SEATTLE — When your defense allows 475 yards in an NFL game, you’re probably going to lose.
When the opposing quarterback is Tom Brady and he throws for 395 yards, it’s usually lights out.
But the Seattle Seahawks defense had the final word after a stunning 24-23 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
“We were down 23-10, and me and Earl (Thomas) said, ‘If you throw it up again, we’re going to take it.’ We told that to Tom Brady,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
“He said, ‘I’ll see you after the game,’” Sherman said. “I went and found him after the game, and he had nothing to say.”
If the Patriots had held on to win the story line would have been about how methodically and patiently they worked their way down the field, taking what the Seahawks gave them and doing just enough to win.
But after Seattle scored 14 points in the last eight minutes to steal away the victory, it became clear how critical it was that the Seahawks defense had been solid in the red zone after the early going.
The Patriots scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions and appeared to be very much in sync on offense.
But Seattle held them to three field goals the rest of the way to keep the game within reach long enough for the offense to find the switch.
“It’s about fighting all the way to the end, and that’s what we did today,” Seattle defensive back Marcus Trufant said. “They’ve got a great quarterback. They’ve got great receivers, so they’re going to put up their yards. You’ve just got to try to keep them out of the end zone, and we did a pretty good job of that today.”
If they were steady for most of the game, the Seattle defenders were downright brilliant at the very end.
With three minutes left, the Patriots led 23-17 and had the ball on their own 41-yard line. They had 465 yards and 26 first downs. Brady had not been sacked, and the Seahawks had forced no three-and-outs.
If the Patriots get a couple of first downs, the game is over.
But the Seahawks forced their first three-and-out on two short runs and an incomplete pass.
Four plays later, Seattle took the lead on Russell Wilson’s 46-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice.
Then it was up to the defense to protect that lead with the ball at the Patriots’ 20 and 1:14 left, which is plenty of time for Brady, who has engineered 37 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime in his 13 NFL seasons.
After an incomplete pass, the Seahawks got their first sack when Jason Jones dumped Brady. Another incomplete pass set up fourth-and-17, and the Patriots got just 15 yards on Brady’s pass over the middle to wide receiver Wes Welker.
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner tackled Welker at the New England 28 to set off a wild celebration.
“I’m so proud of my guys. I’m proud of the defense,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. “That was a great game. 23-10. A lesser team probably would have gone in the tank. Nobody batted an eye. Nobody felt that we were out of the game.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Bryant said. “If you want to be remembered, then you finish games.”
Sherman and Thomas each had an interception in the second half, when New England racked up 223 yards but scored only six points.
“I know they scored 23 points and six in the second half. That’s what I know,” Sherman said. “You can throw the ball all over the field, but if you can’t score the ball then what is it? He (Brady) threw two picks. I’d say it’s a pretty solid day.”
Sherman said that one of the keys was that the Seahawks refused to regard Brady as anything other than a normal NFL quarterback.
“We’re not scared of him. We’re not intimidated,” Sherman said when asked if the Seahawks did anything unusual to keep Brady more or less under control.
“Not at all. If you start making them special you start making them bigger than what they are,” he said. “You’ll make Tom Brady a god. You’ll make Aaron Rodgers unstoppable.”
“It’s just another team, another game, another win. We don’t make them any bigger than what they are, despite what the outside world does,” Sherman said. “They make them like they’re some kind of gods.
“Well, these gods are 3-3 right now.”