FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —The Seahawks don't believe in statement wins. They're not a team that's going to approach any game as a "big game" or a "must-win" or any other label you might want to throw on a matchup like Sunday night's against the New England Patriots.
But none of that means the Seahawks can't appreciate what they accomplished after the fact, especially when that accomplishment is a 31-24 road victory over a Patriots team that was coming off of its bye, while Seattle had a short week, having played on Monday night in Week 9.
"It was a really cool night of football," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It's because we respect them so much is really why I say that."
The Seahawks improved to 6-2-1 with the victory and handed New England just its second defeat of the season and its first since Tom Brady returned from suspension.
"This was a really good win today because of who we just played and the kind of club this is," Carroll said. "The coaching staff, the players, the history, the season that they're having, we have great respect for them, so it's a really good accomplishment for our guys."
"We played the best team you can put out there. It's a great football team. They've got everything going for them. They have the best quarterback who's ever played, the best coach who's ever coached, and it can't get any better that that. It made a nice little night against all that… What's most important for us is that we didn't play differently for this opponent. We don't do that. We play exactly the same way we always play with the same expectations, same approach, then when it's over, now you can look back and say, 'That was a hell of a football team that you played.' It just gives you that little bit in the back of your mind, you feel a little bit better about what you can do and what you're capable of, and in that it makes you stronger."
And it wasn't just that the Seahawks earned an important and impressive victory in New England, they also did so by winning what was about as entertaining and dramatic of a regular-season game you could ask for. The two teams traded leads seven times, with the Seahawks answering every one of New England's scoring drives with a score of their own. Brady and Russell Wilson traded perfect throws into tight coverage that showed why they're two of the game's best quarterbacks, both defenses made big plays, then in a moment fitting for two teams that last faced off in Super Bowl XLIX, the game came down to a final goal-line stand, but this time it was the Seahawks getting the stop to win the game.
"They got their plays, we made our plays, back and forth, and we finished," said cornerback DeShawn Shead, who had the first interception of a New England quarterback this season. "We finish, that's the key. Our definition of finishing is 'do right longer' and it went all the way down to the last second, and we finished."
Receiver Doug Baldwin added, "It was kind of ironic that the ball was on the 1-yard line with an opportunity to win it, but fortunately enough, the ball rolled our way this time."
Even if the Seahawks had plenty working against them heading into the game—cross country trip on a short week to face New England off a bye, one of their best defensive players, Michael Bennett, out with a knee injury, etc.—this result shouldn't come as too big of a surprise to anyone who has watched the Seahawks under Carroll. The Seahawks are now an NFL-best 29-6 in November and December dating back to the 2012 season, and just as they did in 2014 and again last year, it looks like the Seahawks are once again starting to hit their stride in the second half of the season.
"This is what we've been talking about, trying to take this turn right here," Carroll said. "… I'm so fired up about these guys, and have been throughout the entire offseason and continue to be. The resolve that they have and focus and leadership that we have allows us to be in moments like this and come through and do things like this. It takes experience and guts and grit and all the good stuff. We've got the right kind of guys to do stuff like this."
Added safety Earl Thomas, "We know who we are, we understand that we're a good football team. We just beat a great team on the road, a great quarterback. We've just got to keep going… In the NFL, it's so hard to win, man. Every game is like this, it seems like, but the good thing about it is we bowed up at the end."
In particular, the Seahawks appear to really be getting on track on the offensive side of the ball. While the defense has for the most part been great all year other than a few bumps in the road, the offense has had some rough patches, in no small part due to injuries to Wilson and a few other key players. With Wilson getting healthier, the offense was able to take a pretty big step forward in last week's win over Buffalo, then play even better in New England, gaining a season-high 420 yards while scoring on seven of their nine possessions before running out the clock on their 10th.
"We had to kick it into gear a week ago," Carroll said. "We had been waiting just to get healthy. Maybe we waited a couple weeks too long, but we were waiting on Russ to be right. We kicked it in last week. You saw the change, (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable) and all the offensive coaches seized the opportunity to go ahead and go… It's there for us now. We have a chance to really grow and be a little bit better, so we're trying to get a little bit better each week."
Seattle's "kicked into gear" offense added more balance than it has shown for most of this season, picking up 96 yards on the ground, including 66 from rookie C.J. Prosise in his first start, but what is really evident is that Wilson and the passing game are starting to find the high level of play they finished last season with when Wilson ended up leading the NFL in passer rating and Baldwin led the league in touchdowns. Wilson completed 25 of 37 passes for 348 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a 124.6 passer rating, and Baldwin was on the receiving end of all three of those touchdowns.
"We're able to do it, we are capable of doing it," Baldwin said. "We've shown it in the past… We have so many weapons, then you've got an elusive, athletic freak of nature quarterback who can get the ball to those weapons, so to us, it was just, unleash the dragon, let us go. That was pretty much it."
There's still plenty of work to be done for the Seahawks, but playing one of the NFL's best teams on the road, they showed Sunday night that they once again appear poised to finish a season strong.
"We're just starting to hit our stride," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "We always want to hit our stride towards the end of the season, and we feel like we're doing that."
See some of the action from Sunday Night Football, Seahawks at Patriots during Week 10 at Gillette Stadium.