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Wilson to the rescue
When Sidney Rice broke clear to catch a 46-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson with 78 seconds left to play on Sunday, it set off an eruption of euphoria in the crowd of 68,137 drenched but delirious fans at CenturyLink Field.
The underdog and at times under-siege Seahawks had just taken a one-point lead over the New England Patriots, but there was one place that sanity ruled – inside the helmet on Rice’s head.
“It was great. But I didn’t celebrate at all, because with a minute and 14 seconds on the clock and with Tom Brady back there, the game is not over,” Rice said in the locker room after the Seahawks had run their record to 4-2 and pulled into a tie for first place in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, who both lost on Sunday.
Fair enough. Brady did, after all, complete 36 of 58 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns. Wes Welker caught 10 passes for 138 yards and one of those TDs. The Patriots, who entered the game as the NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense, ran 30 more plays (85) than the Seahawks and compiled 475 yards.
But in the end, Wilson, the rookie QB who was making his sixth NFL start, found a way to out-Brady the incomparable Brady. After throwing five interceptions in the past two games, Wilson threw three TD passes and no picks while completing 16 of 27 passes for 293 yards and fashioning a 133.7 passer rating – with the yards and rating being career bests.
“What Russell did today was just incredible, especially from a rookie against a team like the Patriots – they’ve been the standard in the NFL for so long, on offense and on defense,” center Max Unger said. “It’s a big win for sure, and especially for Russell.”
All of this on a day when Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy had his number 96 retired during a halftime ceremony. All of this on a day when the Seahawks played their only home game in a five-game stretch that continues on Thursday night with a game against the 49ers in San Francisco.
While Wilson was delivering the late heroics, a Seahawks defense that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the league stretched that old bend-but-don’t-break line fiber-optic thin. Like the offense, the defense found ways to make plays when it most mattered – like free safety Earl Thomas intercepting a Brady pass in the end zone on the third play of the fourth quarter and cornerback Richard Sherman picking off one in the third quarter at the Seahawks’ 20-yard line.
“There’s no quit in this team,” defensive end Red Bryant said after the Patriots had scored more points than the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers combined to score (19) in the Seahawks’ first two home games – but 10 fewer than the Patriots had averaged in their first five games.
“We knew going into the game we were going to have our hands full. Yeah, they were able to get some yards, but they didn’t get the points. Brady had huge numbers and we could have gone in the tank a couple of times, but we hung in there.”
In three home games, the Seahawks have now stared down the Cowboys and QB Tony Romo, the Packers at QB Aaron Rodgers and now the Patriots and Brady.
“The opponent was the Seahawks,” Brady said when asked about the impact of the 12th Man crowd after playing his first game in Seattle. “It wasn’t the crowd, or the weather, or the refs. It was the Seahawks and we lost to a good football team.
“They certainly play well at home. We had an opportunity and just didn’t get it done.”
Because the Seahawks did. Somehow. Someway.
“You can’t say enough good stuff about Russell,” Unger said. “A lot of people didn’t really think he’d be able to do the things that he’s done so far. It’s a testament to his work ethic.”
Here’s a closer look at the plays Wilson made that allowed the Seahawks to overcome a 23-10 deficit midway through the fourth quarter:
After a 35-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski stretched the Patriots’ lead to 13 points with 9:21 to play, Wilson hooked up with Golden Tate on a 51-yard reception on the Seahawks’ ensuing play. Patriots’ linebacker Brandon Spikes also was penalized 15 yards for roughness because of a late hit on Wilson, so the Seahawks had a first down at the New England 17-yard line. The next three plays netted only seven plays, so the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-3 from the 10.
They didn’t just go for it; Wilson went to Braylon Edwards, who had six receptions in the first five games.
“We had to go for it at that point,” Edwards said. “So I think it was a good call, and it ended up turning into a great call.”
What was the call? Wilson had Edwards running a fade in the left side of the end zone and Rice running one in the right side of the end zone, with Golden Tate running a shorter route underneath in case the Patriots were in zone coverage. It was man-to-man coverage, which left Edwards to beat cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who also was flagged for interference on the play.
“I’ve been waiting for a shot, waiting for a chance,” said Edwards, who had only one catch in the past four games. “I got it today, and this could be a jumpstart to more shots in the offense.”
After the teams exchanged punts (two by the Patriots, one by Jon Ryan), Leon Washington broke a 25-yard return to give the Seahawks a first down at their 43. Wilson faked a handoff to Marshawn Lynch on first down and ran for 9 yards. Wilson’s second-down pass was incomplete when Rice slipped on the slick field. On third-and-1, Lynch plowed into the heart of the Patriots’ defense for 2 yards and a first down at the New England 46.
That setup Wilson’s pass to Rice for what proved to be the game-winner. Rice was the primary receiver on the play, and made the play the Seahawks had to have.
“I got inside the defender, squared up the safety, looked to the corner for a few steps,” Rice said. “As soon as I saw him bite down on me, I just crossed his face and took off running with all I had.”
Wilson lofted the ball toward the end zone, and a spot Rice was racing to reach.
“It was a heckuva throw,” Rice said. “The whole time when I came out of my break I was looking at the ball in the air and it was so pretty. I’m just running and I was like, ‘You’ve got to catch up to it. You’ve got to catch up to it.’ ”
He did, so the Seahawks had one pretty victory – because of who they beat, and how they beat them.
“A fantastic event we just witnessed,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I’m really proud of the way we played. It was a day when they were really doing a lot of good stuff … and you didn’t know if we were going to get to slow them down or not.
“It’s a big statement for a young team, and it’s more so because of that staff, that coach, that quarterback, their team, the championship ways that they know and understand and everything about it. We take great pride in it.”