Patriots vaunted secondary springs leaks. Is there reason to worry?

New England Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore covers Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Living in a snap judgment world, there are some who might come away from Sunday night’s loss to Seattle thinking Stephon Gilmore can’t handle the top receivers anymore.

Or, the view might be that the Patriots so-called elite secondary won’t live up to its press clippings.

After all, Russell Wilson didn’t seem to think they were so elite. He went after Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson without hesitation.

He threw for five touchdowns. Four went to receivers, matching the output the Patriots surrendered all of last year.

Wilson burnt Gilmore, McCourty (twice) and the collective unit throughout the Patriots’ 35-30 loss.

The good news?

It’s only two games. It’s too early to know if the Seattle game is going to be the norm or the exception.

So let’s chill a bit.

While that performance isn’t something to brag about, it’s important to provide a little context, and look at the big picture.

The first week, the Patriots played a Dolphins team that’s not exactly renowned for its passing game, or much of anything offensively, and performed well. They picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick three times and held the Fins to 11 points.

Week 2?

Different story. It was Wilson, arguably the best quarterback in the league, taking advantage. He’s the king of the long ball and torched them with it.

So that’s two games. Two different offenses. Two different outcomes.

A better barometer for the Patriots secondary should come this week with Derek Carr and the Raiders.

Why? Jon Gruden’s offense falls between the Dolphins and Seahawks in terms of degree of difficulty and scare factor.

They have talent at tight end (Darren Waller), and gifted receivers (Hunter Renfro, Nelson Agholor, Henry Ruggs III) who are effective both short and deep. Ruggs, Agholor and Zay Jones can fly.

Carr, however, is no Wilson. Not even close. But he’s also not Fitzpatrick. He’s somewhere in between the two.

Let’s see what happens Sunday, before selling Gilmore and the defense down the river.

Plus, let’s also see if the Patriots ever get a pass rush. That also contributed to the secondary getting lit up. The mobile Wilson was never really bothered when he dropped back to survey the field.

Naturally, members of the unit weren’t going to point fingers and make excuses. Many of them have expressed a need to pick up their play starting Sunday.

“I know for us as a whole as a secondary, we feel like we need to go out there and we need to play better,” Jason McCourty said earlier in the week. “We’ve played better in the past. We have to pick it up, and we have to do a better job when Sunday comes.”

It’s hard to imagine Carr being able to do what Wilson did last week. Unlike Wilson, he doesn’t have a history of perfectly leading receivers and dropping passes in the bucket on deep routes. He’s better at the short-to-intermediate passes, so we’ll see how the secondary fares against Carr and his receivers in Week 3.

Patriots Hall of Famer Rodney Harrison, for one, isn’t worried about one bad game. He characterized what happened in the Seattle as “the perfect storm.”

“The encouraging thing as far as them getting beat on so many plays, they were right there in perfect position to make the plays. That’s something they can correct. They’re going to get better,” Harrison said when reached earlier this week. “I’m not panicked, I’m not worried about the secondary at all. It just happened to be against Russell Wilson on national television. So people are going to panic.”

Still, it’s been interesting to note that in the first two weeks, teams haven’t shied away from attacking Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

On Sunday night, Wilson connected with receiver D.K. Metcalf for a 54-yard scoring strike despite Gilmore having decent coverage. Later in the game, Wilson picked on Gilmore again, hitting Metcalf for a 19-yard gain to set up what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

The previous week, while Gilmore had one of the team’s three picks, he was also called twice for pass interference. In the first two games, he’s given up seven catches for 128 yards. That’s not Gilmore-like.

Harrison, who was part of NBC’s Sunday night coverage, once again wasn’t going to write off the shutdown corner or the secondary after one bad outing.

“Gilmore is an awesome, awesome corner. But at the end of the day, every corner gets beat,” he said. “I’ve seen Ty Law get beat, and he’s a Hall of Famer. With a guy (D.K. Metcalf) that’s 6-3, 230 pounds and runs a 4.3 in the 40, you’re going to get beat occasionally. It doesn’t happen very often, and they were still in the position, after giving up five touchdown passes, to win the game.

“Everything was contested, the guys were right there,” Harrison added. “I’m not worried about them.”

If Carr lights them up on Sunday, the narrative might change.