The loss that New England took at home Week 10 against the Seahawks was brutal. They had every chance to win, and were in decent position to win. The Patriots were coming off of a bye week, while the Seahawks were on a short week following a Monday night game. The Patriots were comfortably at Gillette Stadium, while the Seahawks had to make the cross-country flight to Foxboro, again, on a short week. Plus, the Patriots are the overall better team. No, it wasn’t just the defense’s fault they lost this game, but they certainly didn’t help. Here’s what stood out about their defensive performance, to me.
1. This first point is from more of a team standpoint. Jamie Collins was traded to the Browns during the Pats’ bye week, obviously shaking up the team. Many players were expected to step up and figure things out, which they had more than enough time to do over the bye. This defense is still incredibly talented, minus Collins. The defense as a whole needed to amp up their performance to help fill in the loss of Collins, especially against this Seattle team. They failed to do that. They can still easily be one of the better D’s in the NFL despite not having that spark of Collins.
Elandon Roberts was expected to help fill in Collins' role for the most part, but did nowhere near as well as he should and could have. I won’t go as far to say as he got exposed, but he definitely got lit up. There was a lot of pressure put on his shoulders, but he’s more talented and put together than he showed in this game. I’m sure that he will be fine in the long run, but it was a nasty performance. Roberts seemed to have trouble with blocking at times, and he got burned by rookie running back C.J. Prosise for a 38-yard touchdown at one point.
Dont’a Hightower didn’t necessarily have a great game, either. He, as well, struggled with blocks at times, and gave up some crucial third down conversions when covering Prosise. Jabaal Sheard had very limited playing time in this game, which was rather odd. When Sheard was on the field, he struggled a bit himself. In summary, the guys that needed to show up just didn’t really show up, and it hurt them.
2. The pass rush was nowhere to be found, once again. This has happened multiple times this season, and it was no different against Seattle. Mobile quarterbacks are becoming more and more common, therefore the Patriots are facing more and more of them. They give these quarterbacks virtually all the time in the world in the pocket, giving them way too much time to throw and letting receivers get open more easily.
I think that almost play intentionally soft at times, which isn’t going to work in today’s league, especially against a now healthy Russell Wilson. They let him run all over the place and rarely touched him. The Patriots did record three sacks, but only totaled five hits. Receiver Doug Baldwin took advantage of New England’s defensive struggles, catching six passes for 59 yards and three touchdowns. They let the combination of Wilson and Baldwin walk all over them, only making things worse. If there’s anything that truly needs to be done better from here on out, it’s the pass rush. It was going to bite them in the ass at some point, and it happened against Seattle.
3. At times, defenders seemed confused. I’m not sure if the confusion is linked to the bad play or not, but some players looked lost pre-snap and during a play. Coverage was a mess and things felt rushed. Players had serious issues with Baldwin and Prosise throughout the night, and I think lack of quick reaction due to last second confusion may have led to that. Logan Ryan seemed to stand out in this category. He had a terrible night all together, especially with Baldwin, giving up one of his three touchdowns. The defense seemed overwhelmed by everything going on, which leads to my next and final point.
4. The play calling. I could go on and on about this for days. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia seemed just as confused as his players, just going by his play-calling. I saved this point for last because my three previous points all come back to this one. I think that many problems could have been solved if Patricia had done things a little differently in this game. I felt as if he was trying to do too much, which may have caused the sense of confusion. I really do like Patricia, but he only hurt his defense in the end. The storyline was his use of zone defense for basically the entire night, and never calling man-to-man. There were occasions where you just got so infuriated by this. The defense simply sucks at zone, but week after week, it’s all that’s ever called and played.
So much improvement could be made if little adjustments were put into place. No, the Patriots don’t need their defense to play perfect every single week to win, but it wouldn’t hurt to see some improvement to make life a little easier for all. It’s frustrating knowing that this D was supposed to be one of the best in the league, when they’re far from that. It’ll suffice, but I think I speak for all Pats fans when I say that it’d be much appreciated if they all tried a little bit harder and played to the best of their ability.