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Zimmer: Came Down to 1 Play, but Cam’s Here to Stay: Patriots Week 2 Recap

Two powerhouses squaring off – one trying to solidify themselves as a top-five team, the other trying to prove they’re still elite.  Don’t you feel like we’ve seen this movie before?

For the many years prior to the Cam Newton era, it’s been the other way around. A red-hot Tom Brady comes strolling in with more confidence than the high school jock before homecoming, and a full-blown battle ensues between the two teams…sometimes, New England left victorious, but other match-ups yielded the fortune for the men in College Navy and Action Green. 

Although maybe not top-of-mind for the casual football fan, the Patriots-Seahawks rivalry actually runs quite deep.  Coming into Week 2, New England and Seattle played each other 18 times since 1977, with each team winning exactly half of the feuds between them.  The last 5 meetings – all played after 2007 – were decided by a grand total of 20 points (if you’re a math whiz, that’s only a net difference of 4 points per game!).

And, they’ve played out to some phenomenal finishes on both ends. Take 2012: Patriots command the lead all game, and blow it with this missile from Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice to win the game in the final minutes. This is PAINFUL for Pats fans like me.

And of course, there's Malcolm Butler’s interception at the 1-yard line in 2015 for Super Bowl XLIX. The Pats had their backs against the wall, called Pete Carroll’s bluff, and sent him home.  Cue the waterworks and memories.

Well, we got another show on Sunday – an instant classic, if you will.  Although the Pats scored first and led for a sizable amount of the first half, the Seahawks commanded most nearly all 60 minutes.  The Pats fell 35-30 to the Seahawks in their first meeting since 2016; and yet again, they produced for us a drama-filled show.

Russell Wilson dazzled, per usual; his line of 5 touchdowns and 288 yards put him at the top of the list for scoring quarterbacks this week in the NFL.  He met up with rising star & freak athlete D.K. Metcalf for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Chris Carson, and Freddie Swain all chipped in with scores of their own. We knew this one would be a major test for New England.  In last week’s recap, I so eloquently conveyed my thoughts on playing a titanic Seattle offense:

“Hopefully the Pats defense will be enough to slow down Russ & the boys; but more importantly, get Cam to break out the RPO’s and play actions, and the Pats might find themselves to a 2-0 start if they can execute.”

I wasn’t...entirely wrong.  While the offense came to play, the Pats defense was most certainly not enough to slow down “Russ & the boys,” as it almost appeared a different New England defense showed up in Week 2.

But the story won’t necessarily be about the standout performances from two of the most well-known active quarterbacks in the NFL, or the Tom Brady-less Patriots, or the re-tooled and re-loaded Seattle Seahawks.  No, oh no; that’d be too simple an analysis.

Instead, you’ll remember this game for two big moments: the Seahawks passing on 3rd down with 90 seconds left to go and a 5 point lead (have they not learned anything?!), and Cam Newton’s first 60-second drill in a New England uniform.  Some argue the clock management was suspect, others say Bill was sound in his decisions.  Some say Cam should’ve thrown the football or ran an RPO, others say the final play of the game was the right call.

For me, it’s simple; we knew the Patriots needed to figure a few things out this year.  I thought, however, that it’d take them far longer than Week 2 to present themselves as the well-oiled machine we saw against the Seahawks on Sunday.  

Take it from Rhode Island news anchor Ted Nesi...

Let’s break down the good and bad of New England’s 35-30 loss to the Seahawks in Week 2.

GOOD Cam Newton still has an arm.  For those of you that were freaking out last week and saying “What is he doing! He needs to pass more!”, you’re gonna love watching the Week 2 highlights.  Cam had another elite performance this week in which he rushed for 47 yards & 2 touchdowns, as well as casually chipping in 397 passing yards.  If you were mad at the Newton signing because you thought all he’d accomplish in a New England uniform would be running himself into the ground, think again…or take a hike.

Inject this into my veins.

Julian Edelman looked like the Julian Edelman from the old days.  We all love Jules; he’s arguably the face of the franchise, and one of the few current Patriots that caught more than a year’s worth of passes from Tom Brady. And for those that worried after an “underperformance” last week (might be a stretch) …you’re in for a treat.   Edelman reeled in 8 receptions for 179 yards on Sunday, and clearly seems to be Cam’s favorite target.  We’ve seen this movie before with Edelman getting hot; the offense goes as Jules goes.

When the arms get going, the legs do too.  Just one week after I suggested that Damiere Byrd looked like he “had some work to do to get consistent reps as a wideout,” he proved us wrong.  Byrd is no stranger to Cam Newton – although he didn’t get any serious playing time, he spent his first years in the league catching passes from Cam in the Carolina Blue & White.  This week, the pair linked up for 6 receptions and 72 yards.  N’Keal Harry added 72 of his own on 8 receptions.  Add in Rex Burkhead’s 47 and Ryan Izzo’s 19, and you’ve got a variety of different weapons at Cam’s disposal this year.  Although it was only fullback Jakob Johnson that caught a touchdown pass this week, Cam Newton looks visibly more comfortable in an offense that was schematized to make him succeed; New England’s 30 points on the scoreboard sure think so.

BAD Have we lost the defense?  As sure as the sun will rise, you can never confide in the Patriots defense for consistency.  Just one week after picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick 3 times and Adrian Phillips looking more like Ed Reed than someone on a 2-year/$6m contract, it seems as though the Pats looked uncomfortable when matched up against a gunslinging quarterback that can roll out and get a legitimate gain every now and then.  Blown coverages were a problem – young buck D.K. Metcalf had reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore in the palm of his hand, and made the veteran cornerback look silly more often than not.

Here’s Metcalf taking Gilmore for a ride; Steph blows his coverage and simply can’t keep up with the up-and-coming Seattle wideout. Mind you, they scuffled quite a bit the rest of the game.

The last play could’ve used a bit more strategy.  Let me be clear…I like the call.  Bill Belichick vs. Pete Carroll – the Seattle front line vs. the Patriots offensive line – your best guys vs. our best guys…I’m ALL for it.  Send it right up the gut and may the strongest man win.  But, why wasn’t the strategy to put a receiver or two out there? Maybe at least create some doubt that Cam would be punching it into the end zone? 

Geoff Schwartz, former Giants offensive lineman and current commentator for Sirius XM and ESPN, breaks down what went wrong on the last play of the game.  When Schwartz puts the rush into slow-motion, you can see exactly what the Seahawks did right…and more importantly, what the Pats offensive line didn’t see coming.

Look at Bobby Wagner making a true veteran move once he sees the offensive line shifting left. He clogs everything up just enough for Shaq Mason to redirect his resources towards Wagner. Without Wagner cutting back away from Newton’s direction, Mason could’ve continued on Cam’s potential route, plowed over another linebacker (or two) on the left side, and left enough space for Cam to hop right into the end zone unscathed.  But one quick decision from Wagner was enough for the Pats to get stuffed at the goal line with crushed hopes and a zeroed-out clock. NEXT WEEK: The Pats are coming back to New England, where they’ll take on the Las Vegas Raiders, who have an early test against the New Orleans Saints in Monday Night Football action.  Given the sluggish state of the Patriots defense from Week 2, I’m concerned that Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller could prove to be a handful.  But, if there’s any sort of improvement this week, we should all be a bit more comfortable with the Patriots defense. CONDOLENCES: All Patriots fans are mourning with veteran running back James White, who tragically lost his father in an accident on Sunday.  He will be inactive for the foreseeable future – rightfully so – and I cannot imagine how his family feels.  May he find the strength to overcome this unspeakable loss.


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