The Seahawks come away with 31-24 victory over the Patriots and put up strong performances on offense and defense, particularly on the final goal-line stand.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — To Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Seattle’s 31-24 win at New England indeed proved that one of the teams on the field still has what it takes to get back to the Super Bowl.
“If they keep playing like this, I’m guessing we’ll see them again,’’ Sherman said of the Patriots.
The implication was obvious — neither he nor anyone else in the Seahawks’ locker room has had any question about Seattle’s Super Bowl worthiness despite a somewhat ragged first half of the 2016 season.
But in case anyone had lost faith in the Seahawks, Seattle gave a reason to again believe, turning in its best overall performance of the season in beating the team that is the current Las Vegas favorite to win the Super Bowl on its home field. It did so despite the Patriots being 7½-point favorites — the biggest spread against them since the seventh game of the 2012 season.
The performance also meant some of the best all-around grades of the year for the Seahawks.
What a difference a healthy Russell Wilson is again making in the Seattle offense — just as coach Pete Carroll has been saying he would.
Wilson didn’t run for many yards, but he kept a lot of plays alive with his feet, which helped open up a lot more of Seattle’s offense as the Seahawks gained a season-high 420 yards.
Wilson completed 25 of 37 passes for 348 yards, his most in a regular-season game and, most important, didn’t throw an interception.
Wilson again looked more mobile, with his injuries another week in the past. Illustrating that most clearly was a play right before halftime that resulted in Seattle’s second touchdown when Wilson evaded pressure to keep the play alive and then hit a wide open Doug Baldwin in the end zone for a 18-yard TD to make it 19-14 at halftime.
The Seahawks again came out throwing vertically, continuing the emphasis began last week against Buffalo — 12 of Wilson’s first 22 receptions went for 11 yards or longer. Tyler Lockett was a key to that with a 36-yard catch that set an early tone and later forcing a pass-interference penalty.
And what a revelation was rookie running back C.J. Prosise. The third-round pick from Notre Dame showed strong and patient running in helping the Seahawks finally put together a solid rushing attack for the first time in more than a month while also displaying toughness and savvy receiving, finishing with153 total yards (66 rushing and 87 receiving), leading the team in both categories.
And Seattle’s 96 yards rushing was its third-most of the season and best since rushing for 127 against the 49ers on Sept. 25.
Wilson’s mobility most benefited Baldwin, who tied a career-high with three touchdown receptions, one more than he had all season.
Paul Richardson also showed the big-play ability that continues to earn him snaps with a 39-yard grab that was the longest play of the game for either team.
Welcome back, Kam Chancellor. He got beat a couple of times early, but Chancellor won the battle he had to late against Rob Gronkowski to preserve the win for Seattle.
Sherman also credited Chancellor’s return for settling down the entire Seattle defense and limiting mistakes in coverage.
But the final drive was a combo effort with the front line and the linebackers stuffing the first three runs, typifying the type of grit the Seahawks played with all night.
“Believe,’’ said safety Earl Thomas when asked what the defense thought as the Patriots reached the 2-yard-line with under a minute left.
The final stand gives the Seahawks an A by itself.
Tom Brady passed for 316 yards but didn’t have a TD for the first time all season and threw his first interception of the season on a night when Seattle won the turnover battle 2-0 — which was as critical as anything that happened in the game. Chancellor helped forced a fourth-quarter fumble recovered by Sherman that led to the Seahawks’ final TD.
Second-year end Frank Clark again played well, getting his third straight start in place of an injured Michael Bennett most pivotally getting a sack of Brady on a third-and-goal from the 7 early in the fourth quarter to force a field goal.
And the Seahawks played physical all night.
That was best illustrated when Thomas levied a hard hit on Gronkowski with 4:17 left in the second quarter sent that Gronkowski to the sideline. He missed five plays before returning, but a statement had been made.
Seattle had some struggles on third down, allowing 6 of 10 conversions. But it stopped the final two it faced in the red zone in the fourth quarter, which made all the difference.
Seattle’s PAT after its first touchdown was blocked when the Patriots got good penetration right up the middle. Shea McClellin, who was pushing back J’Marcus Webb, got credit for the block.
Neiko Thorpe continued his strong play in kick coverage, drawing a flag for clipping that forced the Patriots to start a drive at their own 9 in the third quarter.
Lockett’s 32-yard return gave Seattle good field position, at its own 37, on the drive after the Patriots field goal to take a 24-22 lead, leading to the Seahawks’ go-ahead field goal.
The Seahawks allowed Cyrus Jones to break free for a 45-yard kickoff return that set up the Patriots at the Seattle 43.
The decision to go for two on the last TD was setting up to be heavily debated until the goal-line stand. Carroll said he just wanted to put the team up by two scores and potentially end the game there.