Report Card: Seahawks-Patriots

Seahawks.Net's Brian McIntyre grades the Seattle Seahawks after their 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, December 7th.

Quarterback: A

Seneca Wallace was "The Man" on Sunday, completing 20-of-28 passes for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns, finishing with a career-best passer rating of 128.9. Now healthy, Wallace was also able to make plays with his legs, leading the Seahawks with 47 yards rushing, with 23 coming on a heady scramble that put the ‘Hawks a first down or so away from Olindo Mare's field-goal range at the game's two-minute warning.

Running Backs: B-

Each of Seattle's running backs ran well early, combining for 72 yards on 14 carries in the first half. Seattle's ground game would lose its effectiveness in the 2nd half, but it's hard to pin that on the running backs. After running for 37 yards on 8 carries before halftime, Maurice Morris would gain just 2 yards on 6 carries in the 2nd half, often being met in the backfield by a Patriots defender and having to spin and twist his way back to the line of scrimmage. Bigger backs T.J. Duckett and Leonard Weaver were "sprinkled in", carrying the ball 9 times for 48 yards. Weaver would've had more, but a 28-yard run was negated by a holding penalty. Seattle's running backs added 3 catches for 23 yards to the passing attack.

Wide receivers/Tight Ends: B

Perhaps motivated by facing his former team, Deion Branch had his biggest game of the season with 4 catches, 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns, his first two the season. Branch's biggest play of the day came on an exciting 63-yard catch and run that featured some excellent downfield blocks from rookie tight end John Carlson and Koren Robinson. Seattle's other receiving star was Carlson, who had a team-high 8 receptions, which went for 69 yards and a touchdown. Slot receiver Bobby Engram had 4 receptions for 27 yards.

Offensive Line: C+

For the first time since his rookie season, Walter Jones missed a game because of an injury. His absence meant an offensive line that has already placed three starters from Week One on injured reserve would undergo some more shuffling on Sunday. Right tackle Sean Locklear was moved to the left tackle, Ray Willis was moved from right guard to right tackle and Mansfield Wrotto would make his 1st NFL start at right guard. With center Steve Vallos making his 2nd career start, this unit deserves to be cut some slack.

Seattle ran the ball 26 carries for 134 yards, for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Behind an offensive line like this, that's excellent production. Remove Wallace's 3 scrambles for 47 yards, though, and that average drops to 3.8 yards per rush. Again, considering the circumstances, that's acceptable. Dig just a bit deeper, and after halftime, with Patriots run-stuffers Vince Wilfork and Tedy Bruschi out for the game, Seattle ran the ball 9 times for just 15 yards from halftime to Wallace's 23-yard scramble on their second-to-last play.

Wallace was sacked just once. Unfortunately, it came on the Seahawks' final offensive play, a sack and fumble by Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, whose blitz the offensive line failed to pick up. Overall, Seattle pass-protected pretty well, though Mansfield Wrotto got away with a major-league hold on Wallace's second touchdown pass to Branch.

Defensive Line: B-

Seattle's defensive line had 3 sacks and put 10 hits on Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. Julian Peterson batted down a pass from a defensive end position and Rocky Bernard and Brandon Mebane had a good push up the middle, with Mebane getting his 5th sack of the season. Baraka Atkins was the team's best defensive end on Sunday, notching the first two sacks of his NFL career. Darryl Tapp got decent pressure on Cassel and made 5 tackles. Lawrence Jackson, Craig Terrill and Howard Green played today, as well.

Linebackers: C

Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu led the team in tackles (8) and may eventually get credited with a partial sack, which would be the first of the season. Julian Peterson had 4 tackles, but always seemed to be around the ball. D.D. Lewis started for Leroy Hill and made a great play to stuff a 3rd-and-1 for a loss of 2 yards. Unfortunately, that play was negated by a defensive holding penalty on Terrill.

Secondary: C

The Seahawks blitzed Cassel frequently, often leaving their cornerbacks on an island. For the most part, Seattle's secondary responded well, but when Seattle failed to get home on the blitz, they were burned. Moss had a 33-yard grab when Seattle sold out on a 3rd-and-7, and Cassel found Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney for 17 and 28 yards to convert on separate 3rd-and-10 plays. On the day, Marcus Trufant had five tackles, three passes defended and was flagged for a non-existent pass interference penalty. Josh Wilson had 6 tackles, defended a pass and forced a fumble. Kelly Jennings had 7 tackles and should've been credited with a forced fumble had the receiver not been ruled down by contact.

How can the secondary get a "C" grade after Welker had 12 catches and 134 yards against them? Well, 8 of Welker's 12 receptions were on screens or quick hitches, which are essentially glorified handoffs. If Welker finished with 12 catches and 41 yards (i.e., zero YAC), the Seahawks are toasting their 3rd win of the season. Unfortunately, tackling Welker proved troublesome, which has been factored into the grades for the secondary, linebackers and coaching.

Special Teams: C

Olindo Mare didn't get to attempt a field goal, but he was 3-for-3 on his extra points and put two kickoffs into the end zone, including a line-drive kick that resulted in a touchback. Punter Jon Ryan had a net average of just 35.4 yards, but three of his punts were placed inside the 20-yard line and the Seahawks punt coverage units did a good job of limiting Wes Welker's returns. Seattle's kick coverage and return units had a forgettable Sunday. New England averaged over 30 yards per kick return, while Seahawks return man Josh Wilson struggled to find daylight and fumbled one return, which Will Herring was able to recover.

Coaching: C+

Seattle entered Sunday with a 2-10 record and few giving them much of a chance to beat the defending AFC Champions. The Seahawks responded, though, playing inspired football and nearly pulling off the upset.

Offensively, the Seahawks played very well for a team missing its starting quarterback and 80% of its offensive line. The offensive staff deserves credit for putting together a good gameplan and Mike Solari deserves kudos for getting that patchwork line ready for the game. One valid complaint one might have about the offense is their inability to run the ball in the 2nd half. Seattle ran for 96 yards in the 1st half, and just 38 in the 2nd, with most of those yards coming on Wallace's 23-yard scramble. Either New England's halftime orange slices had better Vitamin C, or the Seahawks failed to adjust to what the Patriots were doing defensively.

Speaking of defense, the Seahawks' defense was aggressive with their blitzes and got pretty decent pressure on Cassel. Despite coming up with three sacks, Seattle's defense created zero turnovers, struggled to get off the field on 3rd down (56% were converted) and had no answers for New England's continuous use of wide receiver screens to Welker.


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