New England Patriots
24, Seattle Seahawks 21
Qwest Field, Seattle, WA
December 7th, 2008
Play of the Day: The play that sealed the deal was Seneca Wallace's fumble in the 4th quarter, but the most exciting play today game from WR Deion Branch, who turned a short pass on the right sideline into a 63 yard catch-and-run to the left sideline. The entire team worked to block defenders for Branch, who had some nifty footwork of his own to make the catch. It was an exciting play for an offense that has produced far too little excitement this season.
Handouts to the Standouts: Deion Branch showed up in a huge way against his former team, catching two touchdowns and making the aforementioned 66-yard catch-and-run QB Seneca Wallace played his heart out, throwing for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns while also running for 47 yards TE John Carlson caught 8 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, a nice follow-up after his breakout performance against Dallas FB Leonard Weaver is making a strong case that he needs to be given the ball often, as every time he touches the ball, he makes something happen LB Julian Peterson was everywhere in the first half, even if it doesn't show up in the stat-sheet CB Marcus Trufant covered Randy Moss extremely well, holding the All-Pro to 56 yards The front seven (not a single weak link) did a good job of applying pressure and making plays, notching 3 sacks and several more hurries
Things that made me go "Blech!": Patriots WR Wes Welker had his way with Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings, catching 12 passes for 134 yards C Steve Vallos and RG Mansfield Wrotto had numerous assignment-mixups and really struggled against the creative Patriots defense Seattle had a respectable three sacks, but had the opportunity for several more The Seattle running game, sans Wallace, never got off the ground, largely due to the blocking up front
Referee Report Card: Ugh. This was a bad game for the refs. The pass interference called on Marcus Trufant will stand out in a season filled with bad calls. I'm really not confident at all that Deion Branch's 63 yard reception was legitimate, since the best angles I've seen suggest Branch was likely out. This was somewhat counterbalanced by calling Branch out on a big 3rd down reception, when the replays strongly suggested Branch made the catch in-bounds. This crew should not sniff the playoffs. D
Offense: It's no secret that the Seahawks offense is terrible. Standard statistics, advanced metrics, the eyeball test, it doesn't matter. The offense can't score and usually can't even manage the clock. But this week was one of the better offensive performances Seattle has gotten to see all season (by the Seahawks every Seahawks fan has seen too many great offensive performances against the Seahawks). Seattle struggled running the ball, but did generate some yardage. But when Seneca dropped back to pass, there was some excitement. Seattle opened up the playbook a little, with WR screens, a TE screen (didn't work, but innovation is good to see), several outside runs and short passes. For the first time since Week 3, it felt like there was something entertaining about Seattle's offense.
Part of that excitement was due to Seneca Wallace playing his heart out. He had little help from is offensive line, and it was a miracle that Wallace was only sacked once (I was shocked when I saw that statistic, it seemed like he was under pressure all game). But Wallace made plays with his feet and with his arm. Deion Branch's tip-and-catch touchdown reception was a great play for both Deion and Wallace. Wallace took his time and floated up a touch pass that only Deion could make a play on. Just as important as his playmaking was getting the ball to his tight end. Carlson has traditionally had his best games with Hasselbeck throwing him the ball, so it was a relief to see a strong game by Carlson coming from Seneca's passing.
So, this article has never been OT Sean Locklear's favorite to read. I've advocated his benching several times this season, and think it was a colossal mistake to sign him to the huge contract he signed. All of that said, Locklear played very well from the LT spot today, getting a crash course at LT while lining up against the best 3-4 DE, Richard Seymour. Locklear wasn't great shakes, but he held his own throughout the entire game and rarely needed help blocking Seymour, which is an accomplishment worthy of praise. If Locklear can play well at LT, then he could very well be worth the sizable contract he was handed once Walter Jones retires.
Defense: Josh Wilson had shown improvement in seemingly every game this season, but finally met an opponent who he just couldn't match - Wes Welker. Welker is quick, but so is Wilson. Welker might actually be a little smaller than Wilson. But, Wilson is still learning the finer aspects of coverage, while Welker is an incredible route-runner. That made the difference - despite Wilson being a better athlete, Welker consistently created separation. Going into an offseason where it is hard to imagine the Wide Receiver position not being addressed, it is important to remember that there is more to a WR than size and speed and even hands.
One reason that Wilson struggled so much is because Seattle worked very, very hard to cover Randy Moss. Many of Welker's catches came against Wilson, with no other defenders in sight. Moss, meanwhile, rarely got a 1 on 1 matchup against Trufant. I'm not going to say that this was a bad idea, because if you don't shade Moss heavily, he probably has a big day. But it is clear that Seattle picked their poison, and in this case their poison was pretty darn effective.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding DE Darryl Tapp. Some say the player is an epic bust, while others say that he's a decent starter. I went into today's game with the goal of watching Tapp specifically as much as I could, and seeing what he could do lined up against a pretty effective Patriots offensive line. The first thing that I noticed is that he is a lot stouter against the run than you'd expect, but he doesn't do a great job containing runs to the sideline, which was a weakness rookie DE Lawrence Jackson had when he was the starter as well. Against the pass, even in a game where Tapp did not record a sack, he played effectively, often causing the Quarterback to rely on footwork to avoid being drilled. Even when a defensive end doesn't get sacks, he can still result in big plays for his teammates by beating the LT off the snap and getting close to the quarterback, which is exactly what Tapp did. I did not see a bad performance by Tapp at all, even against a good offensive line that send multiple members to Honolulu last year.
Special Teams: What a bad game for special teams. Josh Wilson didn't bust anything, and if that happens, well, the coverage units sure aren't going to pick up the slack. Ellis Hobbs, New England's kick returner, took one return for 55 yards, helping add to the case that Bruce DeHaven should have been fired weeks ago. One interesting note: Even if you like Brian Russell, what is a slow player who cannot tackle and possibly shies from contact doing on the kick return team? It doesn't seem like he has the skill-set to be effective on special teams.
Conclusion: If you're
hoping for a great draft choice, this game had to please you. It was entertaining
throughout the game, and didn't jeopardize Seattle's draft positioning any.
If you wanted to see a win, well, that didn't happen, but you're probably used
to be disappointed by now anyways. It was pleasing to see so many new starters
on the offense, as this tape will help the front office and next year's coaching
staff evaluate the players and determine what needs to be done to make next
year more successful than this year.