It’s always a chess match when the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks. Sunday Night Football’s joust was no different to recent history between the two sides. Allied with the outstanding game on display, was another intense mental battle between the two coaching staffs. 2020 just had its airing of pro football at its best. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick’s effusive praise of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during the week seemed to spur Wilson to greater heights. He threw for five touchdown passes and looked every bit the early season MVP throughout. Wilson demonstrated his prowess as the best deep ball thrower in the league, when he connected with D.K. Metcalf for a 54 yard touchdown. Unleashed as an aggressive passer earlier on by offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, Wilson is going to take some stopping. There is a balance to the offense that has not been there in the past five years. For his part, wide receiver Metcalf had an excellent night bossing last year's defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots had to deal with devastating news in the run-in to the game. Running back James White lost his father in a car crash. His mother, also involved, is fighting for her life. Bill Belichick’s mother passed away during the week. From the moment Devin McCourty intercepted Russell Wilson and returned it for a touchdown, New England made their intent known early on. Patriots quarterback Cam Newton looked so comfortable, and visibly happy, behind the Patriots offensive line. Some of his throws were tremendous. He had two more rushing touchdowns to go with two more in week one. Playing read option football with a stingy football secondary is how the Belichick era started out in Foxborough, and how Cam announced himself in week one. Last night, he threw superbly to Julian Edelman - who had a career night - and to a very ordinary Patriots receiving group.
With the game on the line, Seattle’s free agent signing Jamal Adams announced himself with some big defensive stops. It was surreal to see the Patriots driving in the fourth quarter in a tight game with no legendary CenturyLink Field support in tandem, but these are the times we live in.
Sunday was the fourth encounter between Russell Wilson and Bill Belichick. It was every bit as thrilling as the games that preceded it.
Week 2 Highlights
Cincinnati Joe: The Cincinnati Bengals lost the Battle of Ohio against the Cleveland Browns, but Joe Burrow again impressed in his first primetime outing on Thursday Night Football. Already you can see Burrow’s poise in the pocket, his ability to buy time and decisiveness to get outside to make the throw. Some of his pass selection while on the run was superb. The Browns bounced back from a trying week one with Baker Mayfield playing really well and the Browns ground game exploded in the face of some horrible tackling by the Bengals. Make no mistake: between the leadership qualities and the NFL-ready nature of his play, Burrow is no ordinary Joe.
MVP of the Week: Russell Wilson threw five touchdown passes and looked in even better form than Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.
Comeback of the Week: The Atlanta Falcons blew a lead almost as egregious as their 28-3 lead against the Patriots in the 2016 Super Bowl. 29-10 is the new 28-3. The Dallas Cowboys came back from the dead and Dan Quinn’s defense allowed Dak Prescott to score on seven of their last eight possessions. Greg 'The Leg' Zuerlein's cunning onside kick set the Cowboys up to win the game. Quinn survived as head coach last season when his team rallied late. His time must nearly be up.
Stat of the Week: Joe Burrow threw the ball 61 times against the Browns, which is unheard of for a rookie quarterback in his second game. He can thank his terrible offensive line for the statistic. To be under constant pressure from the Browns defensive line and not throw one interception in 60+ attempts is remarkable.
Headline of the Week: “Butt Ready For Some Action” said the sports page of the Denver Post. It was a reference to Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt, who has had his fair share of ACL setbacks. A star tight end recruit from Michigan, he finally got back on the field last Monday only to be punched by a Tennessee Titans opponent. The suggestive Colorado newspaper headline has gone viral. So much so, I even had a friend in my Irish seaside hometown, Skerries, sharing it with me on Facebook messenger.
Bradywatch: Tom Brady and the Tampa Buccaneers are off the mark after beating the Carolina Panthers. Brady showed some real chemistry with Bucs wideout Mike Evans. Rumors of his demise after week one were a bit premature.
Injuries and Blue Skies
The injury rate was to fore on Sunday with the league losing star players Saquan Barkley and Nick Bosa to suspected ACL tears.
I talked about how the Philadelphia Eagles have been affected by injuries during the week. Yesterday, the San Francisco 49ers surpassed them, losing edge rusher Bosa for the season and a host of other players, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In an incredibly strong NFC West division, the 49ers face an uphill task to now reach the playoffs.
One thing bears repeating. The standard of many of the games in week two has been excellent, given the lack of pre-season. Kansas City found themselves in an overtime arm wrestle with the Los Angeles Chargers, a result which surprised many, with Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert enjoying a stellar debut off the bench.
There’s much to admire in the early days of September. Especially the Seattle Seahawks. Next week I’m watching out for how the Green Bay Packers fare against the New Orleans Saints, if the presumed worst team in football the Jacksonville Jaguars can win again, and obviously how the Baltimore Ravens perform against the Kansas City Chiefs.