New England Patriots: Seattle Seahawks

McDaniels explains pass-heavy strategy

October, 15, 2012
After amassing nearly 500 yards on the ground in the previous two weeks, the Patriots were held to just 86 yards on 27 carries on Sunday in Seattle. It stood in stark contrast to the relative ease -- and overall dependence -- the team showed in running the football against the Bills and Broncos.

On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained the decision to favor the pass and deviate from the run-heavy attack was a counter to the scheme that Seattle runs on defense.

"We usually try to make a good choice of what we end up trying or how we end up trying to play the game, and we knew Seattle was a really good, talented defense," he said. "We knew that there's certainly some challenges playing there, in that stadium. And then couple that with their scheme, where they really play with a safety down, either in the box or at the line of scrimmage on almost every play, we knew we were going to rely a little bit more heavily on our passing game as kind of an extension of our running game yesterday."

Specifically, McDaniels noted the incorporation of the short passing game to control the clock and matriculate down the field against Seattle's aggressive front.

"We mixed the running game in there, I think it was 27 runs, whatever it may be, and then used a lot of short passes to kind of go hand-in-hand with that, to try to overall control the clock and really try to effectively move the ball against the scheme that they have, which is a good one," he added. "And they have a lot of good players. Going into the game, we kind of knew we would be a little heavier throwing the football than we were in the past few weeks."

Quarterback Tom Brady set a new career-high with 58 pass attempts on Sunday, marking the eighth time in his career that he has attempted 50 or more passes during a regular season game.

The Patriots have been able to successfully strike a balance throughout much of the regular season, with a passing attack that checks in third in yards per game, and a rushing attack that ranks fourth league-wide in yards per game.

Of note, however, is that the Patriots have won each of the three games in which they have run the football more times than they have passed the football, and lost each of the three games that they have thrown it more than they have run it.

The offense has been at its best when weaving runs and passes at an even clip during the course of a game, and might be able to do so this weekend against the Jets, who have allowed the second-most rushing yards in all of football.

Coaches weigh in on defensive breakdown

October, 15, 2012
With less than two minutes to play in their Week 6 matchup with the Seahawks, the Patriots' defense surrendered a long passing touchdown to Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice, who crept behind the Patriots' secondary for the game-winning score.

It appeared that the Patriots were in a Cover 2 look, and safety Tavon Wilson lost contain on the deep pass, allowing Rice behind him in a situation he could ill-afford to do so.

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick discussed the play, citing a need for better execution across the board -- from the players to the coaches.

"On that particular play they -- I'm not saying they max-protected -- but they kept everybody in except for two receivers, then they leak an outlet guy out late, so they kept extra protection in to try to throw the ball deep," he said. "Could the pass rush have been better? It always can. Could the coverage have been better? Definitely. Could we have been in something other than that when the play was called? Of course, that's part of it too. The bottom line of it is that we don't have any defenses that are designed to give up 50-yard touchdowns or any offensive plays that are designed to cause penalties or turn the ball over or do those things."

"We have to always look at the design and always work to improve it. We have to be able to execute whatever it is that we have called," Belichick added. "We don’t know what they are going to run. We have to be able to handle whatever it is that they throw at us, whatever defense we call, whatever play they happen to run. We've got to do a better job of that."

Belichick said that although he felt the defense called set his team up with enough defenders in the deep portion of the field to account for the route combination the Seahawks ran, the blame extended to the sidelines, too.

"I'm not trying to put the blame on the players or anything like that, that's not what it's about," he said. "Is there a different call that we could have made? There always is. I don't think there's anything wrong with the call. I think we could have played it better, which includes coaching it to be played better.

"I think the responsibility on the coaching end is the execution of it, not 'we could have been in something else,'" Belichick continued. "Because we would have had to cover it if we were in something else, too. It comes down to the execution and that's part of the coaching fault as well."

Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia echoed Belchick's sentiments.

"I think that the particular play you're talking about, obviously we just have to execute better and coach better the call that we were in," he said. "Obviously, the defense is called to try to stop the different plays that they can throw at us, or run at us. We just have to go out and execute and perform at a higher level. I can't really say that an extra defender or an extra player here or there could have really helped us, just that obviously we just have to do a better job overall coaching and playing just to handle the situation better."

