Report card: Patriots not at their best
Probably the worst game in this category on the young season. The most talked-about play was the intentional grounding penalty on Tom Brady to end the first half. Belichick said the team was trying to be aggressive and score points, but ultimately came up empty while trying to rush the play to keep time on the clock in the event of an incompletion. Two timeouts were wasted in the second half: one when the play clock was set to expire and another when the defense has 12 players on the field.
This was a tale of two halves for the unit, which had the Seahawks' number in the early going. Brady completed 70 percent of his passes in the first half, spreading the ball around to all his receivers. By the second half, Brady frequently was off the mark. His two interceptions after halftime didn't directly lead to Seahawks points, but represented "squandered opportunities," as he put it, especially in the case of his red-zone pick to Seattle safety Earl Thomas.
Two bright spots here. The first was that no Patriots ball carrier fumbled, an improvement in an area that had become a concern in recent weeks. The second was Danny Woodhead, who ground out some tough yardage (4 carries for 25 yards) in key spots, both as a runner and after the catch. On the negative side, Stevan Ridley never got momentum, rushing for a dismal 2.1 yard-per-carry average (34 yards on 16 carries).
The poor performance of the Patriots secondary is cast in a worse light given that the Seahawks came in with the NFL's second-worst passing offense (169.7 yards per game). Rookie QB Russell Wilson threw for 293 yards on 16-for-27 passing, but his most important statistic was that he had no interceptions. Seattle's six longest plays all were 20-plus yard passes -- four in the first quarter, two in the fourth. Wilson played his best at the beginning of the game -- apparently leading to cornerback Kyle Arrington being benched -- and at the end, when he connected on a key 51-yard pass to Golden Tate over cornerback Devin McCourty. Penalties again were a problem.
The Patriots were relatively effective in stopping the run, allowing 85 yards on 26 carries, a 3.3 yard-per-carry average. They didn't allow Marshawn Lynch to be a force, but overall, it wasn't the unit's best performance (or its worst). Rookie Robert Turbin proved to be a spark, gaining 27 yards on five carries, including an 11-yard run.
One play knocks this grade down considerably: Zoltan Mesko's 39-yard punt with 2:48 left in the game, returned by Leon Washington 25 yards to the Seattle 43-yard line. The punt itself could have been better, coming down at the 18, while lapses in coverage set the Seahawks up with good field position for their winning drive. When the unit needed to come through, it didn't deliver. Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead replaced Devin McCourty after an abysmal first five games returning kicks, but the results were no better. Wes Welker returned four punts for a 17-yard average.