The New England Patriots secondary suffered a severe meltdown, and Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson capitalized on those miscues in a 24-23 upset for the ‘Hawks. It was a game that was as close as it was projected to be, and the Pats fans who underrated the Seahawks received a rude awakening.
1. The secondary is clearly the biggest weakness
This isn’t really anything we learned, but it’s more of a huge confirmation of what we’ve been thinking or fearing. Kyle Arrington played well last season, but you can make a case for him being the worst cornerback in the league this year. He was so bad that he allowed 7r yards and a touchdown on two catches to Doug Baldwin before being mercifully pulled for rookie Alfonzo Dennard in just the first quarter. By the way, Baldwin was only targeted once (incomplete) after Arrington was pulled. They brought him back in in nickel packages in the second-half, but he continues to slide.
Without Steve Gregory, it is obvious that the Patriots secondary is suffering greatly. It’s not because Gregory is a good coverage safety, but it’s because the Patriots safeties just aren’t communicating well and are suffering some tragic miscues (that 46-yard winner to Sidney Rice was the most stunning of them). It only takes one play and a few blown assignments to destroy a team, and that’s exactly what happened to rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner at the end of the game.
A glaring stat is that Wilson averaged 10.9 yards per attempt, and the receivers averaged 18.3 yards per catch. Wilson tore up the Pats DBs, and the receivers burned them repeatedly.
The pass to Rice changed the game from being a 68% chance the Pats would win to a 29% chance that they would win.
2. Chandler Jones has big day
The Patriots front seven was a big bright spot, and nobody shined brighter than Chandler Jones. He finished the day with three hits on Wilson, nine tackles, a tackle for loss, and two sacks. Jones thoroughly outplayed fellow star rookie pass rusher Bruce Irvin, who only had one hit on the quarterback. Jones was the best player on the Pats in this game, and he deserves the game ball for the Pats due to this performance.
3. Danny Woodhead shows his value
Danny Woodhead just might be one of the most consistent backup running backs in the league, and he had an 88.9% success rate in a good all-around showing yesterday. He rushed for 25 yards on four carries against a tough Seahawks defense (6.3 YPC), and he also caught five passes for 46 yards. Woodhead caught every pass thrown at him for an average of 9.2 yards per pass attempt.
What makes him so valuable is that he gets key yardage. Take a look at the plays below.
3rd Quarter drive 13:04- Seven yards to get a first down on 3rd and 6
4th Quarter drive from 3rd- Back-to-back five and four yard runs
4th Quarter 12:31 drive- Catches 22 yard pass to get to the 25 yard-line and set up an eventual field goal to help give the Pats a 23-10 lead.
4th Quarter 7:21 drive- Catches 12 yard pass and runs for 9 yards.
Finishes game with 0.19 WPA and 8.2 EPA to lead the team in both stats.
4. Even the great ones struggle
Tom Brady made some very questionable decisions throughout the game, but he was actually decent overall and did not play as poorly as the statistics indicate. The problem is that his poor decisions (the intentional grounding, his pick to Richard Sherman) were extremely costly. Bill Belichick was outcoached by Pete Carroll at points in the second-half in this game, but nobody is going to blame them for this loss. If you have to put the blame on one specific unit, then it goes to the secondary and, in particular, the safeties.
5. But, apparently, not Wes Welker
The crowd at CenturyLink got even more fired up than usual when giant corner Brandon Browner levied a devastating hit on Wes Welker, but Welker came back in shortly and delivered a “hit” of his own; a clutch catch to keep the chains moving on third-and-long. This season, the word “clutch” can accurately describe what he has been to the Patriots. He had the most receiving yards of anyone this week with 138 on ten catches (14 targets, nearly ten yards per attempt) and continues to be one of, if not “the”, most important players on the Pats.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.