Cam Newton-led Patriots Set to Square Off Against Russell Wilson’s Seahawks on Sunday Night Football
--The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks both hope to stay hot in Week 2 after strong opening-week performances from their respective quarterbacks.
--The Cam Newton era in New England started off pretty well, with a vastly-different style of quarterback play than what Pats fans are used to seeing. The veteran 6-5 QB finished an efficient 15-for-19 for 155 yards, and added 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Coach Bill Belichick let his defense handle the rest in their 21-11 home-opening win against the Miami Dolphins.
--The Seahawks, meanwhile, were firing on all cylinders offensively behind the timelessly-impressive Russell Wilson. He roasted the Falcons in Atlanta for 322 yards and four touchdowns while completing 31-of-35 passes. The Seahawks defense, which for the past few seasons has been a shell of its ‘Legion of Boom’ days, looked bolstered by big-time offseason acquisition Jamal Adams. The All-Pro safety was all over the field against the Falcons, even mixing in blitzes.
--New England currently sits as a 4.5-point underdog in Seattle. Newton has struggled against the Seahawks in the past, and Sunday night will be no different if the Patriots skill position players don’t step up.
Sunday Night Football in Week 2 offers an exciting matchup between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. But it won’t be anything like Super Bowl XLIX between these teams five years ago. The new-look Patriots are now led by former MVP QB Cam Newton, and the Seahawks now rely predominantly on former Super Bowl-champion QB Russell Wilson, not so much their defense. Regardless of how much has changed in half a decade, this will be a must-watch affair, as coach Bill Belichick will undoubtedly have his team ready to play arguably the league’s hottest Week 1 team on their turf.
Some Things Have Changed, Some Remain the Same
For the Patriots and their massive fanbase in New England, the elephant in the room all season will be the departure of the GOAT, 20-year franchise quarterback Tom Brady, to Tampa Bay in the offseason. Belichick stayed under the radar all summer, but made one huge move: he signed Newton when no other teams showed interest.
Newton’s presence in red, white, and blue marks a complete paradigm shift in Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system. They will now rely more on the strength and athleticism of the 6’5, 245-pound former MVP and less on precision intermediate passes out of the pocket. So far, so good: Newton stuck to the game plan, and used his legs when necessary but not to a fault, never seeming to put himself in harm’s way. He finished a modest but efficient 15-for-19 for 155 yards passing, but added 15 rushes for 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
As for the Seahawks, their identity has shifted from dominating, physical defensive squad to Russell Wilson’s squad. Wilson has never looked better than he looked in Week 1 in Atlanta. He roasted the Falcons for 322 yards and four touchdowns while completing 31-of-35 passes. He had an absolute stranglehold on the Falcons, dropping dimes at will and never seeming to kick it into overdrive. Somebody looks like he wants that elusive MVP trophy.
Carroll vs. Belichick: Defense Always Plays a Part
One constant when these teams match up is always defensive strategy. Belichick and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have always been regarded as strong defensive-minded head coaches, and their track record of Pro Bowl players on that side of the ball nearly every year of their NFL careers highlights that truth.
The Seahawks have shifted a bit from the domineering, uber-aggressive ‘Legion of Boom’ days. In fact, Seattle allowed 256.7 passing yards per game in 2019, which ranked 24th in the league. And if you weren’t mesmerized by Wilson’s offensive heroics, you might have blinked and missed that Atlanta managed an NFL-best 434 yards through the air last weekend. But a lot of that was game script and garbage time in the 38-25 drudging, and Carroll had plenty of reasons to be happy with his defense.
For one, it seemed like star offseason acquisition Jamal Adams fit into the defensive scheme perfectly. He was all over the field Sunday, making tackles in the open field, jumping routes to break up passes, and even mixing in some blitz packages. The All-Pro safety looked like he was having fun again, something that was in question during the end of his days with the Jets. It will be interesting to see the ultimate development of chemistry between Adams and veteran middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who could both make things hard for Newton from the jump Sunday night. One thing’s for sure: they were not easy to run on whatsoever. Atlanta mustered only 72 yards total on the ground against them.
As for New England, Belichick has brought the Patriots back full circle to the defensive-dominant ways of the early 21st century. He has assembled a stellar secondary over the past few seasons, and year in and year out he molds his linebacking core to be difference-makers. Despite the departures of studs like Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and the high-profile opt-out of Dont’a Hightower, the ‘next man up’ mindset of the Pats’ defense has once again prevailed.
The Patriots held veteran Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to 20/30 for 191 yards last weekend, and picked him off a total of three times. They limited production in both the passing and running games—no Dolphin had more than 40 yards rushing, four receptions, or 47 receiving yards.
Safety Adrian Phillips has stepped into former captain Patrick Chung’s role swimmingly, complementing All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, emerging cornerback J.C. Jackson, and the old-reliable McCourty brothers in the secondary. Second-year defensive lineman Chase Winovich has also responded well to his expanded role, minimizing the damage felt by the departure of defensive tackle Danny Shelton. And newest defensive captain Ja’Whaun Bentley, the only linebacker left from last season, has anchored the defense well as the new lead communicator.
Seahawks Look Too Strong
This Patriots team looks fully capable of getting back to the playoffs despite losing a six-time champion and three-time MVP quarterback in Brady. But they won’t be going undefeated like they did with Brady in 2007. Seattle just looks too complete offensively, with Wilson absolutely loaded with weapons at the skill positions. Receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf combined for 187 yards in Week 1, and running back Chris Carson looked healthy with his 66 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots top rusher besides Newton last weekend was Sony Michel, who only garnered 37 yards, and veteran receiver Julian Edelman’s 57 yards receiving led the aerial attack. That kind of an offensive effort just won’t cut it against the high-flying Seahawks. Don’t expect the Patriots to be able to keep up offensively, or slow down Wilson enough defensively. Smash Seattle -4.5 before the line moves further away from the Pats.