Sunday Night Lights.
Seahawks 35, Patriots, 30.
Clear eyes, heavy hearts, can’t win.
I don’t know about you, but I could watch these teams play one another for the next 14 weeks of the NFL regular season. It’s great fun to watch the 69-year-old Pete Carroll match wits with the 68-year-old Bill Belichick. The Seahawks have beaten the Patriots three times in four games since 2012, losing only the one that counted: Super Bowl XLIX.
This one went down to the final play of the night when Cam Newton was upended in front of the goal line as the clock ran out, denying the Patriots a last-second, come-from-behind victory. Down, 35-23, with less than three minutes to play, the Patriots seemed hopelessly out of this game, but roared back in the closing seconds — thanks in large part to yet another head-scratching play call by Carroll, who went for a home run when a 1-yard run would have iced the game after the two-minute warning.
It was a week in which Belichick’s mother died at the age of 98. Then, while the Patriots were preparing for “Sunday Night Football” in Seattle, it was learned that Tyrone White, a Miami police captain and father of Patriot running back James White, was killed in an automobile accident near in South Florida earlier in the day. James White’s mother, Lisa, reportedly was critically injured in the crash and the Patriot running back was taken off New England’s active list. NBC reported that White would fly home to New England with his teammates after the game.
White’s teammates and opponents paid homage to the Patriot captain throughout the night. When Patriot defensive back Devin McCourty scored on a pick-6 in the second minute of play, McCourty approached the end zone television camera and said, “2-8, we love you, bro.”
“It hit us hard and we was playing with heavy hearts,” said Patriot Matthew Slater. “For our brother to lose his father and for his parents to be in that accident, it hit us all in the heart.”
Emotions were running high, but there was no stopping Russell Wilson. Seattle’s veteran quarterback was the best of Tom Brady and Cam Newton, throwing five touchdown passes to five different receivers and doing the rest with this legs. The Pats managed leads of 7-0, 14-7, and 17-14, but struggled against the more-talented Seahawks in the second half.
Still, thanks to Pete, the Pats had one last chance after all hope seemed lost and Newton almost brought home a victory. Some thought Newton’s run to the left on the last play was a bit too predictable.
“Seattle made a great play and I give them credit for the win,” said Belichick. “We did a lot of things well, we just came up a little bit short . . . We had one play to score and we tried to go with what we thought was our best play. What else is there to think about?”
“We put ourselves in a position to win, but when you do that you’ve got to be able to finish and we didn’t,” said Newton. “It was something to build on. But I got to be better. Two plays I wish I had back, including that last one.”
It’s impossible to watch these two teams and these two coaches without thinking about the big game in Glendale, Ariz., in February of 2015. That was the night Belichick looked across the field as the clock wound toward zero and saw fear and panic in the eyes of Carroll, the man who preceded Belichick in New England at the end of the 20th century. Belichick eschewed calling time, and patiently watched Carroll make the stupidest play call in the history of sports.
Carroll, Wilson, Tyler Lockett and the estimable Seahawks will never get that one back, but even without their boisterous 12th Man at Century Link Stadium, they had enough to beat the 2020 Patriots Sunday. Seattle has won 12 consecutive home openers.
On the second play from scrimmage, a Wilson pass clanged off the hands of Greg Olsen (Newton’s former teammate) and into the hands of McCourty, who returned it 43 yards to give the Patriots a 7-0 less than a minute and a half into the game. We can hear almost everything in 2020′s empty stadiums and McCourty’s shout out to White went coast to coast.
Wilson answered with an eight-minute, 75-yard drive, tying the game on a 7-yard dart to Lockett.
On the Pats' first official possession, New England went for a first down on a fourth and 3 from the Seattle 30. Newton completed a short pass over the middle for N’Keal Harry for the first down, but the play was tarnished when Seattle’s Quandre Diggs delivered a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. Harry held on to the ball, Diggs was tossed out of the game, and the Patriots were set up for a 14-7 lead as Newton kept the drive alive and ran it in from the 1.
Nobody in the NFL today throws a better long ball than Wilson. A beautiful 54-yard moonball from Wilson to D.K. Metcalf (beating Stephon Gilmore) made it 14-14 at intermission. Metcalf and Gilmore went at it like Ali and Frazier for the full four quarters.
Newton was on target when the Patriots got the ball at the start of the third, but the drive stalled and New England settled for a chip shot field goal to take a 17-14 lead. It was the last time the Patriots held the lead. Wilson took the Seahawks back downfield and dropped a parabola pass into David Moore’s arms for a 21-17 Seattle lead. Newton threw into coverage and was intercepted on the next series. It was the Patriots' first turnover of 2020.
Wilson appeared to put it away with 4:32 remaining when dropped another throw into the bucket, this time finding Chris Carson for a 35-23 lead.
“Glad we only have to play him once every four years,” said Belichick.
Newton (397 passing yards) got the Pats across the goal line one more time with 2:16 remaining, then got the ball back thanks to Carroll’s curious decision.
It should be noted that Bob Kraft’s iron man streak fell victim to COVID-19 Sunday in Seattle. Kraft had attended every Patriot game since buying the team in 1994, but the owner is not making road trips during the global pandemic and was not available for the traditional network shot of him celebrating a Patriot touchdown. Kraft no doubt will be back at Gillette when the Pats play host to the Raiders in Foxborough next Sunday.