If this was Groundhog Day, we would see one thing repeatedly—rookie third round pick Russell Wilson throwing it deep, deep and deep again to pick apart the Patriot’s secondary.
He torched them.
He destroyed them.
And to say New England’s third line of defense was left in shambles by the time the clock struck zero is an understatement.
Sound harsh? Consider how the Seahawks held the 31st ranked passing offense coming into today’s game and how Wilson had thrown 5 interceptions in his last two games. Wilson torched the Patriots for 293 yards on 16/27 passing, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. New England’s defense sacked him twice (both by defensive end Chandler Jones) and he left CenturyLink Field with a whopping 133.6 passer rating.
Seattle opened with a 9-play 78-yard drive to score the game’s first points, a 34-yard field goal from kicker Steven Hauschka. The field goal made it the 6th straight contest the Seahawks opened a game with a lead.
The Patriot’s offensive blitz continued this evening, albeit, without the same ferocity and pace as it had in last week’s game against Denver. Mainly operating out of the shotgun formation, Tom Brady answered the Seahawk's score with a 6-play drive that culminated in a deep pass to Wes Welker for a 46-yard touchdown. The 9-2 pass differential on the drive foreshadowed the type of offensive attack the Patriots looked to deploy.
In all, New England’s offensive game plan worked…to an extent.
Welker carved out Seattle’s interior with 10 catches on 14 targets for 138 yards and 1 touchdown, while tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Brandon Lloyd hauled in 6 catches respectively.
Brady finished the game completing 36/58 passes for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns, but also threw 2 drive and ultimately game killing interceptions. Also, a rare, but familiar intentional grounding penalty cost them an easy 3 points prior to half time and, likely, the game.
Holding a 17-10 lead heading into the third quarter, New England aggressively stuffed Seattle’s first offensive drive and, soon after, responded with a Stephen Gostkowski 35-yard field goal after an 8-play drive from their own 35-yard line.
Seattle’s ground game was non-existent. New England elected to shut down Seattle’s major strength on offense—its running attack led by Marshawn Lynch (41 yds, 2.7 avg)—and put Russell Wilson on center stage. The Patriot's run defense performed admirably. However, Wilson performed a top-notch show, displaying that his greatest weaknesses were not as feeble as the Patriot’s greatest weaknesses on defense.
Protecting a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, New England made a number of mistakes and the Seahawks capitalized. Brady led off the fourth by throwing his second interception to safety Earl Thomas in Seattle's red zone. The Seahawks negated what would have been an easy 7 points.
Seattle's momentum, however, did not last. After tight end Zach Miller fumbled while stretching for a first down, New England's linebacker Jerod Mayo recovered and quickly countered with a field goal to stretch their lead to 23-10.
And then suddenly the wheels fell off. The Seahawks and their 12th man exploded, New England’s secondary disintegrated and their offense failed, yet again, to convert a crucial first down to win a game.
Hear that tragedy before?
Throughout the game, New England had their chances, but never quite put the final blow to the Seahawks or their 67,000 faithful. Wilson hit 3 passes over 40 yards (2 to receiver Golden Tate and 1 to receiver Sidney Rice) that propelled them into a stunning, but not so stunning 24-23 victory.
The 3-3 Patriots host the 3-3 Jets at 4:25 EST next Sunday.
How do you believe the game was won? What plays might the Patriots have made to turn the game in their favor? Check out my blog this Tuesday for a final analysis on today's Seattle vs. New England match up.