SEATTLE — Pete Carroll summed up Sunday night like only a 69-year-old California kid would and precisely how Patriots fans who remember his New England tenure would expect.
“A really cool night of football,” the Seahawks coach said as he basked in the glow of his club’s 35-30 victory.
Sure, Carroll had reasons to be happy, but Patriots fans also have plenty to be pumped and jacked about after the latest clash between two of the NFL’s premier franchises.
First and foremost was the play of Cam Newton, who took ownership of this offense as a quarterback must. Newton generated 444 yards of offense on his own and continued to punch after it appeared Russell Wilson had landed the deciding body blows in the fourth quarter.
Newton answered any lingering questions about the health of his shoulder (he was throwing darts) and foot (he was moving with ease). He served notice he can get this team downfield in a flash — even in a pressure-cooker situation. His unwavering performance bodes well for the future, especially with elite teams from Kansas City and Baltimore on the schedule.
Newton also affirmed his leadership role, stepping up time after time and even taking responsibility for not getting in the end zone on the game’s final play.
“I was trying to be patient, just thinking too much,” he said. “There were so many things that flashed over me. Playing a fast defense like that, as soon as you guess, you’re wrong. So, I’ll definitely learn from this. The play was there. The play had been there all game.”
Here are some other observations from another classic in this East Coast-West Coast rivalry that has produced heart-pounding and heartbreaking games in 2012, ’14, ’16, and ’20, the latter three of which were decided by goal-line stands.
▪ Defensive looks
Sure, the defense took its lumps with Wilson throwing five touchdown passes but upon further review, the success was due in larger part to Wilson’s superb vision and accuracy (and some pretty nifty catches) rather than large breakdowns in coverage.
Only on Freddie Swain’s 21-yard scoring play did it appear New England was in the wrong look as he streaked across the second-level untouched.
The defense held Seattle to just 3 of 7 third-down conversions, including the most important one, on the hosts' final drive — granted it was curious call to pass on third and 1, but Carroll is no stranger to head-scratchers.
▪ Well received
This group has been much maligned but proved it can thrive after building chemistry. Everyone contributed, including Jakobi Meyers, who picked up a key first down on his lone reception to keep a scoring drive alive.
Julian Edelman was sublime with his eight catches for 179 yards. Seattle safety Jamal Adams made a ton of plays, but Edelman put him in a blender a few times. Edelman collected catches of 26, 33, and 49 yards with Adams on him.
"He’s Jules, that’s why,'' Newton said when asked why he kept going back to Edelman in crunch time. Solid strategy and rationale, there.
N’Keal Harry (eight catches, 72 yards) had his best game as a pro and his ability to bounce back after Quandre Diggs’s assault was impressive. Newton’s TLC approach clearly is paying off.
“Doughboy, he’s growing right before everybody’s eyes,” Newton said, referring to his nickname for Harry.
Damiere Byrd, who was not targeted in Week 1, came up with a half dozen catches for 72 yards.
▪ Battle royale
It’s natural to always watch the quarterback, but it was nearly impossible not to wander to the brewing battle between Stephon Gilmore and D.K. Metcalf. Even when they weren’t involved in the play, these two were on each other nearly every snap — as Carroll put it, they "were duking it out right off the bat.''
Metcalf’s touchdown catch was impressive but he had just three more catches for 38 yards, a tribute to Gilmore sticking like glue, despite some aggressive Metcalf blocking that went past the whistle on occasion.
▪ No flag football
The Patriots were whistled for just two penalties and have a league-low six through two games — five when you consider one infraction against Miami was an intentional offside.
It is a testament to the coaching that in a year with a condensed training camp (with no referee visits) and no exhibition games, the Patriots are the most disciplined team in the league.
There’s a long way to go, but the signs are encouraging that this team is on the right path.
“I think our team took a big step in terms of just the competition and the way we battled and competed against Seattle,” said Bill Belichick. "I was just disappointed that we came up short, but the competition level is high, we just have to coach better, play better, and get things a little bit different, a little bit better to win a game like this instead of coming up a yard short. I think our team stepped up collectively and competed again right down to the end.”
That should ensure more cool nights of football in the future.