Quick hits from McDaniels and Patricia

October, 15, 2012
Offering up some quick-hit sound bites from Monday conference calls with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:

McDaniels doesn't respond to Sherman. McDaniels was asked about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman saying the Patriots have a "gimmick offense," and one that wasn't ready for a "heavyweight fight." McDaniels wasn't looking to fire back. "I don't pay attention to (it)," he said. "They have a good defense, they really do. They have one of the top defenses in the league. I give them a lot of credit. They play a lot of players in there, and they play the run well, and they defend the pass well. They don't give up a lot of big plays. They played better than we did yesterday."

Patricia on Arrington drop-off. After allowing two big catches to Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin on Seattle's second offensive series, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington was benched in favor of rookie Alfonzo Dennard. On Monday, Patricia was asked about what went into the decision: "We try to play as many guys as we can who are active for the game. Everyone's going to have a role for that particular game and will have an opportunity to play. So we certainly are going to take all the guys who are active and get them out there and try to get some opportunity to get some plays out of them, and certainly we do that every week," he said.

Hernandez 'tried to do exactly what we wanted him to do.' After missing nearly a month with an ankle injury, tight end Aaron Hernandez returned on Sunday, but in a limited role. "Aaron made some key plays. We knew that we obviously would limit some of the things that we did with him. He made some important plays for us, got some drives started with some positive plays. Made a couple third-down conversions there, and ended up scoring on the goal line, so we thought he could help us and contribute and help us win the game," McDaniels said. "I thought Aaron tried to do exactly what we wanted him to do with his opportunities, and hopefully that will continue to improve as we go forward."

Pats secondary can't contain deep ball

October, 15, 2012
Just how porous was the Patriots’ secondary on Sunday?

Rookie Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed as many passes deeper than 20 yards downfield today (five) as he has all season, including the 46-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 1:27 left in the game.

Wilson’s average pass on Sunday traveled 15.2 yards, more than twice as deep as his 7.5 average through the first five games of the season.

Seattle DB takes Brady trash talk to Twitter

October, 14, 2012
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman took to Twitter following his team’s 24-23 victory over the Patriots on Sunday, trash talking Tom Brady and the Patriots for all the world to see.

First, he tweeted a photo of Brady looking dejected from the game with the caption, “Brady sure looks like a man who turned the 12thMan against us.”

He was presumably referring to Brady’s comments earlier in the week, when the Patriots quarterback said he hoped to silence the crowd at CenturyLink Field, noted as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.

Sherman later sent the following tweet, along with the photo that accompanies it below: "He told me and earl to see him after the game when they win..... I found him after...."

Brady/ShermanAP Photo/Elaine ThompsonSeahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had some words for Tom Brady after the game.

The “earl” in the tweet refers to Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who intercepted Brady in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Sherman also intercepted Brady in Seattle territory in the third quarter. For the game he was credited with three tackles and three passes defensed.

In the locker room after the game, the brash Sherman told the Seattle Times, "We're built for a heavyweight fight. I don't think they're built for a heavyweight fight."

A short time later, he sent one last tweet rubbing it in after apparently hearing from some irate New Englanders: "Patriots fans mad lol... Talking bout Super Bowl rings.... What have u done lately? Oh ur 3-3 lol"

Video: Patriots failed on multiple fronts

October, 14, 2012
video's Mike Reiss says the Patriots' game management, coaching decisions and overall play left a lot to be desired Sunday in Seattle.

Video: Analysis from Patriots-Seahawks

October, 14, 2012

In the video above, Jim Basquil and Eric Allen break down the Seahawks' 24-23 win over the Patriots. Allen give Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson some credit here, but also lauds the Seattle coaching staff as well for taking advantage of the Patriots' secondary injuries late in the game.

Brady: Squandered too many opportunities

October, 14, 2012
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a career-high 58 passes on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. A few of those throws proved costly in the Patriots' 24-23 loss.

Brady was intercepted in the end zone by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas early in the fourth quarter, following two earlier plays on which Brady was nearly picked off by Thomas in the same spot.

Meanwhile, on the final play of the first half, Brady was flagged for intentional grounding after sailing a pass over the end zone under pressure. On the three yard line and with six seconds left in the first half, Brady saw no one open and fired it straight ahead and out of the end zone in order to make sure the clock stopped and the team had a chance to attempt a field goal. The only problem was there were no Patriots in the area. The flag was thrown, the final ticks were taken off the clock and the Pats walked away empty.

Brady was also penalized for intentional grounding late in the fourth quarter, setting up a third-and-20 play on which the Patriots couldn't convert the first down.

