For the second consecutive game, Earl Thomas III and the Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1) staged a huge goal-line stand in the waning seconds and came away victorious in primetime.
Seattle’s goal-line stand with less than a minute remaining secured a statement 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots (7-2) on Sunday Night Football. After the exhilarating win, Earl explained his team’s mentality when they were battling in the red zone trying to preserve their lead.
“We make it tough on everybody we face when they get down to that red zone,” said ET III, who finished with a team-high nine tackles. “Up front, big T-Mac [Tony McDaniel], big Rube [Ahtyba Rubin], everybody putting their body on the line just to fight for every inch, every blade of grass, and we got it done.”
The Patriots got things going early with a touchdown drive on the opening series of the first quarter. Tom Brady drove his team 75 yards in nine plays, and LeGarrette Blount capped it off with a 1-yard rushing touchdown up the middle.
Seattle’s offense responded with a field goal on their first drive to make it a 7-3 game with 7:14 remaining in the first. After the L.O.B. forced a three-and-out on New England’s following possession, the Hawks cut the deficit to one on another drive resulting in a Steven Hauschka field goal.
Russell Wilson put the Seahawks ahead early in the second frame when he connected with Doug Baldwin for a 6-yard score, making it a 12-7 game after Hauschka’s extra point attempt was blocked. The Hawks D came up huge on the next series when DeShawn Shead picked off Brady with 9:20 left in the first half.
Unfortunately, Seattle couldn’t make anything of the turnover and had to punt the ball away a few minutes later. The Patriots came away with a touchdown on their next drive to make it a 14-12 game, but not without a jarring hit from ET III on 6-foot-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski. The superstar tight end called it one of the hardest he’s ever taken.
“Yeah, that was a big hit for sure; probably one of the hardest I’ve got hit in my career for sure. [It was] by a good player; a good fast player who’s like a missile,” Gronkowski said. “It was a good, clean hit; nothing against it. I just took it and it just knocked the wind out of me a little bit, that’s all. If you’ve ever gotten the wind knocked out of you, you know what that feels like. Just down for about a minute or two, it’s a little tough to breath, but once it comes back, you’re good.”
The Hawks were able to drive down field quickly, and with only a minute remaining in the half, Wilson was able to get his team in the end zone after he connected with Baldwin again for an 18-yard score, putting Seattle ahead 19-14 after the first two quarters of play.
After a Seattle punt to open the third frame, the Patriots struck again, as the back-and-forth contest continued. Blount capped off the scoring drive with his third rushing touchdown of the night to make it a 21-19 game in favor of the Pats.
Seattle regained the lead before the end of the quarter after Hauschka nailed his field goal from 41 yards out at the 2:57 mark of the third. Early in the fourth, New England jumped in front again after Gostkowski’s field goal put New England ahead 24-22. The lead didn’t last long though, as the trading of field goals ensued when Hauschka have the Hawks the lead on his 23-yarder on the following drive.
The Legion of Boom forced a key turnover on the Pats next series when Kam Chancellor knocked the ball out of Julian Edelman’s hands, and Richard Sherman was there to recover the fumble. The second turnover of the game for Seattle’s defense gave its offense good field position, and this time the Hawks took advantage.
“Defense just had to hang with them,” Carroll said of his team’s defensive effort against the Patriots high-octane offense. “They’re just so good. They do so many good things and so many great throws and catches by their best players that they made it hard on us.”
With 4:30 to play, Wilson found Baldwin again for his third receiving touchdown of the game that put Seattle ahead 31-24. Pete Carroll gambled and went for two but the attempt failed, keeping it a seven-point game.
Now New England had a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and came very close to doing so. After chewing nearly all the remaining time off the clock, Brady and the Patriots had a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 43 seconds remaining.
The Seahawks stopped Brady for a 1-yard gain on 1st-and-goal from the two and held Blount to no gain on 2nd-and-goal from the one. On third down, Brady mishandled the snap and was pushed back a yard on the play, but a Hawks penalty moved the ball back within one yard of the end zone.
On fourth down, Brady was targeting Gronkowski on a fade, but with Chancellor in tight coverage, Brady and the Patriots were shut down at the goal line, and the Seahawks held on for the rollercoaster victory in Foxborough.
“This is what we do,” Chancellor said. “We stay positive. Any call we get we say we’re going to execute it. We stay positive. We tell everybody keep your head in it. The guys up front are going to get a great push, guys on the back end flow to the ball, and the guys that are covered keep your eyes on your man. That’s what we do. We just tell everybody stay positive the whole time.”
Earl and the Seahawks will be back at home next week to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4). After a 2-0 start, the Eagles came back to earth and dropped four of their last six. They have been playing better of late though and came away with a 24-15 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10.
The Eagles feature a decent group of receivers headlined by Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz. Their rushing attack is headlined by pass-catching specialist Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews, who rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Falcons.
Sunday’s game is slated to kick off at 1:25 p.m. PT from CenturyLink Field and will be aired on CBS.