SEATTLE – The Seattle Seahawks pulled off a come-from-behind 24-23 victory against the New England Patriots on Sunday, as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson had the best day of his young career, getting the stands at CenturyLink Field shaking with a 46-yard touchdown to Sidney Rice with 87 seconds to play.
Rice was lined up opposite Devin McCourty, but McCourty released Rice to be picked up by safety Tavon Wilson. Wilson lost his footing for just a second as he flipped his hips, giving the speedy Rice the separation he needed. Wilson put the pass right on the money.
It was a head-shaking ending for the Patriots, who scored just 6 second-half points and yet again struggled to close out an opponent, as happened against the Cardinals and Ravens.
Quarterback Tom Brady looked off, there were a couple of play calls that could be questioned, and the secondary did little to help the defense’s cause.
New England is now 3-3 and welcomes a fired-up Jets team to Gillette Stadium in Week 7 with first place in the AFC East on the line.
Playing in a rain shower that got heavier as the game went on, New England did not dazzle offensively as it has done so often in recent years. But a workman-like effort was almost enough on this day in Seattle, with a gray sky overhead but heavy doses of the Seahawks’ signature neon green dotting the sidelines and stands.
The Patriots had trumpeted the Seahawks defense all week, saying the unit does what it does very well. Usually when coach Bill Belichick makes an observation like that about a team, it means he has it figured out.
But Seattle made its share of plays, particularly in the second half, when it intercepted Brady twice, the second and third interceptions of his season.
It was not an easy game from the outset for the Patriots, on either side of the ball. Using a favored Patriots tactic against them, Seattle won the toss and elected to defer.
New England got as far as the 38 on its opening possession before having to punt, the drive ending when Brady looked to Deion Branch on third-and-long and Branch was pulled down by cornerback Richard Sherman, but there was no call.
The Seahawks got on the scoreboard first, though not before Vince Wilfork tried to set the tone for his group. On Seattle’s first snap, Wilfork jumped offside and drilled Wilson, but the play was negated by his penalty.
Seattle picked up back-to-back plays of 20-plus yards on the possession, a 29-yard sideline pass to an open Sidney Rice, and then a 22-yard pickup to tight end Zach Miller that put it into the red zone.
The drive stalled, however, thanks to a fantastic tackle for loss by Brandon Spikes, who was in the Seattle backfield on third and 1 so quickly he almost took the handoff from Wilson himself. He dropped Lynch for a 2-yard loss and the Seahawks took a 34-yard field goal to get on the board.
But New England answered, and the Seattle defense, which entered the game as the top-ranked group in the league, at least in terms of total yards allowed, gave up a first-quarter touchdown for the first time this season.
The Patriots covered 82 yards in just six plays and 1:46, a 20-yard sideline pass to Brandon Lloyd followed up by a 46-yard pass to Wes Welker, a perfectly-placed seam pass the receiver reached out for, pulled in, and then ran in the last few yards, hitting the left pylon for his second touchdown in as many games.
Welker topped 100 receiving yards for the fourth straight game, a first for him in his career.
The Patriots gave up two more long pass plays on Seattle’s first touchdown drive. A 50-yarder from Wilson to Doug Baldwin on third and 9 came when Wilson, another young QB who is highly effective on the move, bought himself some time. The second was on the touchdown, a 24-yarder, also to Baldwin.
Kyle Arrington was in coverage on both, though the scoring pass was a tough play for any cornerback to make.
Like Seattle, New England had not given up a first-quarter touchdown before Sunday.
Arrington was benched after that series, with rookie Alfonzo Dennard seeing time as the right cornerback in his place. Arrington did play slot corner in the fourth quarter.
As quick as the Patriots’ first TD drive was, their second was much longer: 15 plays and well over six minutes.
New England converted three third downs on the possession. The Seahawks don’t typically give up many yards, but they came into the game middle-of-the-pack in terms of third-down defense.
The final third-down play was goal-to-go from the 1. Aaron Hernandez was the only receiver, split wide right. That is just where Brady looked, eschewing a run to throw to the tight end. Hernandez, playing for the first time since Week 2 because of an ankle sprain, went up and got the ball for his second touchdown of the year.
As expected, Hernandez had a limited number of snaps, but he still was targeted when he was on the field, including on Brady’s first pass of the game.
The Patriots went into the locker room ahead, 17-10, but missed a golden chance to take a larger lead after Seattle punter Jon Ryan bobbled a snap and looked utterly perplexed as to what to do with the ball and was tackled well inside Seattle territory.
But rather than simply take a short field goal, the Patriots went for it on third down, Brady was flagged late for intentional grounding, and the half was over.