In the battle of No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense, the Seahawks stoppers prevailed, barely — thanks to QB Russell Wilson coming of age in the sixth game of his rookie year.
Much was rightly made Sunday of the feat of Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, reaching 800 mph without the need of a vehicle. Even the Seahawks, according to coach Pete Carroll, watched awe-struck on locker-room TVs as the feat unfolded pre-game.
Then the Seahawks performed their own feat. It wasn’t as spectacular, of course, but it was impressive in a different way — instead of going 800 mph straight down, the Seahawks went 800 mph straight up, and also lived to tell about it.
The Seahawks quarterback, little Russell Wilson, looked like big Tom Brady, firing two touchdown passes in the game’s final seven minutes to produce a dumbfounding 24-23 triumph over the New England Patriots that defied all sorts of NFL gravity.
This time, there were no asterisks applied by the dubiousness of replacement refs. No one was questioning the Seahawks’ ability, integrity or fortune. The only external factor was booster rockets applied by 68,137 adherents who stood in the rain, screaming. They are, in fact, the regulation fans.
They saw a most irregular, harrowing outcome.
Instead of Brady, the man of many memorable comebacks, it was Wilson who launched his team after slogging through a turgid second half to deliver the performance of his abbreviated football career, staggering the Super Bowl-bejeweled Pats.
“The lift — you could see it in our players — as we were finishing the game was really something to make you proud as a coach,” said Carroll, whose four-speed oral transmission found a fifth gear. “It really took every play, every kick, every rush — everything we did had to happen like it that, for us to have a chance.
“I just loved the way we rallied on both sides of the ball and special teams, knowing that we had a chance to win. It’s a big statement for this young team — more so because (of New England and) the championships ways they know.
“Russell played a fantastic game today.”
For five weeks, the more impatient Seahawks fans waited for the expectations heaped upon Russell by Carroll’s decision to start him over Matt Flynn to pay off. Wilson delivered Sunday.
Free of the fumbles and interceptions that hurt him earlier, and sacked only twice behind improved protection, Wilson had a QB rating of 133.7, hitting on 16 of 27 passes for a career-high 293 yards and three touchdowns (Brady’s rating was 79.3). He led fourth quarter TD drives of 83 and 57 yards, the latter concluding with a 46-yard strike to a wide-open Sidney Rice at the goal line with 1:18 remaining. The touchdown, followed by Steven Hauschka’s decisive extra point, sent ripples through the stadium that tectonically resembled the Beast Quake of the 2010 playoffs.
“I was in awe, man. In awe,” said teammate Richard Sherman of Wilson on the final drive. “He was a magician, he was magnificent. That’s the reason he was starting. A lot of people have been doubting him. He shut ’em all down today. He beat Tom Brady, he beat Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay), he beat Tony Romo (Dallas). Not a lot of rookies do that.”
Wilson was his usual modest self, but did have a sense of the moment.
“It was unbelievable just to be here in this atmosphere and play the New England Patriots in CenturyLink,” said Wilson, who radiated post-game delight. On the fateful pass to Rice: “He ran a great route. I just tried to put it in a spot where only he could catch it.
“I think he squeezed it with four hands, even though he didn’t have four hands.”
The Seahawks’ score left it to the defense to keep Brady out of field goal range in the final 1:14. They did it in four smothering plays, including a sack. In the second half, New England was held to just a pair of field goals despite putting a dent in the numbers that made the Seahawks the No. 1-rated defense entering the game.
The Pats had 475 yards, but two interceptions of Brady, plus six penalties for 80 yards, including a 40-yard pass-interference call, compromised the No. 1-rated offense.
“We wanted everyone to see why we’re No. 1 is the league, and it was validated in the crucial moments,” said defensive end Red Bryant. “We hung tight, going against a Hall of Fame QB. He made plays, lots of plays, but today we made one more than he did.”
Notably absent in the Patriots attack was heavy use of the no-huddle, which they had deployed successfully in the previous three games. At least some of the change in playcalling was attributed to the din that diminished the ability to call plays on the move. They also lost a chance at three points at the end of the first half when Brady was called for intentional grounding, a penalty that has a mandatory 10-second runoff, which denied a final-second field goal attempt that proved pivotal.
But there was an external factor that made the Patriots seem less than sharp.
“The chaos made it difficult,” said Bryant. “They couldn’t go to their speed game like they wanted to. The crowd really bothered them. The roar . . . this is special place. If (the Patriots) are honest, I know they’d say the crowd did have an effect on their game.”
The ever-emotional Bryant was so wound up in the late going that, after an incomplete pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, Bryant engaged into a finger-pointing shouting match with the All-Pro tight end.
“We’d been battling all game long,” Bryant said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He really completed. But I just had to let him know how I felt.”
How did you feel, Red?
“I told him,” said the beaming 340-pounder, “that I was going to whip his ass.”
Don’t know if that actually happened. And certainly a one-point win at home does not meet the definition. But the afternoon’s primal development was when the Seahawks passing offense began to get it.
With a short week to the next game in San Francisco Thursday night, the time is upon them to memorize it.
Then the possibility arises of breaking open a can of whupass on a weekly basis.