If you watched Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, you’d hardly be surprised to see the ill fated play that finished the ‘Hawks quest for two straight Superbowls played over and over again. The cast of NBC’s Sunday Night Football cued it up at least three or four times. With New England getting the ball first and easily marching down the the field, the pre-ordained narrative was already coming to life: That Seattle, traveling cross country on a short week, was going to lose to the Patriots, at home and coming off of a bye.
To make matters worse, Seattle was a 7.5 point underdog. The media pundits nationwide all sowed the same story: Get Pressure on Tom Brady or you aren’t going to stand a chance in this game. Seattle’s vaunted Defense, boasting Pro Bowlers and All Pro players, weren’t good enough. Even when taking into consideration three of the four members of the Legion of Boom were hurt in the 2014 Superbowl, and Jeremy Lane excited the first quarter of that game with a torn ACL and broken arm, it didn’t seem to be enough to stop the Patriots.
Indeed, watching Tom Brady and Co. travel 75 yards down the field and score a rushing touchdown by LeGarrette Blount (the first of THREE TDs he would rush for on the day), it was sounding like the ‘Hawks were going to be in for a long night that all of the sports writers forecasted. Except, they all forgot one thing- the ‘Hawks don’t just sit down. They make you earn the ‘W’.
Russell Wilson, ankle brace-less, displayed fluidity in the pocket, and constantly did his part to keep Seattle in scoring position. Seattle would score on 7 of their 9 drives, and arguably the most crucial ones occurred in the first half, with Stephen Hauschka kicking two field goals (and the defense holding New England to only that first touchdown) to have the game 7-6, New England. From there, Seattle played true midseason form football. Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a receiving TD against Malcolm Butler on a sideline corner route in which Baldwin straight out footed Butler, before the point after was blocked by a superb effort by the special teams of New England.
New England would score another rushing touchdown for yet one of the many lead changes in this game, but Wilson drove the ‘Hawks back down the field again with a potent blend of running and passing plays, with the run game coming into realization with rookie C.J. Prosise being an immediate factor. Wilson then improvised with time expiring before the half, scrambling away from pressure and finding Baldwin in the opposite corner with double coverage that played off of him by three or so yards for another score to make it 19-14 before the half.
Seattle allowed a third rushing TD by New England, and Seattle once again kicked a Field Goal to end the third quarter 22-21, Seattle.
It was in the fourth quarter when the game really came alive, with both teams trading Field Goals and a third TD by Doug Baldwin, followed up by a failed 2-pt conversion. Seattle would end the game with the same points as they had at that time, 31-24.
While Baldwin was the offensive darling of the receiving corps on the night, Prosise accumulated 153 total yards, and probably had a touchdown that was called short of the goal line in the 4th quarter (Pete Carroll challenged the play, and lost the challenge, which left Seattle with only one timeout and 9:00 to play in the game). Prosise routinely sought contact against New England’s secondary and line backer corps, and made huge gains in both the run and passing aspects of this game. That, along with the projected return of Thomas Rawls, finally allows this offense a chance to catch its breath and keep opposing defenses from maintaining theirs.
Wilson found four different receivers for 50+ receiving yards, with Prosise notching 87 yards, Tyler Lockett recording 72 yards, Doug Baldwin for 59 yards, and Paul Richardson for 52. 39 of Richardson’s yards came off of a play where the Patriots left him wide open and converged quickly to cease his explosive plays. Jimmy Graham tallied 48 receiving yards on the night, but converted some key third downs. Honestly, when Baldwin scored his third receiving TD, Gillette Stadium went so quiet that the broadcasting crew on Sunday Night Football openly questioned whether this had ever happened before.
Speaking of defense, the return of Kam Chancellor (who missed the previous four games with a groin injury) saw incredible plays occur on his watch. He defensed a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski, and forced a fumble on Julian Edelman that Richard Sherman recovered. Chancellor also had a bead on Tom Brady with a Safety blitz, but a New England offensive lineman got him off balance enough to send him sailing at the knees of Brady. 15 penalty yards came after accordingly. On the final set of plays, Chancellor leapt from behind the goal line while tracking LeGarrette Blount. Blount lunged in the air to attempt to score what would have been his fourth rushing TD of the contest, but Chancellor snatched him out of the air and brought him back to reality. On a final 4th and goal, Chancellor motioned in coverage up to the opposite side of Rob Gronkowski, and let the 6’6″ tight end initiate coverage and toss him to the ground. It was that fatal flaw that prevented Gronkowski from catching a loft pass from Tom Brady, and sealed the game for Seattle.
You can’t overlook Frank Clark, who had a full sack that was a thing of pure beauty, as he was spinning around and got a single hand on Brady’s jersey. His dexterity proved to be strong enough to drag Brady to the ground while being tackled. Damontre Moore and Jarran Reed combined for another sack, and DeShawn Shead recorded an interception. But the biggest talk of the night outside of Chancellor was the hit Earl Thomas leveled on Gronkowski which forced Gronk to leave the field for five straight plays. Collectively, the Seattle defense held Tom Brady to NO passing touchdowns and one INT on the night. Even with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril not accumulating more than 15 tackles between them, Tony McDaniel, Clark, and Sherman provided invaluable run and pass stopping tackles.
Of certain precarious note, the ‘Hawks defense did allow Tom Brady to convert 6 of 10 third downs, particularly a 3rd and 25 to Julian Edelman and many 3rd and longs before that. But when it mattered most, the defense stood up one of the most prolific offenses not just in this season, but in history. Brady Fumbling at the goal line with under :30 to play in the game was probably one of the best plays we’ve seen this defense do in a long time, especially when you consider Brady had snuck for multiple first downs in the contest already. Seattle getting a penalty for having 12 men on the field on the very next play was a sweet bit of irony. While Gronkowski was limited in this showing, Marcellus Bennett tore into the Seattle secondary, rumbling to 102 total yards. Seattle out-gained New England in total yards (420-385), passing yards (324-304), rushing yards (96-81) and of course, the only number that matters, the win column (1-0). Both teams had similar numbers for penalties (8-7) and penalty yards (61-60).
After the game, head coach Pete Carroll said that the game was “A really good accomplishment by our guys… our defense, just had to hang with them. When you get a chance to win the game on the 1-yd line, there’s just nothing like it. It was a really cool night of football.” He continued later on that “We’ve been through so many games in the last month where our defense has been on the field for 80 plays, 90 plays, and our guys, it don’t matter anymore to them. They don’t mind anymore (being on the field), it doesn’t matter.” Rookie C.J. Prosise praised the offensive line, remarking that “Those guys set me up.”and also described the hype that the team felt traveling eastward on a short week to play in primetime. Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy said in a post game interview that Seattle sent a message to the rest of the NFC: That Seattle was back. Of course, if you’ve been following the ‘Hawks for any amount of time you know that Seattle is almost truly never out of it.
Up next, the ‘Hawks welcome the Philadelphia Eagles to Century Link Field for a 4:25pm game on Sunday. The Eagles are led by a new head coach, a promising rookie QB in Carson Went, above average offensive lines and a frighteningly good defensive line that slowed down the Atlanta Falcons in a narrow win last week. Look for Seattle to try and get as much pressure as they can early, limiting the run game and forcing the rookie to make poor passing decisions.