- Patriots Won the Important One: Obviously, this one did not go the Patriots’ way, for many reasons which I will later discuss. But regardless of the outcome in this game, it was nice to be reminded of how great the last time the Patriots played the Seahawks was. The Seahawks are, and have been for a few years, a great football team. Defensively, they have been at the top of the league for the past four years and are just about as built to win as any team has been. Super Bowl XLIX could have gone either way. Even being a diehard Patriots fan, I couldn’t definitively say which team was better going into the game. As such, it came down to the wire. Luckily, the Patriots had a quarterback named Tom Brady who, as it turned out, was pretty good in the fourth quarter, as well as another cornerback named Malcolm Butler who, as everyone predicted, saved the game with what is still the best play I have seen in any sporting event ever. Any time I can be reminded of that great game and moment, even in a loss, I am happy.
- Defense Needs Work: As I mentioned earlier, there are many reasons why the Patriots lost. Even the worst football analyst of all time (whom I hope you consider me at least slightly better than) could tell you that the Patriots’ defense was a major cause of the loss. In the first half, the defense was practically non-existent aside from in the goal line. To be fair, the defense was quite impressive in the goal line, often holding the Seahawks to field goals and preventing what really could have been a blowout. However, it’s hard to give a defense great credit for red zone efficiency when they let the other team in that zone seven times.
Just as disheartening was the Seahawks’ 75-yard, one-minute touchdown drive to close out the first half. Even worse than them allowing it, though, was the fact that I expected them to allow it. It was reminiscent of the Super Bowl two years ago, only then it seemed to be more of a fluke as the Patriots defense still had a lot of talent. This season is a different story. Whether Jamie Collins was on the roster or not, I still don’t see this defense having enough firepower to worry other teams or instill confidence in us fans during big games.
Sure, they have held lesser opponents to low scoring outputs, as they always seem to do and helped win games, as they always seem to do. But what happens against a great team like the Seahawks? What happens when they can’t count on the cushion of over 30 points from the offense? And what happens when they play against a team that isn’t playing from behind the whole game?
Evidently, as we saw on Sunday night, they can’t get the job done. What’s worse is that I see no quick fix. As of right now, this defense is not built to win in the postseason. They don’t create turnovers and allow too many long drives. That is not a recipe for winning in the postseason or against good teams. Bill Belichick is a lot smarter than I am and I hope he proves it once again by getting this defense playoff-ready because right now they are just average.
- The Last Play: Inevitably, after 60 minutes of hard-fought football between two great teams, people will only remember or talk about the last play (see: Super Bowl XLIX). Was it pass interference or not? Personally, I have gone back and forth on it. It looks like Gronk initiates the contact but then Chancellor pulls him down. I don’t know what that means in terms of what the call should have been, but I do know that the worst call was not by the referees, but by Josh McDaniels for running that play with the game on the line.
Is Gronk the best tight end in the league and more likely than most to come down with that pass? Of course he is, but there are so many other factors at play here. First of all, he had a one-on-one with Kam Chancellor. And if Gronk is the best tight end on the receiving end of a fade route, Chancellor is the best safety on the defensive end of it.
Second of all, the fade route is an all-or-nothing play. If it doesn’t work, there is no other option. Yes, Gronk and Brady were the two best offensive players on the field, but in such a big moment, perhaps it would have made more sense to split out five receivers in the shotgun and have five good options to throw to instead of just one, or even run a play action to throw to Gronk or Bennett.
Basically what I’m saying is that the Patriots have a great offense and that it would have made more sense to keep all their options open rather than turning it into a one-on-one fade route to decide the game.
Also, with four chances from inside the two-yard line, it would stand to reason that the Patriots would try to utilize their great receiving options earlier than fourth down instead of doing two quarterback sneaks and a run up the middle. However, with apparent concern that the Seahawks had too much time (because 30 seconds is always too much time to leave a team when your defense is like the Patriots’), McDaniels played it too safe. And the Patriots lost because of it.
- The Seahawks Are Built To Win…the Patriots…Not So Much: Although the Patriots should have tied the game up at the end (with four chances from the two-yard line), they didn’t deserve to win the game. They were outplayed the entire time and in every aspect. The Seahawks won the turnover battle and outgained the Patriots. That is how a Super Bowl team wins games. Hopefully the Patriots can learn a thing or two from this game’s film. I’ve learned that I do not want to face the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, especially when they have their Bennett back.