While the New England Patriots’ record would look differently had they gained just one more yard on Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks, the team’s 35-30 defeat showed that its offense appears to be headed in a positive direction. Led by Cam Newton in just his second game as a Patriot, the unit gained 464 total yards and went 7-of-12 on third down while coming up just short versus one of the best teams in the NFL.
What was most encouraging, though, was that New England played successful offensive football despite having to use a different formula than the one that helped the team beat the Miami Dolphins on opening day: coordinator Josh McDaniels and his unit had to embrace the vertical passing game in order to hang with the Seahawks in a shootout.
They did just that, with Newton leading the way.
The former league MVP, who was officially signed in early July and won the starting quarterback role in training camp, attempted 44 passes versus Seattle. Completing 30 of them for 397 yards as well as one touchdown and one interception, he almost led the team back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter by relying not just on his feet like he did last week, but his right arm as well.
“When they take [the running game] away, you have to find different ways to move the football,” said Newton during his postgame press conference after Sunday’s game. “They watched film and probably saw us last week have a lot of success in the run game and they had a plan. Make no mistake about it, the Seattle Seahawks are a great football team. We are a great football team as well. It was great for us to be able to see where we can kind of figure it out and we just fell short.”
This process of “figuring it out” may have been born out of necessity given how the game went, but it did show that Newton and the Patriots offense are certainly capable of playing a different game than last week’s. For one, they actively stretched the field: New England had 13 pass plays of more than 15 yards against the Seahawks, after having just three of them versus Miami one week before. The team also tried to go up-tempo in order to make life hard for Seattle’s defense.
The results may not have always been pretty — the Patriots turned the football over once and at the end of the day scored just three offensive touchdowns — but Newton and company played some good complimentary football, especially with the game on the line. Along the way, he showed some solid chemistry with his pass catchers as well.
“I think his résumé speaks for itself,” said defensive back Devin McCourty about New England’s starting quarterback. “I think the best part is we just started to gel. We knew him and what he could do, just like he knew from playing us over the years that we’ve got competitors out there. We have to stick together and just keep working. We’re on the right path, we’re doing the right things, just fell short [on Sunday].”
Running back Rex Burkhead, who took on a bigger role after James White’s deactivation and was on the receiving end of four of Newton’s passes, also sang a similar tune: the Patriots offense was able to hang with one of the NFL’s top dogs despite at the end of the day coming up a yard short.
“We try to go out there and play to the best of our abilities and we fought our tails off,” said Burkhead. “We had a couple good drives to get us there at the end, and Cam lead us down the field. Some big catches by [Julian Edelman], N’Keal [Harry]… Just came up short there.”
New England enters Week 3 with a 1-1 record following its loss in Seattle, but the club’s upcoming opponent — the Las Vegas Raiders, who are scheduled to visit Foxborough next Sunday — will be in for a challenge: not only has the Patriots offense shown that it can effectively move the ball on the ground, but also that the passing game is slowly but steadily trending in the right direction if it has to carry the team.