Things to consider while realizing this whole “having a guy you stuck your neck out for as the President Elect” thing is off to a horrible start
— Let me get this out of the way right now. That was a terrible, unforgivable, inexcusable non-call on what is a pass interference in any universe where justice exists. It’s a blatant example of the ongoing NBAification of NFL officiating, where everything becomes subjective, every star player gets away with certain things and where a call that is a complete no brainer in the first half becomes that thing you don’t have the guts to call at the end of the game. And it’s an outrage. It also ranks about 250th on the list of issues the Patriots had Sunday night, somewhere between “Cris Collinsworth is a dope” and “’The Walking Dead’ is overdoing it a little with this Negan character” in terms of actual impact on the game. The fact is, they lost this game because they deserved to.
— I’m just stunned at the number on unPatriotish screw ups, given the fact they had two full weeks to prepare for Seattle. Tom Brady’s interception, which was positively Cutlerian. Julian Edelman’s fumble. Justin Coleman’s block in the back to negate a great kick return. False starts by Rob Gronkowski and Malcolm Mitchell. The botched center exchange on the goal line. And I haven’t even gotten to the defense. For that, I’m going to have to shut my eyes, take a deep breath, and find my happy place. Or in the interest of time, a shot of Sambuca instead. Anyway, here goes.
— This defense is in crisis. Full-blown, five-alarm panic mode crisis. I defy anyone to name one thing they do especially well right now. This was the 30th ranked rushing team in the league, averaging 20 points a game, coming off a short week with a cross country flight involved, and this D made them look like the 1999 Rams. It’s just a complete, across-the-board failure on every level. And without a few unforced errors by the Seahawks in the red zone it could have been much, much worse. For weeks they were getting by against bad quarterbacks, and now that they’ve faced a really good one, this has that dreaded 2011-12 feel to it. Where they’re asking Brady to drop a 35-burger week in and week out. And we all remember what that looks like in January.
— When Coleman wasn’t adding an egregious 26-yard pass interference penalty to his permant record, he was chasing right off the line of scrimmage all night. In man coverage, Logan Ryan is showing no pattern recognition whatsoever. In zone, Doug Baldwin runs a deep crossing pattern, Ryan releases him to the care and custody of Pat Chung as he should, and Chung lets Baldwin in behind him for the touchdown. And Paul Richardson was so alone on the 39-yarder he caught, I thought he’d put a bloody handprint on the ball and call it “Wilson.”— Everyone loves to talk about getting pressure on a quarterback and sending extra rushers and all that. In the case of Russell Wilson, it’s more about containment. Staying at his level so he can’t escape the pocket. And yet he did exactly that all night long. Rolling out to his left and taking a flamethrower to the coverage, and the Pats never adjusted. And when he got outside, it was stunning to see how often Ryan would get turned around, never squaring his hips to his man, not be able to recover. Right now there is one cover corner on this team you wouldn’t give a one-star Yelp review to, and that is Malcolm Butler. Frankly teams are doing the Pats a favor by not just throwing on every down. And if Matt Patricia doesn’t fix it five minutes ago, I wouldn’t be shocked if Bill Belichick takes the defense over. It is not supposed to be this way.
— Even the simple things seem to utterly confound them. For example, there are a million ways to defend a three-man bunch. But in the end, they’re taught to just treat it like defending 3-on-3 basketball. Everybody take a man, and when they make cuts, you make your switches and call it out. But the Patriots defensive backs all seem a step slow to read and react and it’s killing them.
— If you’re one of those people who ripped the Jamie Collins trade, this is your day. When C.J. Prosise barbeques the Pats with seven catches for 87 yards, including a 38-yarder with Elandon Roberts giving him free release off the line and trailing him the entire way, then it’s hard to argue that an athletic freak like Collins might have come in a little handy.
— If you’re a fan of mental toughness (And if you’re not, what’s wrong with you? So hide in your safe space and listen up for trigger warnings, Pinko.), you’ve got to have respect for the Seahawks. It’s a tall order to ask a team to come into Foxboro with that unfavorable schedule and win an alley fight fought with broken bottles and trash can lids like this one. They still do dumb things on Pete Carroll’s watch. Take terrible penalties, lose their composure with the time out that helped the Patriots and the 12 men on the field fiasco. But damn, they make you trade lives for your real estate. And I admire them.
— That said, the Kam Chancellor low hit on Brady’s knee was the Socratic Ideal of the perfect cheap shot. And exactly the kind of thing the league can’t afford to allow. But Collinsworth, like Dan Fouts before him, has appointed himself to the office of Excuse Maker in Chief, pretending that Marcus Cannon shoved Chancellor into Brady, despite all evidence to the contrary. I mean, in order for Cannon to have shoved Chancellor, he would have had to touch him. And there was no evidence of that, either. But for some reason, the TV Football Analyst’s union has decided their official policy is that a dive at the knees of a Patriots player is not a dive at the knees at all.
— What I don’t have a problem with is Earl Thomas’ hit on Gronk, the one they stopped the game for to examine him. That’s precisely the kind of tough, clean hit they can’t legislate out of the game.
— But the play did beg the question: How do they examine Gronk for concussions?
Doctor: “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Doctor: “OK. He’s fine.”
— Of course, there were some positives here. The fact that LeGarrette Blount has become a legit bellcow back, capable of getting the tough yards is a huge plus. That touchdown when he carried half the Seattle defense into the end zone took the most guts, toughness and effort you’ll see this side of “Hacksaw Ridge.” And enough testosterone that every woman in that end of the stadium should be taking an E.P.T. test right now.
— And Tom Brady made, at minimum, three throws that had you saying no other quarterback in the league could have completed. Not the least of which was the third-and-10 pass to Edelman that he dropped perfectly in the bucket. Like with the championship game in Denver last year, you find yourself once again saying that one of the other units has let this guy down when he should be carrying them to an easy win.
— One positive on defense is Trey Flowers. On a D that seems utterly incapable of forcing negative plays on anyone, he’s been winning 1-on-1 battles, getting in the backfield and finishing plays. I don’t know how long it will last, but for one night anyway, he was their best outside linebacker.
— This week’s Applicable Movie Quote:
Moff JerJerrod: “The Emperor is coming here?”
Darth Vader: “That is correct, Commander. And, he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress. … The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.”
— ”Return of the Jedi”
— Martellus Bennett was the best player on the field for the Patriots. Until they got into Seattle territory on that final drive with the game on the line. In which case he became the player on their sidelines, replaced by Mitchell and then Chris Hogan. Sometimes I think Josh McDaniels just coaches too hard.
— Ordinarily I’d say something about the Patriots catching a break with a terrible 49ers team coming up next. But since they’re the front runners for the “Struggling Offense Club’s Good Guys Award” right now, I’m not so sure. Something tells me by this time next week, they’ll have turned Colin Kaepernick into America’s Sweetheart.
Jerry has a book! “From Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots” has been called “the perfect book for any reader who is a die-hard Pats fan.” It’s available now online and at bookstores everywhere. Details and scheduled book signings are at JerryThornton.net.