Overall, the Patriots were 1-for-6 in the red zone. For Brady, that was just part of lost opportunities in the game.

"I thought we squandered quite a few opportunities today," he said. "Certainly we have to do a better job, and it starts with me."

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/John FroschauerTom Brady had a career-high 58 pass attempts, but threw two picks and had a lukewarm 79.3 QB rating.
Brady's 58 passes broke a career-high he set twice, when he had 55 attempts in a win over the Chicago Bears on Nov. 10, 2002, as well as in a loss to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 24, 2006.

"This is a team that really forces you to throw the ball, based on the schemes that they play," Brady said. "But whatever we do we have to do it effectively and efficiently, whether it's running it or throwing it. We had some real good run plays in there. We had some good pass plays in there. I just thought that there was more in the running game and more in the passing game that we just didn't have. I thought that's why you come up one point short."

The Seahawks came into the game allowing 192 passing yards per game, fourth-best in the NFL. Brady surpassed that average in the first half, throwing for 216 yards on 21-for-30 passing, including two touchdowns.

"We had a quite a few yards," Brady noted. "We moved up and down the field at times. We really squandered some scoring opportunities."

In the second half, however, as the rain picked up, Brady was less accurate, one-hopping some passes to receivers.

"I just wish I just executed better, to tell you the truth," Brady said. "I don't think about the weather much. I just try to go out there and do my job the best I can, and obviously the throws that were under-thrown, I wish I did a better job putting it where the guy could catch it."

Brady was 15-for-28 for 179 yards in the second half, throwing two interceptions. His final QB rating dipped to a lukewarm 79.3.

"We lost to a good football team," Brady concluded. "We played some very good football today at times, (but) obviously it's just not good enough over the course of the game to come out on the winning end."

"We're 3-3. We've had some tough games on the road, and we've shown a lot of mental toughness. I think we have to execute better, I think that's what it comes down to."

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23

October, 14, 2012

SEATTLE -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 24-23 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field:

PatriotsSeahawksWhat it means. The Patriots led for most of the game and had a chance to put the Seahawks away, but their inability to drop the hammer cost them the game. That is one area that has mostly eluded the team this year -- the ability to finish off an opponent. The Patriots left a lot of points on the field and kept the “12th Man” -- Seattle’s spirited crowd -- in the game throughout. The Patriots fall to 3-3.

Secondary in shambles. The Patriots were playing with rookies Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson at safety at the end of the game, a result of injuries and a lack of depth. The Seahawks capitalized with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice off play-action, as he split the safeties. Overall, the secondary had a very tough day.

Not Brady’s best day. The Patriots decided that the passing game was the best way to attack the Seahawks, and while quarterback Tom Brady produced some solid numbers, this wasn’t a performance up to Brady’s high standard. He entered the game with just one interception on the season, but had two on the day. He also had an intentional grounding penalty on a throw through the back of the end zone at the end of the second quarter that cost the team a chance at three points.


Which group had the most disappointing performance in the Patriots' loss to the Seahawks?


Discuss (Total votes: 20,494)

Game management a downer. The Patriots' coaching staff didn't have its best day, either. Timeouts were burned, the sequence at the end of the second quarter cost the team three points and a third timeout, which could have been valuable on the final drive, was burned when the defense had 12 men on the field. Uncharacteristic of a Bill Belichick-coached team.

Welker’s toughness shines through. Receiver Wes Welker turned in another Welker-like performance. The stretch of plays that perhaps best defined his work came in the second quarter when he absorbed a crunching hit, missed three plays, then returned to the field and promptly caught a pass for a first down. The stats look impressive for Welker, but this was a game where the stats don’t even tell the story when it comes to Welker. So tough and so valuable to this offense. He was one of the bright spots.

Bolden, Chung & Slater are injury situations to monitor. Rookie running back Brandon Bolden left the game in the second quarter after hobbling off from covering a kickoff that went for a touchback. The Patriots announced that Bolden had a knee injury, and he didn’t return. In addition, safety Patrick Chung left for the locker room in the fourth quarter with team doctor Thomas Gill and appeared to be favoring his arm. The team announced that Chung had a shoulder injury. Finally, special-teams captain Matthew Slater limped off after covering a punt in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Receiver Brandon Lloyd was shaken up late but returned to the game.

What’s next. The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday to entertain the Jets, who scored a big win over the Colts on Sunday. The Seahawks have a quick turnaround with a trip to San Francisco on Thursday night.

