The Seahawks have had a season's worth of epic endings in their first six games, but none was more precious or important than Sunday's 24-23 comeback victory over New England.
It was all over except for the catch. Sidney Rice made a graceful move to ditch his defender, Russell Wilson lofted a picturesque throw into the rainy sky and the ever-dramatic Seahawks were two soft hands from simultaneous jubilation this time.
“You can’t let this one get away,” Rice told himself as he extended his arms and waited for the football.
The wide receiver snagged the game-winning touchdown pass, cradled it toward his chest and fell into the end zone. He protected the ball as if it were an infant.
“I think he squeezed it with four hands, even though he doesn’t have four,” Wilson joked.
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As fragile as these late-game moments are, it was only proper to handle this one with care. The Seahawks have had a season’s worth of epic endings in their first six games, but none was more precious or important than Sunday’s 24-23 comeback victory over New England, the closest thing to a sovereign power in the NFL.
Down 23-10 with less than eight minutes remaining, the Seahawks needed the most thorough miracle a team could request. A questionable call on a Hail Mary wouldn’t do against the Patriots. The Seahawks needed a double dose of good fortune. They needed to manufacture two touchdowns against a Patriots defense that had held them to 35 yards during a 21-minute stretch in the second half. And they needed their No. 1 defense, which yielded 475 yards to the league’s No. 1 offense, to make a cameo.
It all happened, in the most stunning, galvanizing and unifying manner possible. These are the kinds of improbable victories that launch teams. And for the Seahawks, defensively dominant but offensively opaque, an all-in rally against an elite team could help redefine the possibilities this season.
“Growth. That’s what this was about — growth,” fullback Michael Robinson said. “A comeback like this wouldn’t have happened around here the last two years.”
Maybe Year 3 of coach Pete Carroll will live up to expectations. The Seahawks are 4-2 and growing. With Wilson improving at a rapid pace, they are progressing on schedule.
Long before the comeback, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman called it. Down 20-10 in the third quarter, he and safety Earl Thomas started trash-talking with New England quarterback Tom Brady. The Seahawks sent Brady, the model-marrying, Visa-endorsing paragon of NFL signal-calling, a warning after they barely missed intercepting several of his passes.
“If you throw it up again, we’re going to take it,” Sherman told Brady.
“I’ll see you after the game,” Brady replied.
The quarterback had reason to feel confident in the third quarter. He was on his way to a 395-yard passing performance. The Patriots became the first team to solve the Seahawks defense all season.
Brady, who had only thrown one interception this season entering the game, kept throwing it up. He threw 58 passes. And the Seahawks wound up intercepting two of those, one by Sherman and one by Thomas.
Both picks ruined scoring opportunities for New England, and despite their struggles, the Seahawks defense held the Patriots to just two field goals in the second half after allowing 17 points in the first half.
But the offense, which produced a season-high 368 yards, led the rally. Braylon Edwards resurfaced and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass on a fade route to trim the deficit to 23-17 with 7:21 remaining. The Seahawks forced a punt, but then had to punt themselves with 3:14 left. Carroll made the risky decision to give it back to the Patriots and trust his defense. It worked. The defense held before Wilson’s game-winning pass to Rice.
“We had no doubt,” Sherman said. “We trust our offense.”
On the decisive play, Rice didn’t just lock safety Tavon Wilson’s hips by faking a corner route and beating him inside. He put a deadbolt on those things. Russell Wilson, the rookie quarterback who threw for a career-high 293 yards, launched a beautiful pass.
“I got beat,” Tavon Wilson said. “I accept that. We were in simple coverage. He made the play, and I didn’t.”
In a furious eight-minute comeback, the Seahawks were a complete team, at last. And Sherman approached Brady after the game to get the last word.
“He didn’t have nothing to say,” Sherman said of Brady.
So as the CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,137 roared, the cornerback barked into the ear of the biggest star in the NFL. The young and brash Seahawks know this landmark victory comes with no asterisks.
Without question, simultaneous jubilation trumps simultaneous possession.