The Seahawks answered emphatically any questions about just where it stands among the NFL’s elite, beating the Patriots 31-24 in as dramatic a game as can be had in the regular season.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The flashback for the Seahawks as the New England Patriots lined up for their final play to tie or win the game Sunday wasn’t so much to the 2015 Super Bowl but to practice the day before.
As the Seahawks concluded their Saturday workout, practice squad tight end Marcus Lucas lined up wide, with Kam Chancellor heading out to take him one-on-one.
“Same exact play, same side of the field,’’ Chancellor said. “There’s definitely a lot of irony in that.”
Also, it turned out, a lot of celebration for the Seahawks.
Sunday, it was New England tight end Rob Gronkowski playing the role of Lucas as the Patriots lined up with 14 seconds left facing fourth-and-goal at the 1, down 31-24.
As he did Saturday, Chancellor broke it up, giving Seattle its biggest victory of the season.
“Same exact play,’’ recalled linebacker K.J. Wright. “The shift, the throw, the back-shoulder. Same thing. They both fell to the ground. Kam broke it up. We all celebrated. The last play in practice. …
“(Seahawks coach) Pete (Carroll), he’s a genius.”
Said Chancellor: “I actually got my hand on the ball in that one (in practice), but he didn’t push me so it was just a little different.”
It also was a little different from the last time the two teams played, a game that also came down to a play from the 1-yard line. Then, Russell Wilson’s pass was picked off by Malcolm Butler, giving the Patriots an unlikely victory in the Super Bowl.
This game didn’t mean as much, but Carroll said it might prove pretty darn significant down the road.
“It’s the kind of accomplishment that you put in the back of your mind that you know what you did,’’ Carroll said. “… It makes you feel better about what you can do and what you are capable of.’’
The game featured seven lead changes, but it was the Seahawks scoring the last nine points of the game to improve to 6-2-1 and send the Patriots to 7-2.
Seattle came in as a 7½-point underdog, the biggest spread against it in four years.
But from the start this looked like the Seattle team that entered the year considered right with the Patriots as a Super Bowl favorite instead of the one that sometimes foundered through the first half of the season, twice not scoring a touchdown.
With Wilson showing as much mobility as he has all season, the Seahawks gained a season-high 420 yards and punted only twice.
And while there was some frustration in four times having to settle for field goals on drives that got to at least the Patriots’ 13-yard line, the point was that Seattle kept getting there, breaking down the door enough to notch its second-highest point total of the season.
Seattle appeared in good shape when Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for what was the receiver’s third touchdown of the game with 4:24 left. But when Seattle went for two points on the conversion and didn’t get it to remain ahead only 31-24, you had to know the game was far from over.
Indeed, the Patriots stayed alive when Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for 30 yards on a third-and-nine that put the ball at the 24 at the two-minute warning. A 26-yard pass from Brady to Gronkowski, who made the catch under tight coverage by DeShawn Shead, then put the ball at the 2.
But a Brady sneak and a LeGarrette Blount dive left the Patriots still needing a yard.
“Fight until you can’t fight anymore,’’ Wright said of what the team was thinking on the goal-line stand.
Then a Brady fumble foiled a third-down sneak, setting up the final play.
Gronkowski and Chancellor, playing for the first time since Oct. 2 having missed four games since then with a groin injury, battled for position as the ball flew harmlessly over the tight end’s head.
“There’s always a lot of contact with that team,’’ Brady said. “Sometimes you get the call, sometimes you don’t.’’
Baldwin’s final touchdown came after Richard Sherman’s recovery of an Edelman fumble forced by Chancellor.
“We were just too careless with the ball,’’ Brady said. “They weren’t.’’
So it came down to the last big play.
“Kam did a great job in great coverage,’’ Sherman said. “He (Gronkowski) tried to bulldoze him, and you just can’t bulldoze him.”
|Leaving points on the field|
|The Seahawks got the ball close, but couldn’t punch it in numerous times Sunday:|
|Down, distance, yard line||Quarter||Result|
|Second and 4, NE 8||First||FG|
|Second and 4, NE 15||First||FG|
|Second and 5, NE 5||Third||FG|
|Second and 1, NE 1||Fourth||FG|