up with a pair of sacks, and Ninkovich added one in the second quarter as well.
Heavy hitters – Seattle's safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are considered the best tandem in the game and they teamed up for a huge play in the second quarter. Rob Gronkowski went down the right seam and Tom Brady's pass was on target but knocked away by Chancellor, who was tight in coverage playing just behind the tight end. As Chancellor came in the knock the ball away, Thomas delivered a huge hit that stunned Gronkowski, knocking him to the ground. Gronkowski was forced to leave the game for several plays but the hit was to the chest so it did not appear that any concussion problems resulted. Gronkowski returned during the same drive and drew a holding penalty in the end zone to set up first-and-goal from the 1 before Blount bulled his way in for his second touchdown of the night.
Good news, bad news – LeGarrette Blount had a roller coaster night, showcasing his power and deceptive agility while also getting bottled up in the backfield on more than one occasion. He finished with 69 yards on 21 carries for a subpar 3.3-yard average. But he also had three touchdown runs, giving him an NFL-best 12 on the season. Two of those were terrific individual efforts, the first a 13-yard burst around left end and the second a hard-fought second and third effort where he carried several Seahawks over the goal line. The three touchdowns normally would have been enough to put the game in the positive column, but the overall lack of consistent production coupled with his inability to pick up the potential game-tying yard in the final seconds leaves him in between. Overall he did enough to provide some balance but against a defense clearly playing the pass it's reasonable to expect more.
Slim pickings – After going the first eight games without throwing an interception, the last four with Brady at the helm, the Patriots threw a pick. Brady scrambled for quite some time before trying to hit Malcolm Mitchell deep down the right side but his pass was badly underthrown and intercepted by DeShawn Shead. Mitchell was never open on the play and Brady made a poor decision to force one deep, especially considering the play came on first down.
Getting some help – The Seahawks were extremely physical on defense all night and on a couple of occasions that cost them big time – and each was questionable. Seattle was leading 12-7 late in the first half and had Julian Edelman stopped after a short pass that would have set up and third-and-short from deep inside New England territory, but Richard Sherman was called for a facemask penalty, jumpstarting a drive that ended in the second of Blount's three touchdowns. Replays showed Sherman never touched Edelman's facemask but rather grabbed the receiver's shoulder pads, but the flag was thrown nonetheless. In the third quarter the Patriots looked like they would be forced to punt while trailing 19-14 when Brady's third-down pass fell incomplete. But Chancellor dove at Brady's legs as the quarterback threw and drew a roughing the passer call from referee Gene Steratore. Chancellor was actually being blocked by Marcus Cannon on the play but Steratore still threw the flag. Brady came up flexing his right knee after the play and admitted later he suffered some sort of injury. That drive also ended in a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 21-19 lead.
The New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in a regular season game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, November 13, 2016.
Hidden Jule – It was an interesting night for Edelman, who caught seven passes for 99 yards but also had a key fumble in the fourth quarter. Edelman had a pair of huge plays, none bigger than his 33-yard reception behind Shead to convert a third-and-25 on the final play of the third quarter. Then as the Patriots were driving for the tying touchdown, Brady hit him again for 30 yards on third-and-10 to move down to the Seattle 24. But the fumble allowed Seattle to put a touchdown on the board and forced the Patriots to score a touchdown at the end.
Mr. Jones – After sitting out the last three games Cyrus Jones was back in action and served as the lead returner on both kickoffs and punts. He was quiet for most of the night after being forced to kneel for touchbacks all night until his last attempt, which he took back 43 yards before fumbling. Fortunately Nate Ebner bailed him out and recovered at the Seattle 43. Jones also had one solid punt return that also included a negative, although this one had nothing to do with him. He took Jon Ryan's second and last punt of the night back 21 yards with a sharp cut in traffic but Coleman was flagged for a clip that moved the ball back to the Patriots 9 and resulted in just a 4-yard return.
Two-point decision – Pete Carroll is obviously not opposed to being unconventional with the game on the line and once again he showed that Sunday night. Doug Baldwin scored his third touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter to put Seattle up by seven, but rather than having Steven Hauschka boot the PAT to make it an 8-point game, Carroll went for the two-point conversion that would have made it a two-score game. It was a strange decision considering the struggles Seattle's offense had near the Patriots goal line. Hauschka was forced to kick four field goals, three coming from missed opportunities in the red zone. Had Seattle been more efficient throughout the game then perhaps the bold decision to make in a 9-point game with four minutes and change remaining would have been more understandable, but then again had Seattle been more efficient the game likely wouldn't have been on the line at the time.