Hart: Patriots put up a – dare we say it? – good loss in Seattle

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Herm Edwards, if you’re reading this you should probably stop.

Same for Bill Belichick and other bottom line-only football coaches everywhere.

Heck, even other-worldly competitors like Cam Newton and Julian Edelman probably don’t want to hear it.

But it’s the truth.

The Patriots went to Seattle and put up a good loss Sunday night.

In a game that came down to the Seahawks defense upending Cam Newton just short of the goal line as the clock expired the home team held on, in every sense of the phrase, for the 35-30 win to improve to 2-0 on the young season.

Meanwhile the new-look New England squad fought to the finish but came up just short and had to fly home a “loser,” falling to 1-1 on the year.

But if ever a team proved itself a would-be winner in a losing effort, it was this Belichick-led, Newton-guided Patriots squad. That, my football-loving friends, is what you call proving your mettle. Your hockey brethren refer to it as compete level.

A team with no weapons, no passing game and no chance in the eyes of so many “experts” went toe-to-toe with Russell Wilson and Co. for a full 60 minutes. It competed till the very end, something Belichick himself noted numerous times in his postgame video conference with reporters.

“I think our whole team took a big step in terms of just the competition and the way we battled and competed against Seattle,” Belichick said. “It’s just disappointing that we came up short. But the competitive level was high. We just have to coach better and play better. And do things a little bit different, a little bit better to win a game like this instead of coming up a yard short. But I think our team stepped up collectively as a team and competed right down to the end. We did a lot of things right there, unfortunately it was just not quite enough.”

Unlike the opening day win over the inferior Dolphins at familiar Gillette Stadium, this night brought a different beast. The game came on the first road trip of the year, one that saw the Patriots travel a day early on Friday. Even without fans in the seats at CenturyLink Field it’s a tough trip to a tough spot.

More importantly it came against Wilson, a guy Belichick said earlier in the week was underrated by media and fans. Wilson threw five touchdown passes against the Patriots vaunted secondary, each to a different receiver.
Three came on big gains, two of those tightly contested, highlight-reel plays.

Wilson putting up 35 points, most of the offense through the air, forced Newton and New England to prove they could be something they weren’t against the Dolphins – a team capable of doing damage through the air themselves. A team capable of coming back from double-digit deficits rather than riding a lead to victory.

Challenge answered.

A week after running the ball 40-plus times as a team, Newton threw it 44 times against Seattle, completing 30 of the passes for 397 yards.
Edelman had a career-high 179 yards receiving, while N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd chipped in with 72 yards apiece.

Not bad for an attack that had been labeled as run-first and with no aerial targets to speak of.

“It was something to build on, most definitely,” Newton acknowledged.

In many ways this was a classic rekindling of what has become an interesting cross-conference rivalry. A shootout thriller. Not unlike Super Bowl XLIX. Not unlike a 2016 regular season battle at Gillette. The Patriots won the former to secure a ring on Malcolm Butler’s historic interception and lost the latter, though that regular season defeat was New England’s last before another Super Bowl run, this time beating the Falcons.

But those were battles between pass-happy Tom Brady and Wilson. Now, Newton is the man in charge. And he came up former NFL MVP large in this one, while his team proved itself capable of competition in a way that many weren’t sure was possible in this year with this talent.

“Make no mistake about it, the Seattle Seahawks are a great football. We are a great football team as well,” Newton declared two games into his Patriots career. “It was great for us to kind of see where we kind of fared up. And we just fell short.”

Indeed they lost the battle, but it could be a precursor to winning the war.

It wasn’t long ago that Newton was a quarterback without a team. The Patriots were a team without a quarterback.

Now, they are married together and striking fear into opponents each week thanks to their convenient union.

And a New England team once seemingly headed for a rebuilding or retooling year is now suddenly capable of going on the road and competing for four quarters against one of the best quarterbacks in the game leading a Super Bowl contender.

In a way, the Patriots proved themselves a much better football team in Sunday night’s loss in Seattle than anything they did during the opening day win over the Dolphins in Foxborough.

Moral victories aren’t real popular or frequent in most parts of Patriot Nation or Trophy Town, but this was a damn good loss for what just might be a pretty damn good 2020 Patriots team.

“Just moving forward we have a lot of things to be optimistic about. But yet we still have to get better,” Newton concluded. “The reason why you play this game is for one stat and one stat only. And we didn’t get that statistic today and that’s a win. So for us, this is a disgusting taste in my mouth.”

If he and the Patriots play the way they did on Sunday night, Newton might not have that taste too often this season.