SEATTLE — The comeback was free of controversy this time, but it was no less surprising.
For the second time in as many games at home, the Seahawks pulled off a victory in dramatic fashion, using two fourth-quarter touchdowns to knock off the New England Patriots 24-23. But unlike last month’s Monday night win over Green Bay that featured the infamous Golden Tate “simultaneous catch” touchdown, this victory will not be tainted by a controversial ending.
Sunday’s win at CenturyLink Field was still hard to fathom, however, if only because the Seahawks looked outmatched for much of the afternoon. Seattle’s top-ranked defense wasn’t giving up points in bunches, but the Patriots were still moving the ball up and down the field, and the 23 points New England had early in the fourth quarter — the most scored by a Seahawks opponent this season — looked to be enough considering that the Seahawks offense was once again struggling.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense started the game well with a field goal and a touchdown on their first two possessions, but did little after that until the game’s final minutes.
And when Seattle did finally move the ball again early in the fourth quarter, tight end Zach Miller fumbled and the Patriots kicked a field goal on their ensuing possession to make it 23-10 with 9:21 left in the game. Considering the limitations of Seattle’s offense this season, and how well the Patriots had moved the ball, the odds of the Seahawks scoring two touchdowns while not giving up another score seemed slim at best.
But after Wilson connected with Braylon Edwards on a 10-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play to make it a one-score game, the Seahawks found themselves in a position they’ve been in so often this season — playing a tight game in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks won in Carolina last week in a down-to-the-wire contest, and in losses to Arizona and St. Louis, final drives came up short, while in the win over Green Bay, the Seahawks won in improbable fashion.
“Having these close games, I tell our guys all the time that these close games will benefit us later on in the season,” said fullback Michael Robinson. “We’re learning how to win. Even when we lose, we’re learning how to win.”
After the Seahawks made it a one-score game on the Edwards’ touchdown, the defense came up with a stop. Then when Seattle’s offense had to punt, the defense stepped up one more time, forcing New England’s first three-and-out of the game. Leon Washington returned the ensuing punt 25 yards to Seattle’s 43-yard line, and four plays later Wilson hit Sidney Rice with a 46-yard touchdown pass after Rice managed to lose Patriots safety Tavon Wilson to find himself wide open down the middle of the field.
“He ended up getting open,” said Wilson, who completed 16-of-27 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns, which was good for a passer rating of 133.7. “I just tried to put it in a spot where only he could catch it, and he did a great job of coming up with that tremendous catch there,” Wilson said. “I think he squeezed it with four hands.”
Tom Brady and the Patriots did have one final shot, getting the ball back with 1:14 remaining on the clock, but following a Jason Jones sack on third down, Brady’s pass to Wes Welker came up two yards short on fourth-and-17.
“They’re a great offense, so they’re going to get catches, they’re going to get some gains, but we just wanted to stuff them, we wanted to stand up in the red zone and that’s what we did,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who intercepted Brady in the second half to give him three picks this season. “Everybody did their part. There was Kam (Chancellor), there was Earl (Thomas), there was me, there was (Brandon Browner), there was (Bobby Wagner), everybody had their hand in it. The pass rush was getting pressure on him. That’s how it happens.”
And as significant as Sunday’s win was because it improved the Seahawks record to 4-2, putting them in a three-way first-place tie in the NFC West, it is also important for what it can mean for the perception of the team both in and out of the locker room. People were quick to write off Seattle’s win over Green Bay because of the way that game ended. But this victory, one that featured not just a good Seattle defense, but a stunning fourth-quarter outburst by an offense that has struggled so often this season; this game showed that the Seahawks belong on the big stage.
“It’s a big statement for a young team,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “And it is more so because of that (New England) staff, that coach, that quarterback, their team, the championship ways that they know and understand and everything about that, so we take great pride in it.”
And even though the Seahawks already believed in themselves before Sunday, this type of win over a team like New England can provide validation for a young team still trying to become a consistent winner.
“This was a big win for us,” said Seattle defensive back Marcus Trufant. “It was a great test. It was a back and forth game and we had to play all the way until the clock said zero. Having a young team, I think that’s real big for us. It’s about fighting all the way to the end, and that’s what we did today.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.