A familiar adversary dealt the first blow for the Seattle Seahawks on their way to a comeback victory over the New England Patriots in Week 6. Braylon Edwards touchdown catch against Alfonzo Dennard brought the Seahawks within 23-17, before Sidney Rice split the Patriots safeties on a massive touchdown reception to seal a 24-23 victory.
In a game where the Patriots were facing their biggest test on offense of the short season so far, it was their defense that failed to hold onto a significant lead in the second half. The Seahawks defense held the Patriots offense in check during the second half, but that was after giving up 20+ points in the first half.
Instead of capitalizing on Marshawn Lynch's ineffectiveness, 15 rushes for 41 yards, and taking advantage of a rookie quarterback forced to put the game on his shoulders, the Patriots' secondary continued to disappoint fans as it has done for so long.
During the game cornerback Kyle Arrington was benched for his poor play. Arrington has never been a superstar, but he was clearly the team's highest performing cover corner last year. Without Arrington in the lineup, the Patriots were not only starting two undersized cornerbacks, but also two completely overmatched cornerbacks for physicality.
While Devin McCourty has slightly improved in coverage this season, he's still not performing to the expectations of a true first choice cornerback and will continue to struggle with bigger receivers. That was the case in Seattle against Sidney Rice. Rice had only three receptions, but those three receptions went for 81 yards.
Rice is a very good receiver on his day, but he is nowhere near one of the best receivers in the league which spells serious trouble for the Patriots moving forward. Last season the Patriots couldn't contain Hakeem Nicks in the Super Bowl as he had a massive day and played a significant role in winning the game for the Giants.
Even though McCourty still has question marks and Kyle Arrington was benched at the weekend for giving up two massing receptions to Doug Baldwin, the Patriots may have even greater issues at safety. Tavon Wilson is still a rookie, so expectations should be tempered with him for the immediate future, but Patrick Chung's performances have been more than worrisome so far this season.
Every single ball that was thrown Chung's way on Sunday was completed, while Wilson gave up the big touchdown to Rice that decided the game. If the Patriots simply had one problematic position on the field, they could easily address that with a change in personnel or schematic alterations. However when the overall quality is lacking on the back end, the problem won't be fixed in the short term.
The Patriots were expecting their defense to improve this year compared to last, but that improvement was largely based on them getting better performances out of their coverage. It won't matter if the Patriots have the best offense in the NFL if they cannot stop teams going the other way.
The Patriots fell short last season because of their defense, this year so far it looks to be an even greater issue.