GLENDALE, Ariz.— It’s one of the mottos of Pete Carroll’s program. The word “Finish” is everywhere when it comes to the Seattle Seahawks, always with the idea of being the better team at the end of the game.
For a change, Seattle’s record-setting defense wilted in the fourth quarter. Instead of finishing, Seattle faded as Tom Brady and New England’s rallied.
“I think I’m going to go lock myself in my room for about two weeks. This one hurt because we had it,” Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “We had it.”
Staked to a 10-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, the best defense in the NFL could not deliver a second straight Super Bowl title for the Seahawks.
All the attention will be placed on the decision to have Russell Wilson throw from the 1-yard line in the closing seconds, resulting in Malcolm Butler’s clinching interception for New England.
But that moment became possible because Brady put together two lengthy fourth-quarter touchdown drives against a Seattle defense that late in the regular season didn’t allow a fourth-quarter point in six straight games.
Seattle had the best pass defense, best total defense and best scoring defense in the NFL. The Seahawks had allowed less than 10 points per game during their eight-game win streak to close the season.
Failing in the fourth quarter was a crushing turn for a unit that had been praised for being the best of this era of the NFL. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas sat silent at his locker for more than 10 minutes in a quiet locker room.
“We’ve got to be fundamentally sound. We’re a very good fundamentally sound team but when you’re not fundamentally sound, things happen,” safety Kam Chancellor said. “Things happen and a great quarterback like Tom Brady, he’ll find it. He’ll definitely find it. We’ve got to be fundamentally sound.”
This wasn’t the elite Seattle defense of late in the season on Sunday. Thomas and Sherman both played with injuries suffered in the NFC championship game. Chancellor injured his knee in practice on Friday and had to go through a pregame workout just to be cleared.
Then the Seahawks suffered two major losses during the game. Nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane broke his wrist after intercepting Brady in the first quarter, causing a shift in the secondary. Backup cornerback Tharold Simon was suddenly thrust into action and struggled.
Defensive end Cliff Avril suffered a concussion in the second half and Seattle’s pass rush was unable to get at Brady in the fourth quarter. Brady was 13-for-15 passing in the final quarter and the Patriots had 123 yards of offense.
“Those were two big injuries to core guys for us, but we ran the same plays,” Sherman said. “We executed, even though some mistakes were made at the end. When you lose two starters, it’s going to be tough for your defense.”
The Seahawks fell to 2-6 over the past two seasons when allowing 24 or more points. Five of their six losses this season, including Sunday night, came when giving up 24 or more.
The question afterward was whether Seattle could use this loss the same way it used its 2012 playoff loss to Atlanta, which was the catalyst for the Seahawks title a year ago.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner wasn’t interested.
“I would rather learn from winning than learn from losing,” he said.