FOXBOROUGH — If this truly was a Super Bowl preview, well, then that’d be just super with most football fans.
Played under the beams of the Super Moon, the Patriots and Seahawks engaged in a good old-fashioned slugfest Sunday night, with Russell Wilson shining brightest, delivering the knockout and leading Seattle to a 31-24 victory at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots had a chance to tie the score in the closing seconds but Tom Brady’s fade to a diving Rob Gronkowski in the end zone fell incomplete on fourth down after three rushes failed to yield anything.
Gronkowski had contact with Seattle safety Kam Chancellor on the play, but a call was not made.
“It didn’t get called, so it is what it is,’’ said Gronkowski, who finished with three catches for 56 yards. “It wasn’t [pass interference] to the refs, so it is what it is.’’
On the play before, Brady tried to sneak it in, but he fumbled.
“I was going left and David [Andrews] thought I was going straight, so that was my mistake,’’ said Brady.
There were seven lead changes in the game, including four in the second half, with the final one coming at 8:56 of the fourth, when Steven Hauschka belted his fourth field goal of the night for a 25-24 Seattle lead.
“Give Seattle credit,’’ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “They have a good football team. They compete on every play. They have good players that compete on every play . . . as do we. Can’t get much more competitive than it was out there tonight.’’
Wilson was at his magical play-making best, throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns to Doug Baldwin.
The Seattle quarterback has been gimpy since suffering in a knee injury in Week 1 against the Dolphins but you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that he was less than 100 percent after this performance.
“He’s just a great player and he made a lot of great plays tonight,’’ said Brady after being outgunned in his own building for one of the few times in his career. “He’s got a great command. He spreads it all around and he made some great throws tonight.’’
Brady finished 23 of 32 for 316 yards with no touchdowns.
Listen: Tom Brady’s postgame comments
The Patriots came smoking out of the gates, marching 75 yards on nine plays on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead on LeGarrette Blount’s 1-yard run.
New England showed various looks and subsets on the drive, with the signature plays being Brady’s 22-yard connection to Gronkowski and an 11-yard catch-and-run to James White.
The drive took 4:41 and looked so smooth and easy it looked as if a rout might be on. But that was not the case.
The Seahawks, who played last Monday night and flew cross-country Friday, didn’t look tired or intimidated. Seattle scored the next 12 points on a pair of short Hauschka field goals (27 and 31 yards) and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Baldwin.
Meanwhile, the Patriots struggled to move the ball on their next three possessions, which resulted in a pair of Ryan Allen punts and the team’s first interception of the season.
It came on the club’s 259th attempt of the season — spread among three QBs — Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett — setting an NFL record.
The Patriots, who fell to 7-2, returned to form on their fifth possession — embarking on an 11-play, 81-yard journey that ended in a savage, 1-yard run by Blount.
The big tailback appeared to carry the entire Seattle 47-man roster on his back as he pushed his way into the end zone with a second, third, and fourth effort.
The drive came with a gigantic scare as Gronkowski appeared to have the wind knocked out of him after absorbing a big hit from Seattle safety Earl Thomas. As New England held its breath, Gronkowski caught his on the sideline and returned after missing just four plays.
“That was probably one of the hardest hits of my career,’’ said Gronkowski. “He’s a good, fast player that’s like a missile. It was a good, clean hit. I’ve got no problem with it. He hit me fair and square.’’
Listen: Rob Gronkowski’s postgame comments
The Seahawks answered right back however, marching 75 yards in just 59 seconds to retake the lead on Wilson’s 18-yard pass to a wide-open Baldwin to give the visitors a 19-14 lead at the half.
Wilson may have lacked his ability to take off down field, but he had plenty enough mobility to slide in the pocket and buy time.
Wilson tore the New England defense to shreds with his arm over the first 30 minutes, completing 15 of 23 for 197 yards.
The Patriots opened the second half by holding Seattle to a three-and-out, then marching back down the field to seize a 21-19 lead on Blount’s third scoring run of the game.
Brady was injured on the drive after Chancellor drove into his right knee and was penalized for roughing the passer. Brady appeared a little gimpy the rest of the way but said it didn’t affect his play.
“It’s a little sore,’’ said Brady, who was spotted on the bench with a heating pad on his leg. “But there are a lot of guys out there that are sore.’’
Another Hauschka field goal (41 yards) put Seattle back up, 22-21, before Stephen Gostkowski’s 30-yarder put the Patriots ahead, 24-22, in the see-saw battle.
“It was a highly competitive game,’’ said Belichick. “Little disappointed in how it turned out.”
A rematch in Houston in February would be just super.