By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Once again, football fans were given a gift in a game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. Everything seemingly clicked for both teams – it was a clinic on both ends. It’s the games that truly come down to the minutia that can be the most fun to watch, and that’s what we were treated to on Sunday night.
In all the excitement though, it’s possible somethings slipped through the cracks. Time to clean out the notebook of all the leftover thoughts from a classic. Here’s 30 leftover thoughts for the 30 points Cam & Co. put up in Seattle.
1. I’m not a huge believer in “moral victories,” but if there ever was one, it was that game. To go toe-to-toe with one of, if not the best offenses in the league, on the road, in Week 2, after changing quarterbacks and overhauling the playbook in the offseason, with no preseason to work with, isn’t a small accomplishment. That’s also before you factor in the emotional toll this week must have taken on the team, with the passing of Bill Belichick’s mother on Tuesday and James White’s father the morning of the game.
2. Devin McCourty’s salute to James White after his touchdown on the interception return was incredibly touching.
3. Dating back to 1992, all nine meetings (regular and postseason) between New England and Seattle have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Eight of the nine have been one-score games, with a 30-20 Patriots win in 2004 the ‘blowout’ of the bunch.
4. With the NFL adding an 18th week/17th game to the schedule starting next year, there’s a chance we could see the league implement ‘protected rivalries,’ or annual games between AFC and NFC opponents. If that’s the route they go, the Seahawks feel like the best pairing for the Patriots, even more-so than the Giants or Eagles.
5. Sunday night was the earliest in-season meeting between New England and Seattle, although six of their previous 18 games were Week 3 contests.
6. It’s been said plenty, but it’s worth saying again – there’s not much the Patriots defense could have done on the touchdowns by D.K. Metcalf and David Moore. Those Russell Wilson throws were among the best I’ve ever seen. Sometimes in football you make a great play, but the guy on the other side just makes a better one. Nothing you can do but tip your cap.
7. It’s only been two weeks, but Russell Wilson may have already locked up my MVP vote. What he’s doing right now is special, on par with 2018 Patrick Mahomes.
8. Not having a crowd in attendance was definitely a factor. There were a few key moments in the game, namely after the Cam Newton interception, where the place would have been roaring had it been at capacity. Instead, the Patriots offense was able to operate while generic crowd noise played at the league-mandated 70 decibels. It’s fair to wonder how the outcome might have changed with 72,000 people in the stands.
9. The Patriots receivers took a couple of big shots during the game. Everybody will talk about N’Keal Harry getting targeted by Quandree Diggs – a hit that saw the Seahawks safety ejected, but Julian Edelman also took a few hits to his head and neck on the opening drive of the third quarter. Still, both stayed in the game.
10. The Patriots seemingly escaped without any major injury concerns. Given the hits the receivers were taking, that’s huge.
11. After injuring his arm last week, Adam Butler played only 18 snaps against Seattle. Byron Cowart saw his workload increase as a result, playing 31 downs Sunday night.
12. Rookie J.J. Taylor seemed to be the featured kick returner – he was deep on four of the Patriots six returns of the night. Still, he ran the ball out of the end zone three times, and on all three failed to pick up what would be at least equal to a touchback. His returns reached the 22, 16, and 23 yard lines, leaving 14 yards on the table in a close game if he had taken a knee three times. No doubt something the rookie will hear about from the coaches staff. It’s a teachable moment for a young player.
13. Last year, Jakob Johnson became the first player from the NFL’s International Player Pathway program to be active for a regular season game. Sunday night, he became the first member of the program to score a touchdown. The IPP has only been around since 2017, and other international players had made it to the league and scored before, but it’s still a cool milestone. Another example of Bill the GM being resourceful.
14. What if Johnson’s touchdown had been the game winner? The Patriots interestingly chose to debut that ‘jump pass’ play on a 1st & 10 early in the fourth quarter. It’s worth wondering – if they had scored conventionally, and kept that throw in their back pocket, could they have surprised Seattle with it on the final play? A lot of hindsight here, but it’s an interesting thought.
