SEATTLE — Ouch. This was like getting beaten by a team managed by Bobby Valentine.
It was a field day for the headline writers . . .
Clueless in Seattle.
Hopeless in Seattle.
Winless in Seattle.
Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft had their pregame moments with Pete Carroll. They patted Pete on his perfect hair, and told him what a nice job he’s doing with the Seattle Seahawks. Then they went about the business of kicking Pete’s butt. Just as they planned.
The Patriots ran up 475 yards of net offense. They dominated in time of possession and third-down efficiency. Tom Brady threw for 395 yards. More than halfway through the final quarter, the Patriots led, 23-10. Robert and Jonathan were looking pretty happy with themselves in those celebratory shots of the owners’ booth (a good day for the Patriots is always a good day for CBS). Hoodie was spanking Pete the Poodle and the Patriots were ready to take their rightful place atop the AFC East.
And then it all came apart like a plywood guard shack in a hurricane. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson embarrassed the New England secondary, throwing a bunch of home run balls in a couple of touchdown drives. The Patriots had no answers, and there was Pete pumped and jacked on the Seattle sideline as the Seahawks stunned the Patriots, 24-23.
While Pete did his Mick Jagger routine in the closing seconds, Belichick looked like Bogie standing in the rain on the train platform in Paris, reading the “good-bye forever” note from Ingrid Bergman.
Angry Birds 24, Patriots 23 . . . easily one of the worst losses of the Belichick-Kraft era.
You know it had to kill Bill to stand there after the game and say, “They outplayed us today, outcoached us.’’
But it was true.
Let’s roll the tape back to the closing seconds of the first half. Leading, 17-10, the Patriots were given a gift when Seattle’s punter dropped the snap with 48 seconds left before intermission. Taking advantage of their good luck, as they usually do, the Patriots moved to the Seattle 3-yard line. On third and goal from the 3, with six seconds left in the half, Belichick eschewed the easy 3 points and sent his offense out for another play.
It was classic New England arrogance. It was the Patriots telling everyone, “We are good enough to go for 6, and run a play that’ll only take five seconds. If by chance we miss the touchdown, we’ll kick the field goal with one second left.’’
This time, it backfired. Brady got into trouble after the snap, failed to release the ball to the side quickly, and wound up dumping it over the middle as he was about to be sacked. The officials called intentional grounding, which meant a 10-second runoff and no time for the Patriots to kick.
“We were trying to score,’’ deadpanned Belichick. “We had time to run a play and kick a field goal. We just didn’t do a good job on that play.’’
“I just have to throw the ball away a little closer to one of our guys,’’ said Brady. “That is why you lose games because you squander opportunities to score points.’’
Justice, 1, Hubris 0.
This was not the only time the Patriots left points on the board. Brady was intercepted twice in the second half, including an Earl Thomas pick in the Seattle end zone at the beginning of the fourth. The Patriots were on Seattle’s 6-yard line with a chance to take a 27-10 lead when Thomas caught Brady’s pass.
It was another classic example of this New England team’s inability to finish games. The 2012 Patriots look like Theo Epstein’s bullpen by committee of the pre-Keith Foulke era. The Patriots can’t close.
“We are 3-3 and obviously that is not a very good record,’’ said Brady. “We just really squandered some scoring opportunities. That is what the game came down to, a 1-point game and opportunities in the red area for a touchdown and other opportunities to put points on the board and we just didn’t do it.’’
Carroll has the second-highest winning percentage of any coach in Patriots history. He won multiple national championships at the University of Southern California. But I’m betting Sunday was the highlight of his professional career. Pete has always wanted to prove he is not a failure as an NFL coach. And Sunday he beat the man who fired him. And he beat the man who replaced him. He forced Belichick to swallow a bucket of nails.
Pete’s postgame news conference came in just a little shy of William Henry Harrison’s one hour and 45 minute inaugural address in 1841.
“A fantastic event we just witnessed,’’ he started, “we hope you guys enjoyed it.’’
When Pete was asked if there was anything special about winning against New England, he said, “I hadn’t even thought about that. That’s funny that you even bring that up,” as polygraphs across the Pacific Northwest exploded.
The Seahawks are 4-2. The Patriots are 3-3, tied for first and last place with the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets.