Patriots at Seahawks thumbs up, thumbs down: Stephon Gilmore, Patriots lose big-play thriller

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The Patriots put up a great fight, but couldn’t quite keep up with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in the 35-30 loss Sunday night in Seattle.

New England led the game 7-0 early and went to the locker room tied 14-14 at the half, but Seattle pulled away and then held on for the win in the second half to improve to 2-0 on the young season. The Patriots fell to 1-1, a game behind the 2-0 Bills early in the race for the AFC East.

Here are some of the individual personnel highs and lows from the loss.

Thumbs up

Devin McCourty – New England’s defensive leader couldn’t have gotten the Patriots off to a better start than when Russell Wilson’s opening-drive throw went right through Greg Olsen’s hands, landing in McCourty’s mitts for the easy 43-yard pick-6 touchdown. As he celebrated the score McCourty also set the emotional tone for his team by voicing his support for teammate James White, who was inactive for the game after his father was killed in a car accident earlier in the day in Florida that also left White’s mother hospitalized.

Cam Newton – Another week, another pair of rushing touchdowns for New England’s new-age starting QB. Newton finished the Patriots first offensive drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, the second time in as many games that he’s scored his team’s first offensive points. He threw his first touchdown as a Patriots on the goal line to fullback Jakob Johnson in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Newton also threw his first interception in a New England uniform as well. Overall the centerpiece of the Patriots offense finished completing 30 of 44 passes for 397 yards and a 94.6 rating. He rushed 11 times for 47 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but was upended at the goal line as time expired on his comeback effort that came up just short.

Penalties – After playing a very clean opening day game against Miami – just three flags total, all on pass defense -- Bill Belichick’s team was even better in Seattle. New England had just one penalty in first half – again on pass defense – and two penalties overall against a Seahawks team that was flagged eight times. Despite not having a preseason to work out the kinks, a New England team that probably doesn’t have its usual margin for error in 2020 has done a good job keeping the flags in the officials’ belts so far.

Julian Edelman – New England’s old reliable receiver got off to a slow start while dealing with a sore knee and had a couple drops, but he still found his way to becoming by far the Patriots' biggest contributor through the air. He had a nice 49-yard chunk gain to flip the field on an answering scoring drive late in the third quarter. He took his usual pops and made his usual plays on the way to eight catches for a career-high 179 yards in the losing effort.

Thumbs down

Ja’Whaun Bentley – The third-year linebacker and defensive captain is the leader of the front seven. That group got pushed around, run around and run over at times early by the Seahawks. Bentley himself couldn’t break down and make the tackle on a scrambling Wilson on the Seahawks’ second drive, the quarterback picking up 21 yards. Carlos Hyde then ran right past Bentley in the backfield for a 9-yard run around left end in the second quarter. Bentley’s speed and athleticism– a question for him coming out of Purdue – were an issue at times against Seattle.

Sony Michel – Michel had the audacity to yell at his linemen after one first-quarter carry, which is crazy for a guy who’s failed to maximize many runs or get more than what’s blocked for him very often in his first two-plus seasons. After picking up just 37 yards on his 10 carries (3.7 avg.) in the opener against Miami, Michel was even less productive in Seattle. The third-year former first-round pick had just seven rushes for 19 yards, only two of those attempts coming after the first quarter. Michel’s days as the Patriots lead back may be limited.

Bill Belichick’s challenge flag – The coach got away with throwing his challenge flag on the field in the second quarter on Newton’s near touchdown run but not actually calling for the replay review. Officials didn’t see Belichick’s challenge flag and the coach decided to pick it up prior to Newton picking up the touchdown on the next snap. Maybe New England would have won the challenge. Maybe not. But Belichick got away with some uncharacteristic indecision that was curious at best. Not what you usually expect from Belichick and booth advisor Ernie Adams. We won't even get into some of the struggles Belichick had with his mask on the night.

Stephon Gilmore/pass defense – The line is fine between success and failure at the cornerback position. New England’s best player and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year was running right with Seahawks second-year big-play receiver D.K. Metcalf in the second quarter when the rising star beat the veteran for the 54-yard touchdown. Fair or not, those are the plays Gilmore isn’t supposed to give up. Gilmore was also at the center of a scuffle in the third quarter when Metcalf blocked the corner into the Seahawks bench area. Metcalf got the better of this matchup, finishing with four catches for 92 yards overall. Wilson finished with five touchdown passes to five different receivers, most than the Patriots pass defense gave up all of last season.

Nick Folk – Two weeks, two missed field goal attempts for the veteran kicker. After missing from 45 yards in the opener, this one was a bit more understandable as Folk missed from 51 yards in the second quarter in Seattle. Folk did finally split the uprights from 25 yards out in the third quarter. Still, not a great start to the new season for Folk. If this keeps up it could open up the door for fifth-round rookie Justin Rohrwasser, who is currently on the New England practice squad.