15. At one point in the second quarter, Rex Burkhead either touched the ball or was targeted on five straight plays. You don’t often see a player outside of Julian Edelman narrowed in on like that, but the sequence netted the Patriots 37 yards, so maybe it won’t be the last time they take that approach.
16. Bill Belichick’s squad was once again the more disciplined of the two on the field. The Patriots committed just two penalties to Seattle’s nine. Both of New England’s penalties were holding, meaning for the second week in a row the team had no procedural penalties (false start, illegal shift/formation, 12 men on the field, etc). It’s hard to overstate how impressive that is for a team with massive roster turnover and no preseason.
17. On Cam Newton’s non-touchdown run to start the second quarter, Bill Belichick actually tried to throw the challenge flag, but nobody on the field noticed. Newton punched the ball in on the next play, so no major damage was done, but Belichick likely would have won the challenge had it gone through.
18. Sunday was Newton’s eight career multi-rushing touchdown game, the most in NFL history for a quarterback. He had previously been tied for first with Otto Graham, Jack Kemp, Steve McNair and Steve Young after his two TD performance in the opener.
19. Devin McCourty’s pick-six at the beginning of the game was the 27th of his career. That ties him with Maurice Hurst (1989-1995) for the seventh-most in Patriots history. He’s now one behind Mike Haynes, and three away from a top-three spot (Ron Hall, Roland James, and Fred Marion all have 29).
20. Kyle Dugger probably should have been credited with his first career half-sack on this play in the second quarter. Instead, the credit was split between Chase Winovich and Derek Rivers.
21. That half a sack gave Derek Rivers 1.5 on the year, which leads the team through two games. He’s made an impact early after missing last year due to injury.
22. Stephon Gilmore is one of the most level-headed players in the NFL. He regularly attributes his success, in part, to never getting “too high or too low.” It was surprising to see him in the middle of the scrap with D.K. Metcalf.
23. Last week, I wrote about how some elements of this 2020 Patriots team are similar to the 2001 team. Going off of that analogy, this game felt similar to the ’01 matchup with the Rams, who New England would eventually go on to play in the Super Bowl. The Patriots lost that game close, but it proved to be an excellent learning experience for what they needed to do to beat the elite teams in the league.
24. The two-point attempt with Cam Newton at the beginning of the fourth quarter was the first time in the Belichick era that a designed quarterback run was called for a conversion play. In his entire time here, they never dialed up a Tom Brady sneak or draw in that situation.
25. Jake Bailey looked good, but Seattle punter Michael Dickson was on another level. The Australian righty pinned the Patriots inside the 20 yard line on all four of his kicks.
26. This is the ninth time under Bill Belichick the Patriots have started a season 1-1. They’ve averaged a 12-4 finish in those season. The last three times they’ve started 1-1 (2014, 2017, and 2018), they reached the Super Bowl.
27. The Patriots are now 72-33 in primetime games during the Bill Belichick era (68.6 percent). Pittsburgh has the second-most primetime wins in that window, with a 59-35 record.
28. Last week, a handful of Patriots players seemed to be wearing jerseys with the old number font still on them. That didn’t seem to be an issue in the debut of the new white uniforms, which by the way are the clear superior of the two.
29. Sunday was the first of a five game, six week stretch against western-division teams (@SEA, vs. LV, @KC, vs. DEN, bye, vs. SF). The Patriots play the AFC and NFC West in full this year, and they’re getting a chunk of those games out of the way early. They won’t play another non-west based team until November 1, when they travel to Buffalo to play the Bills.
30. Next week, Jon Gruden and the Raiders come to Foxborough. It will be the first time a Gruden-coached Raiders team will play in New England since January 19, 2002…also known as the Snow Bowl or Tuck Rule Game. Gruden has only coached in Foxborough one other time since, when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers were shut out 28-0 in 2005.