NEPD Staff Writer: Joon Lee
This was a complete and utter disaster. This was the worst and most demoralizing non-Super Bowl loss in a while. This beats 4th and 2. This beats them all. This was one of the worst Patriots losses in recent memory.
The Seahawks are not a team that should be beating a Tom Brady-Bill Belichick led squad. To be fair, the Seahawks defense played extremely well after making adjustments at halftime and Russell Wilson was clutch down the stretch, but there are some serious problems with this Patriots secondary. There has not been a legitimate secondary in New England in nearly five years, back when Asante Samuel was the anchor of the secondary.
While I’ll let Mike Loyko, do all the ranting about this horrendous secondary, this was just a terrible game all around for the Patriots.
Tom Brady played one of most horrendous second halves plus six seconds in the Brady era on Sunday. Brady was unable to to give the Patriots a chance at the end for points at the end of the first half, throwing the ball way in an obvious intentional grounding. This point in the game was not only a huge momentum swing in the game, but it also only put the Patriots up with a 7 point lead rather than a 10 point lead.
Brady was off with his throws during all of the second half and made crucial mistakes, throwing two interceptions with one in the red zone. A great team should be able to win even when their superstar quarterback is not on top of their game. So far this season, the Patriots have not been able to do that, and until they do, I won’t be convinced that this team can win a Super Bowl. A great quarterback can only lead you so far.
Next is the running game. There were a bunch of issues with the running game on Sunday, starting with the play of Stevan Ridley. To be fair, I think the Patriots should have run the ball more with Ridley in the backfield. The Patriots have done well in the games where the play call breakdown between pass and run is equal. However, when Ridley did get the ball out of the backfield, he was largely ineffective, only gaining 34 yards off 16 carries for a whopping 2.125 YPC. If Ridley wants to take that next step, he’s going to need to stop fumbling the ball, drive forward and get the yards the Patriots need.
Running back Danny Woodhead had a highly effective game both out of the backfield and catching the ball. Woodhead should’ve gotten more reps in crunch time on the Patriot’s second to last drive of the game where Ridley was ineffective and only gained 2 yards on 2 carries.
At the end of games, the Patriots offensive play calling has been far too conservative. Instead of trying to close out the game, Josh McDaniels has consistently called lackluster plays that allow the opposition to get back into the game. This isn’t the 2007 offense where every other game was a blowout and the defense didn’t need to play well. This offense needs to get as many points as possible on the board so they don’t need to hand the game over to the atrocious secondary.
Looking at the second and third to last drives for the Patriots in the fourth quarter, it is evident that the play calling was not bombastic enough. When the Patriots need to get points up on the board, why is Brady throwing short passes? In this situation, Brady should be shooting over the middle of the field to one of the tight ends and not throwing it over the middle to nobody for intentional grounding penalties.
The only two plays that were able to gain significant yardage on the third to last drive were a 9 yard run and 12 yard catch by Woodhead and a 9 yard catch by Welker, who had another excellent game. I cannot see an explanation as to why Ridley would be put into the game when the Patriots were trying to run down the clock when Woodhead had been much more of a threat throughout the game is a much smaller threat, especially in the pouring rain.
Sure, Stevan Ridley is a much bigger threat to get the big running play, but he did not show any signs of breaking out during the whole game. For me, Brandon Bolden is starting to inch towards the starting running back spot on this team, who also left the game with a knee injury on a special teams play.
A good running attack is crucial for a good red zone attack, where the Patriots went 1-6 on Sunday. Without a good running attack, the Seahawks secondary was able to sit back and anticipate Tom Brady. The secondary not only overpowered the receivers of the Patriots, but they were also able to outsmart Tom Brady and anticipate him on many plays during the game.
Besides the offense, I hope that the injury of Matthew Slater is not downplayed. The special teams captain is the most important players on special teams and is always the first one down the field on kickoffs, usually making the tackle. The first special teams play that Slater was out, Leon Washington ran back a punt return 25 yards, only stopped by Shane Vereen.
The defense may have been atrocious, but Tom Brady and the offense was equally as bad.