For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots had an opportunity to put away their opponent early in the second half, but were unable to do so, losing 24-23 on the road against the Seattle Seahawks. New England is now in a four-way tie for the AFC East division lead with a record of 3-3 and a showdown with the New York Jets on the docket for next week in Foxboro.
Tom Brady's mistakes coming in costly spots
Not once but twice did the Patriots have second half possession in Seattle territory with a chance to go in for a touchdown and all-but-end the Seahawks' chances to come back and tie the game. With minutes left in the third quarter, Brady made the decision to throw a deep ball into double coverage, looking for Deion Branch. The pass was easily picked off by cornerback Richard Sherman, immediately halting the New England drive. On the Patriots' next possession, Brady threw an interception in the endzone to Seattle safety Earl Thomas, ending New England's hopes of taking a commanding 24-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Not only did No. 12 have issues with interceptions, but he also made what was the most costly mistake of the afternoon on the last play of the first half. With just six ticks left on the clock, and with the ball inside the 10-yard-line, Brady tossed the ball into no-mans-land, causing a ten-second run-off and costing the Patriots a chance for three extra points. Those three points would come back to haunt the Patriots in the end, as they would lose the game by just one point. Brady's increased tendency to make these costly mistakes has burned the Patriots this season, showing up in all three of the team's losses. No longer is "they still have Brady, so they have a chance" a reliable crutch for the guarantee of success that it was in the past.
Patriots' secondary simply isn't improving
Russell Wilson is an undersized rookie quarterback who was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Not to take anything away from the youngster's gutsy effort on Sunday, but the simple fact is this; Wilson should not have been allowed to come anywhere close to his 293-yard, 3-touchdown stat line that he posted against the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Arrington was exposed twice on Seattle's first drive for a total of 74 yards allowed in man-to-man coverage against receiver Doug Baldwin. He didn't see much time on the field after that. Instead, rookies Alfonso Dennard and Tavon Wilson saw increased roles in pass coverage, and wound up costing the Patriots the game on a blown coverage of Sidney Rice for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It's one thing when Peyton Manning exposes your defense for 300-400 yards of passing, but when the league's 30th ranked quarterback does just the same? You've got catastrophic problems on defense. Perhaps the worst news for the Patriots is that this group of defensive backs isn't showing any signs of improvement.
Brandon Lloyd remains impressive on the outside
Watching Brandon Lloyd corral sideline passes is truly a thing of beauty. His tremendous focus and body control often allow him to come down with most of Brady's passes without stepping out of bounds. He has been an incredible asset to the New England offense this season, and he will be dearly missed if the apparent injury that he suffered during the last drive of the game winds up costing him any time.
Offense can't close in clutch situation
With a chance to close out the Denver Broncos in week five, the Patriots' offense just needed a couple of first downs to improve their record to 3-2. However, a Stevan Ridley fumble nearly cost the team a game in which they once held a 24-point second half lead. Luckily, Denver running back Willis McGahee returned the favor, putting the ball on the ground late and putting a nail through the Broncos' coffin. This week, the Patriots weren't so fortunate. With about seven minutes to go in the game, and a 6-point lead in tow, New England took over on their own 20-yard line. A scoring drive in this situation would have all but ended the game. However, the Patriots would stall at the 46-yard-line and were forced to punt it away. After the Seahawks went three and out, the offense would be given a second chance. With just 3:02 left on the clock, all the New England offense needed was a couple of first downs to seal a huge road win in Seattle. In this, the most crucial of spots, the Patriots offense produced a measly two yards in a ridiculously poor display of execution. The inability to succeed under pressure has been a common theme in all of the Patriots' losses over the past couple of years, and until they fix this problem, they won't have a sniff of a chance to return to where they were one season ago.
Mistake-prone football teams seldom succeed
The incredible amount of self-inflicted wounds the Patriots incurred on Sunday in Seattle was perhaps the most surprising thing that I've seen on a football field in quite some time. From the missed chance at a field goal at the end of the first half, the poor timeout management at the end of both halves, to redzone interceptions, and an inability to close out what looked to be a sure victory, the Patriots certainly didn't look like the team we have been accustomed to seeing over the past decade. Before the season began, everyone knew that the Patriots didn't have a playoff-caliber defense. But what we didn't know, was that they wouldn't look like they have an offense good enough to get things done late in games. For as unpopular as this statement may be, I wouldn't be so shocked if this team fails to qualify for the postseason this winter.
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