Winning in Foxborough is a true test of a football team, and with the win the Seahawks showed they are for real this season.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Something magical and memorable, even momentous, seems to happen when the Seahawks and Patriots get together.
And, for one of the parties, something absolutely gut-wrenching. It will never undo the everlasting pain of the Super Bowl XLIX finish, of course, but watching the Patriots collapse at the 1-yard line with the game on the line had to provide a large measure of satisfaction, if not schadenfreude, for the Seahawks on Monday night.
This was the game the NFL, with its lagging ratings and a growing perception that the sport is declining in quality just as rapidly, needed badly. It had seven lead changes, relentless drama, tremendous performances up and down the line and a riveting finish.
But, beyond that, it was a game the Seahawks needed desperately. All those growing questions, the nagging concerns and perceived deficiencies that emerged during a lackluster stretch of games flew out the window in the midst of Seattle’s 31-24 victory at Gillette Stadium.
All those perceived flaws are certainly not gone — third-and-long was again a far too vulnerable and damaging proposition, for starters — but the Seahawks can point to this game as proof they have championship-caliber football lurking within them.
“I believe our confidence down the stretch is high now,’’ linebacker K.J. Wright said. “Going toward the last stretch of the season, we’re really climbing right now.”
It was the sight the Seahawks had been waiting to see, against the one team so strong and legitimate that all good omens are validated. There are no false positives against the New England Patriots, and so the Seahawks leave this game once again brimming with genuine hope.
“That’s a good football team,’’ Bill Belichick grunted after the game, and for the famously taciturn coach, those sparse words spoke volumes of praise.
The Seahawks muted all the talk about their running-game woes, with C.J. Prosise emerging as a go-to back. Prosise ran for 66 yards, caught seven passes for 87 yards and promises to revitalize their attack.
Russell Wilson continued to quiet fears that his litany of health woes will render him a diminished quarterback for the rest of the season. This was Wilson back in his brilliant, playmaking mode, perhaps still not as dynamic as he is at full strength but still able to carve up the Patriots defense. Wilson had a season-high 348 passing yards with three TDs, all of them to Doug Baldwin.
But mostly, this game was about the return of the Seahawks’ defense to its disruptive mode, forcing a rare Tom Brady interception — his first of a late-starting season, in fact — and recovering a fumble. And, especially, it was about them rising to the moment in spectacular fashion when the Patriots seemed certain to tie the game.
After Seattle had taken a 31-24 lead on Baldwin’s third TD catch with 4:24 to play, you just knew that Brady was going to do Brady things. And sure enough, he marched the Patriots down the field, reaching the 2-yard line on a 26-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
At that point, Earl Thomas said, the Seahawks repeated their mantra: “Believe. Believe. Just believe. That’s it.”
Thomas added, “It was everybody putting their body on the line, fighting for every inch, every blade of grass, and we got it done.”
Brady tried to sneak it in but got only a yard, leaving the Patriots with the fateful second-and-one from the 1, a scenario that didn’t end well for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Nor did it for the Patriots. LeGarrette Blount, who had already scored three touchdowns, was stopped cold. Brady fumbled a snap and lost a yard, putting the game on the line.
After the Seahawks were somehow caught with 12 men on the field, moving the ball back to the one, it came down to one fourth-down play. And Brady’s fade to Gronkowski, with Chancellor all over him, ended up falling incomplete. Despite contact on the play, there was no flag — just jubilation on Seattle’s part as the game effectively ended, 11 seconds before it officially did.
“This win says exactly what our creed says — we fight ’til we can’t fight no more,’’ Chancellor said. “No matter what the circumstance is, we never look back, keep pushing forward and fighting.”
Richard Sherman might not have asked Brady after this one if he was mad, bro, but there was deep satisfaction on the Seahawks’ part after a game that could change the story line of their season.
“That’s what guys dream of, man,’’ Wright said. “We dream of Sunday Night Football, we dream of making goal line stands, we dream of getting turnovers and stuff.
“It’s so fun for us, man. We’re out there during the game talking about finish, finish. Bow up, bow up, don’t let them in, don’t let them in. This is something you remember 10, 20 years down the line.”
And something both sides will surely remember if they should meet again in Houston in the big game — a fate that became more plausible on Sunday.
“I don’t care,’’ Wright said about the prospect of a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots. “I just want to make sure we’re there.”
That dream became a little more real.