Hightower, Edelman ruled out

October, 13, 2012
SEATTLE, Wash -- Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower and fourth-year wide receiver Julian Edelman have been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.

Hightower, who has been limited with a hamstring injury, will miss his second straight game. His top backup, Tracy White (foot), is also out, so the Patriots are thin on the strong side.

One possibility is defensive end Rob Ninkovich moving to that spot.

Hightower is a strong player against the run, which figures to be a top priority on defense against the Seahawks, who rely heavily on Marshawn Lynch. Getting Lynch going is crucial for the Seahawks, who start rookie Russell Wilson at quarterback.

Edelman wasn't expected to play.

Meanwhile, tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) has made the trip to Seattle, putting him in position to play.

Big Decision: Run the no-huddle in Seattle?

October, 13, 2012
The day before each game this season, this space will feature one big decision facing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his staff, in terms of the game plan.

This week's decision: Should the Patriots try to run their no-huddle offense in Seattle?

SeahawksPatriotsTwo topics have dominated the week of discussion leading up to Sunday's game against the Seahawks: the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field, and the Patriots' no-huddle offense that was the story of last week's win over Denver.

We know that one will be there, and that's the crowd noise. But will the Patriots try to keep a similar offensive pace this Sunday as they did last week?

If they choose to do so, the key will be nonverbal communication. The Patriots reportedly have implemented a no-huddle offense that uses one-word play calls. With the noise factor coming into play this week, perhaps the Patriots return to using a whiteboard on the sidelines with a numbering system. We haven't seen that yet this season, but it's one option.

The upside to continuing to use the no-huddle, of course, is that it keeps the defense from substituting, and could lead to defensive communication problems, as Seattle's defense will have to fight the crowd noise and rely on nonverbal signals of their own without a defensive huddle.

The other option is to scrap the blistering offensive pace this week, and try to run a clock-control, ball-control offense. This would keep things at a relatively calmer pace and likely prevent mistakes. But the Seahawks have the third-best rush defense in the NFL, so running the ball too much but failing to move the chains could incite the crowd further.

What do you think? What happens when an unstoppable force (the Patriots' top-ranked, no-huddle based offense) meets an immovable object (the Seahawks' top-ranked defense, backed by their home crowd)? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Red Bryant one who got away

October, 12, 2012
RENTON, Wash. -- All it took was one glimpse at Seahawks defensive lineman Red Bryant after Friday's practice, and one conversation, to understand why he was a top target of the Patriots in free agency.

He's big and powerful. And he sounds a lot like former Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren.

"That's my guy, he's someone I always looked up to," the 6-foot-4, 323-pound Bryant said of Warren, noting both are Texas A&M alums. "I try to emulate my game after Ty Warren. He's definitely a guy I hold in high regard."

The Patriots held Bryant in high regard this offseason, making him one of their main free-agent priorities.

The decision was a tough one for Bryant, now in his fifth NFL season.

"The Patriots were interested and I definitely was listening. I thought it was a great opportunity for me, and the likelihood of me going there was high," Bryant recalled Friday.

But the Seahawks stepped up with an offer, which could be worth as much as $35 million over five years, that ultimately kept him in the Pacific Northwest.

"I feel like my situation here, it was great for me and my family, and that's what it basically came down to -- my familiarity with Seattle, and the guys I'm playing next to, like [Brandon] Mebane, who happens to be one of my best friends. It was a great opportunity for me and I know that."

Bryant, who is playing a 5-technique type left defensive end role for the Seahawks' 4-3 defense, was asked what the Patriots were selling him in their free-agent pursuit.

"It wasn't so much a sell, as you know you'd have an opportunity every year to be playing for a championship," he said. "You understand with that organization, the history that comes with it, and it's a specific type of player that they like. I was honored to be one of those guys.

"I just feel like they don't have to sell the Patriots. You know going into it the stability, from ownership on down. That alone was definitely enough for me to listen."

Bryant has started all five games this season for the Seahawks, helping to anchor a defense that has allowed an average of 3.23 yards per rush (4th best in the NFL).

His matchup against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (assuming Vollmer plays) is one of the top 1-on-1 battles to monitor Sunday when it comes to which team gains control of the line of scrimmage.

