It was hard to know what to expect in New England. Vegas called the Hawks a touchdown underdog, and most analysts went with that in picking the Patriots in the Super Bowl XLIX rematch.
But the Seahawks bounced back off a short week against the bye-rested Pats and put together their best — though far from perfect — game of the season in a 31-24 upset that Doug Baldwin said evoked a “phenomenal emotional feeling in our locker room.”
That is the feeling that this team has made its typical Second Half Turn and is headed for something special again.
This was not a must-win for Seattle, from a standings standpoint. But it certainly was a big game for Seattle’s psyche — to get even for the XLIX debacle and to measure themselves against the AFC’s best team.
To illustrate what a significant win it was, the Patriots had lost just one of 103 home games they had led in the fourth quarter since 2001. Now they are 102-2 in those games.
And the Hawks pulled it off with an offensive line that had been playing horribly and without their best defender, Michael Bennett.
Few thought they could beat the Pats, but the Hawks put together their best game of the season — considering opponent quality, the venue, the short week.
“It’s the kind of accomplishment that you put in the back of your mind,” Pete Carroll said, “where you know what you did, and you get just a little bit better because you played a really good team and you got it done on the road in this kind of setting with all of this stuff that is built up about this game.”
Here’s how they did it:
C.J. Prosise finally showed why Carroll has been so giddy about him since the draft. The rookie back is a great multi-threat: He ran 17 times for 66 yards and caught seven passes for 87 yards, including a 38-yard gain.
Displacing Christine Michael, he also ran hard and lowered his shoulder into defenders — the kind of running the Seahawks had grown used to seeing from Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls but had not seen from Michael.
It was a great breakout day for Prosise, but there’s no way he could carry that kind of load every week. That’s why it is good news that Rawls will be back this week.
Rawls will eventually return to his starting role, and Prosise will be the inverse Percy Harvin/Golden Tate — those receivers sometimes acted as running backs, but Prosise is a rusher who plays receiver as well.
The O-line appeared to play its best game since the 27-17 win over the Jets in Week 4. After three straight games with fewer than 20 carries, the Hawks ran it 26 times. But, with just 96 yards, it was their sixth straight game under 100. So they still haven’t quite figured it out.
Russell Wilson was sacked three times, but one of those was his fault for not getting rid of the ball quickly enough and relying on Prosise to hold his block longer than he was capable. Overall, the line protected well enough and didn’t get assessed any penalties (Mark Glowinski was called for a hold that was declined). It is something to build on, if they can.
Wilson looks almost completely healthy. The knee is still a slight problem, but he can move so much better — a major bonus behind this inconsistent line. He used his renewed mobility to move in the pocket and throw for a career-best 348 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions. Baldwin called him a “freak of nature.”
Baldwin caught three TD passes for the third time; he did it twice last year. He caught six of eight passes for 59 yards and sneakily got open for the scores. He has 16 TDs in his last 15 games.
Why so much Jermaine Kearse in the first half? Wilson went 2 for 7 on throws to Kearse, who also was called for a false start. As usual, Kearse could not get open — and he let a couple go off his hands on third downs.
Wilson needed to look for Jimmy Graham more — especially in the red zone, where the Hawks went just 3 for 7. Graham was not targeted at all in 21 red zone plays, and the first two RZ third downs went incomplete to Kearse.
Kam Chancellor is a classic home run hitter. He either completely whiffs or else makes the big bash. Sometimes he does both in the same game. He was rusty in his return from a four-game layoff, missing a tackle early and getting called for an unnecessary pass interference in the end zone on Rob Gronkowski in the first quarter. He also roughed Tom Brady by diving for his lower legs and gave up a few completions to Gronk and Martellus Bennett.
But Chancellor made up for those problems by forcing a fumble out of Julian Edelman and stonewalling Gronk in the end zone on the final play (Gronk was so busy shoving Chancellor out of the way he couldn’t get to Brady’s pass.)
Basically, Chancellor broke even in the game — helping the Patriots score twice, setting up Seattle for a score and then punctuating the goal line stand with a game-saving fall.
Earl Thomas was everywhere, continuing his stellar play since that clunker in the opener vs. Miami. He led the team with nine tackles, including a bone-crunching rocket on Gronkowski that sent the tight end to the sideline for a bit. Thomas and Chancellor made a Gronk sandwich on the play, switching roles as Kam knocked the pass away and Earl went Bam Bam on Gronk.
The All-Pro tight end acknowledged the All-Pro safety afterward: “Probably one of the hardest I got hit in my career, for sure. Good, clean hit. Like a missile.”
The Hawks finally evened out the TOP. They held the ball for 30:25 — the first time in for weeks they held that advantage after they had led TOP in the first five games. They had been outpossessed 46-29 in Arizona, 36-24 in New Orleans and 40-20 vs. Buffalo. They ran 66 plays against New England, second to the 78 they ran in the opener vs. Miami.
The officiating was pretty even for once, and the officials were smart to swallow their whistles on the Patriots’ final pass to Gronkowski (who actually deserved the offensive interference penalty if anything was going to be called).
The Hawks deserved (as usual) most of their eight penalties (although the refs will be shocked when they see that Richard Sherman never grabbed Edelman’s facemask), and the Patriots were called for seven. It was a refreshing change after a lot of questionable officiating in recent Seattle games — both for and against the Hawks.
A lot of people wondered why Carroll tried to go for two after the Seahawks’ final touchdown. Even Bill Belichick was curious. Carroll had the obvious response: “We wanted to try to put the game out of reach.”
If Seattle had converted, it would have been 33-24 and the Patriots would have had almost no chance to score a TD and field goal in four minutes.
Some (many?) thought he should have just kicked to put Seattle up 32-24. That would have put the pressure on the Patriots to go for two if they had scored a TD.
But Carroll had nothing to lose by going for two because the Hawks already were up 31-24. No way the Patriots were going to put the game on the line by going for two if they had scored. The game would have gone to overtime, and the Hawks would have had yet another chance to win.
As it turned out, the defense averted that scenario and the Hawks walked away with a confidence-boosting win that surely signals another Super run is about to begin.