FOXBOROUGH, Mass. Doubt at your own risk.
Team Chip on Its Shoulder did it again Sunday night. Against the kings of the league. Against All-World Tom Brady.
"Everybody counted us out," Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said after he sacked Brady – with one hand. "The so-called experts? Their predictions were wrong about us. Again."
This time against the Patriots, the final play went Seattle’s way.
Thirteen seconds left. Fourth down from Seattle’s 1-yard line, the fourth consecutive play for the Patriots from inside the 2-yard line with New England needing a touchdown to tie. Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks’ four-time Pro Bowl safety playing for the first time in five games after a pulled groin, ran across the formation on a Patriots shift. He stayed step for step for monster tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady arced his pass to the back left corner of the end zone. Chancellor jumped with Gronkowski. Both rugged men went for the ball. No one got it. Brady’s pass fell incomplete.
That’s how Russell Wilson’s third touchdown pass of the night to Doug Baldwin, an exquisitely timed and thrown ball well before Baldwin was looking for it in the end zone, with 4 1/2 minutes left became the winning points in the Seahawks’ startling, 31-24 victory over some stunned Patriots Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
"We came up clutch," Wilson said after he completed 25 for 37 passes for 348 yards and the three scores to Baldwin.
His passer rating was a sterling 124.6.
Given the circumstances -- no Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett to swarm Brady, as he did incessantly in these teams’ previous meeting in Super Bowl 49, plus Wilson playing with a brace over a sprained knee and a rookie making his first start at running back against the favorites to make Super Bowl 51 out of the AFC that was 7-1 – wasn’t this is the greatest Seahawks win of the Pete Carroll coaching era?
Even for a team that pride itself on "every week being a championship opportunity," this one was large(r).
"A phenomenal feeling in our locker room," Baldwin said.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said: It’s big. … Huge win."
Seattle came into this showdown of NFL elite tied for its largest underdog status of since Wilson became its quarterback as a rookie to begin 2012 – 7½ points.
The Seahawks left having handed the Patriots just their 16th loss in 16 years with Brady on the field quarterbacking them.
"We love that stuff, man," Wagner said of the chip-on-shoulder mentality. "We have a bunch of guys who lived that life. Stuff stacked against us. We always pull it out. We are always resilient.
"We trust each other. That’s why we pull these games out."
Brady seemed impressed. He and the Patriots could get 2 yards in four tries against Seattle’s wall in their effort tie it at the end.
“They make you earn every yard,” Brady said. “That's what I respect about that team, that defense.”
The Seahawks (6-2-1) rolled up a season-high 420 yards of offense, with Baldwin tying his career high in TD catches. That rookie running back, third-round pick C.J. Prosise, had 17 carries for 66 yards. That was twice as much as the entire offense had in rushing six days earlier in the narrow win over Buffalo.
Prosise, a former Notre Dame wide receiver, gained instant trust with an additional seven catches for 87 yards on seven targets.
"He lit up our sidelines," Baldwin said.
Many of Prosise’s grabs came late in this thrilling showcase of NFL titans that was almost as good as that epic Super Bowl 49 two seasons ago.
The finish was a whole lot better for Seattle.
The Seahawks are now Seattle 30-6 in November and December since Wilson became their quarterback as a rookie to begin the 2012 season.
They are two games ahead of Arizona in the NFC West and 1 1/2 games behind Dallas (8-1) for the conference’s best record.
Seattle led 19-14 in the third quarter when Chancellor, who also forced a fumble in the second half, blitzed off the Patriots’ right end on third and 2. Chancellor hit Brady at and just above the knee while the quarterback still had the ball, causing a fluttered pass well short of his receiver. But Brady got up pointing at referee Gene Steratore, and Steratore responded with a penalty flag. Steratore called Chancellor for roughing the passer, the Brady rule the league put in years ago after the Chiefs ended Brady’s season with a hit to the knee.
Instead of punting, the Patriots rolled on with four completions by Brady. LeGarrette Blount’s third rushing touchdown of the night, from 13 yards, gave Seattle a 21-19 lead midway through the third quarter.
Wilson and the Seahawks answered with a nine-play drive that got to the Patriots 5. But Wilson got sacked on second down when left guard Mark Glowinski got beaten, then Wilson was getting sacked again when he chucked the ball at the feet of right Germain Ifedi for intentional grounding. That resulted in a 41-yard field goal for Steven Hauschka instead of a touchdown, so Seattle’s lead was only 22-21.
It was the third time the Seahawks had gotten inside New England’s 20-yard line but produced only a field goal instead of a touchdown.
The teams then traded field goals midway into the fourth quarter. Seattle’s, 22 yards from Hauschka, came after Carroll challenged a spot of Prosise’s 1-yard run on which he appeared to land on the turf with the ball touching the goal line for a score. The replay review upheld the call on the field short of the goal line, though. The Seahawks brought in three tight ends for third down from the 1: Jimmy Graham, Brandon Williams and rookie Nick Vannett. When the Patriots’ defensive line shifted, all three Seattle tight ends flinched for a false start. Then Wilson threw wide of Tyler Lockett to force Seattle to settle for a field goal.
Wilson this past week said he felt his best since week one—"fast and strong…finally," he said.
He looked it.
"He’s a freak-of-nature quarterback," Baldwin said.’
Brady was 23 of 32 for 316 yards, one interception and a 90.1 rating. He threw his first interception of the season, against 12 touchdowns, for the Patriots (7-2).
Brady entered the game with a 73-percent completion rate and passer rating of 133.8. That last number was 15 points higher than the league’s next-best quarterback, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
He finished Sunday night with a 90.1 rating. The Seahawks’ defensive line, even without Bennett a week after his arthroscopic knee surgery, made Brady move more than he wanted to.
That’s how DeShawn Shead intercepted him in the first half, on a jump ball that looked more skittish rookie than 39-year-old legend.
"It was awesome, man," Chancellor said. "It was amazing."