Hernandez among 14 listed as questionable

October, 12, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been declared questionable for the team's Week 6 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Patriots initially listed him as having practiced for a third straight day on a limited basis on Friday, but later issued a correction, saying he did not participate (DNP). The questionable designation puts Hernandez's chance of playing on Sunday at 50 percent.

The third-year tight end has missed three consecutive games after leaving the team's Week 2 contest against the Arizona Cardinals with a right ankle injury.

He is one of 14 Patriots players listed as questionable for the game, a list that also includes tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), guard Logan Mankins (calf/hip), right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (hamstring), running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), who returned to practiced this week after suffering the injury in Week 3.

The team will travel to Seattle on Friday, and head coach Bill Belichick said Hernandez could be a game-time decision.

"We'll just have to see how it goes here," Belichick said Friday morning. "He practiced late last week and did some things yesterday and Wednesday. We'll see how he is today and see if it set him back, or didn't set him back, and how that went. We'll have the day to evaluate it on Saturday, and we'll see where we're at on Sunday. It could be a game-time decision."

In addition to those listed as questionable, the team declared both safety Steve Gregory (hip) and linebacker Tracy White (foot) out for the game.

Video: Countdown Daily's Pats predictions

October, 12, 2012

In the Countdown Daily video above, ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth and Herm Edwards explain why they are picking the Patriots to beat the Seahawks on Sunday.

Schlereth: "I love what (the Patriots) are doing offensively. I love the fact they can give you multiple formations, multiple sets and do so many things out of those formations. Especially with two tight (ends), three tight (ends). The running game has picked up, they've been phenomenal. It really kind of changes who they are philosophically. They've always been this spread offense. All of a sudden they can tight things down formationally and they can punch you in the mouth with that running game."

Edwards: "I think it will be a tough ball game, it'll go down to the fourth quarter. But the problem I see especially with Seattle, they don't have enough firepower on offense. Defensively, that will keep them in the game, and special teams. But the New England Patriots have found a way now to run the football. That will help you on the road. And by the way, they still have Tom Brady in the fourth quarter."

Soundbites from Pats locker room

October, 12, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bags were packed and ready in the locker room on Friday morning, as the Patriots prepare for their trip cross-country to Seattle later this afternoon.

Passing along some of the sights and sounds from Friday prior to the team's departure:

1. McCourty focused on vertical passing game. Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty understands that the Seahawks' offense is about much more than just running back Marshawn Lynch, a terrific weapon from the backfield. Specifically, McCourty stressed the importance of defending the downfield passing game, which involves receivers including Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.

"Definitely that's one challenge with Sidney Rice. He has good height and good size to go up and get the ball, and Golden Tate doesn't have that size, but he does a great job going up and getting the ball," McCourty said. "As you watch, he's really made some great plays down the field, just like that play he made in Green Bay. It was thrown up when he went up there, he went up and competed for the ball. We'll just have to go out there and compete with them and make plays down the field and when they catch the ball and different plays, just tackle them and get them down to the ground."

The Patriots will face a rookie quarterback for the first time this season in Russell Wilson, but his performance through five games hasn't been entirely indicative of a young player. McCourty talked about his ablity to hurt a defense with both his arm and his legs.

"He does a great job getting outside of the pocket and making plays, so I think we'll have to do some different things," he said of Wilson. "You don't want to just attack, attack him, and he's able to get outside, break a tackle, and once he sees a lot of open field he has pretty good speed and good athleticism to make a play with his legs and then throwing the ball. We're just trying to do some different things to attack him and give him different looks."

2. DE Jones talks containing Wilson. Building off of McCourty's comments, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones also added that containing Wilson in the pocket will be critical.

"You just have to stay in their rush lanes," he said. "Everyone has to do their job, and contain him, make sure he doesn't get out of the pocket."

Jones said that the Seahawks have a strong offensive line, and he'll likely align opposite from left tackle Russell Okung, the Seahawks' top pick in 2010.

"Okung is a great left tackle, he's a good player," he said. "He's a high draft pick, and my job is to get after him and make sure he has a hard day of it."

3. Jones not competing with Irvin. The Seahawks went defensive with their top pick in 2012, snagging pass-rushing maven Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia. Irvin and Jones stack up as the top two rookies in terms of sacks so far in 2012 (Irvin has 4.5, Jones 3.0), though it could be argued that Jones has been the more productive overall player in the early goings.

When asked if he competes with Irvin, who was drafted six spots ahead of Jones, the Patriots rookie offered: "I don't compete. I compete with no one but myself."