Earl Thomas III and the Legion of Boom held the Buffalo Bills (4-5) on a 4th-and-goal in the closing seconds and the Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) came away with an exciting 31-25 victory on Monday Night Football.
Before the game-saving goal-line stand, K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril came up big and sacked Tyrod Taylor on back-to-back plays. On Buffalo’s last chance, Taylor was targeting Robert Woods in the end zone, but with ET III reading the Bills quarterback the whole way, he forced Woods off his route and the pass fell incomplete.
“That’s the difference between champion defense. Guys have been in tough situations, backs against the wall plenty of times, both good and bad results,” Richard Sherman said postgame. “We knew what we had to do and you’ve got to give credit to our D-line for getting after them. D-line, linebackers got after the quarterback, got him out the pocket, and I think that was the difference.”
Things started off rough for the Hawks after they were forced to punt on the opening drive and Jon Ryan’s attempt was blocked by Jerry Hughes. The blocked punt set Buffalo up at Seattle’s 3-yard line, and on the following play, Taylor ran it in to put his team ahead early.
However, Seattle was able to quickly respond. Russell Wilson drove down the field in three plays set up by a 50-yard completion to Doug Baldwin. The scoring drive was capped off when Wilson took it in himself from three yards out to tie the game following the extra point.
Buffalo put together a lengthy 17-play drive on the ensuing series to retake the lead 10 minutes later. The methodical drive concluded when Taylor connected with Justin Hunter for a 5-yard touchdown to make it a 14-7 game.
The trading of touchdowns continued as Seattle tied things up on their next drive that bled into the start of the second quarter. Wilson found his tight end Jimmy Graham for a 17-yard score on a terrific play from the Hawks most reliable pass-catcher. Despite being interfered with on the play, Graham still managed to make the catch in the end zone to make it a 14-14 game after Steven Hauschka’s extra point.
The Seahawks D held the Bills out of the end zone for the first time of the game on the next drive, and Buffalo had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter at the 9:35 mark of the second. Seattle and Buffalo both punted on the next couple drives before the Seahawks scored again.
Aided by a 22-yard punt return by Tyler Lockett, a 24-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse and a pass interference call on Doug Baldwin, the Hawks drove downfield in three plays and retook the lead after Christine Michael ran it in for a 3-yard score. After another forced punt by the L.O.B., Seattle’s offense kept rolling and they tacked on to their lead.
The Wilson-to-Graham connection that had been deadly the whole first half struck gold again as the Hawks quarterback found his tight end in the middle of the field for an 18-yard score. Following the touchdown, the Bills drove downfield with a minute remaining to set up a potential field goal, but Carpenter missed from 54-yards out.
On the opening drive of the second half, Seattle forced the first turnover of the game when Sherman picked off Taylor on a deep ball intended for Woods. Seattle wouldn’t capitalize though and had to punt the ball away on the ensuing possession.
Early in the fourth quarter the Bills scored the first points of the second half after another lengthy drive by Talyor and Co. set up Mike Gillislee’s 1-yard touchdown. Buffalo ended up deciding to go for two and succeeded, making it a 28-25 game.
Seattle was able to give itself some breathing room after the Bills scored after Hauschka nailed a 49-yard field goal with just under 10 minutes remaining to extend the lead to six. After back-to-back punts followed, the Bills had another chance with 2:41 to play.
Buffalo’s offense marched its way all the way down to the Seahawks’ 10-yard-line with 1:09 remaining before Earl and Co. came away with the crucial goal-line stand. They had four shots at securing a potential game-winning, or tying score, but the Hawks D held strong to preserve the 31-25 win.
“That’s a great moment out there for a defense when you have to stop them and you’ve got to keep them from getting in the end zone and those plays just keep coming,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said postgame. “Any one of those plays could lose the game. The great tension that’s going on and the intensity of that is very special for the players and it’s why they take so much pride when you get out of there and you’re winning and all that.”
Earl and the Seahawks will square off against another AFC East opponent next week when they travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots (7-1) on Sunday Night Football.
The Super bowl XLIX rematch will be one of the most anticipated games of the season in what could shape up to be a thrilling bout. The Patriots have been rolling with Tom Brady back under center and will present a very tough task for Thomas and the defense. With New England’s offense clicking on all cylinders, Seattle will need to play stout football in a hostile road environment if they want to come away with a statement victory.
SNF is slated to kick off at 5:30 p.m. PT from Gillette Stadium and will be aired on NBC.