Jamal Adams was ready to hurdle the line if necessary, Bobby Wagner knew what was coming and made sure everyone knew what to do, and L.J. Collier and Lano Hill teamed up to make the biggest play of their careers.
For three quarters, 14 minutes and 58 seconds, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton was nearly unstoppable in short-yardage situations, including two 1-yard touchdown runs and a 1-yard touchdown pass when just about everyone not in a Patriots uniform was expecting another run.
But with the game on the line and two seconds left on the clock, and with Newton looking for his third touchdown run of the night, the Seahawks defense made the huge play it needed to preserve a thrilling 35-30 win over New England thanks to a perfect call from Wagner, and perfect execution from Hill and Collier, among others.
The 2019 season was a difficult one for L.J. Collier, who arrived in Seattle as a first-round pick out of TCU, but whose rookie campaign was knocked off track by a serious ankle injury early in camp. He made it back from the injury in time for the regular season, but was a non-factor for most of the year, never really recovering from all of that missed time. Collier returned to camp healthy and in better shape this year, won a starting defensive end job, then on Sunday made the biggest play of his young NFL career.
After Newton took the snap and went to his left, Hill shot into the backfield and took out fullback Jakob Johnson. Hill winning that matchup meant Newton couldn't bounce the run outside, leaving a run up the middle as his only real choice, and when he did that, Collier was already in the backfield to upend Newton and end the game.
Collier said that play can be a confidence booster that gives him "the jump I needed. I feel like it's only up from here really. It shows a little bit of my offseason work, how hard I worked in the offseason. From getting up early, killing myself every day. It just shows how hard I really worked this offseason."
Before the snap, the Seahawks recognized the look they were getting, and Wagner got the defense into the right play to stop it.
"They were running the same thing all game," Collier said. "Bobby came to us before that and said they were going to run the same play. We were going to slant on it and go with it, and I really just followed my captain, went with him, and you see we came up with a big-time play. Credit goes to coach (defensive coordinator Ken) Norton, Bobby, and the rest of the defense."
Adams is new to the Seahawks, but could already appreciate what that play meant to the team and to Collier in particular.
"That was crazy man, a lot of emotions," said Adams, who for the second week in row led the team in tackles, this time with 10, and who recorded a sack for the second straight week. "I'll tell you what, I'm so proud of L.J. I just met him, but I have heard so much about him due to my boy back home (Daniel Wise) who is really good friends with him. Obviously, he went to TCU, but I'm so proud of him because he has worked his tail off just to get to this moment, to have his moment. I thought we finished strong. As a defense we like to be in those moments, but we don't like to be in those moments. It's just so fun and so exciting to get that win and pull it off like that."
Adams was lined up near the line of scrimmage on the left side of the defense, and initially he planned to try to hurdle the line of scrimmage to get into the backfield, but once he saw the pre-snap formation and recognized that the run was going away from him, he decided against taking that risk on a play that wasn't coming his direction.
"Honestly, you know what was crazy, I told K.J. (Wright), I said, 'Hey man, I'm about to jump over.'" Adams said. "He looked at me, he said, 'Right now, are you sure?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm sure.' As soon as they came out in the formation, I said, 'K.J., no, no, no, no, call it off, call it off.' I knew that the ball was going right as well, so I did not want to make a mistake and jeopardize the team. What a play by not only L.J., but Bobby coming down on that backside, the whole line getting penetration.
"What a defensive stand, man, that was big flipping Cam over and stopping him short of the goal line. Obviously, I'm hyped up, that was my first win vs. the Patriots, so that was pretty exciting, man. I'm excited to be here."
The thrilling finish against the Patriot was hardly shocking—both teams are led by two of the best in the business in Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, and in the previous three meetings between the two teams with those two as head coach, the games had been decided by a total of 12 points, including a Super Bowl that came down to a goal-line stop by New England, and a 2016 Seahawks win that saw Seattle's defense make the goal-line stand for the win.
"For our guys to hang on all the way to the end and have to go down to two seconds and no time left on the clock, the whole thing, last play of the game, it's an extraordinary moment for football players and for a team," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You either come through or you don't. There is so much intensity in that moment. The guys on the field will never forget it; that was just a moment… From what I understand, I didn't get to see it clearly, L.J. had a great play there, and got clean in the backfield and got to the QB on a play that they had been real successful on. Other guys got up in there as well. I don't know exactly what happened, but I do know that everybody was fired up about L.J.'s play. It's good to see him contribute in that way."
For Collier, that play was the reward of an offseason he spent working to make sure his second NFL season went significantly better than his first.
"I was playing catch-up all of last year," Collier said. "And it was really a depressing year, not getting to do what I want to do, not being able to help my team. Sitting by and watching from the sidelines, and being inactive some days. But I used it to drive me in the offseason, push myself every day to know that I'm not going to sit on the sidelines this year. I'm going to come here and work and I'm going to do what I've got to do. Nothing will be given to me; I'm going to earn everything that I get."
The best photos from Week 2's Seahawks-Patriots matchup on Sunday Night Football at CenturyLink Field. Presented by Nesquik.