A stunning last minute rear-guard from the Seattle Seahawks defence – the self-professed ‘Legion of Boom’ – produced a crucial 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots in one of the games of the season on Sunday Night Football.
Both the Seahawks and the Patriots seem to be among the favourites to reach the Super Bowl on February 5th of next year. The teams entered into the matchup in match week 10 with impressive records – five wins, two losses and a tie for Seattle, six wins and one loss for New England – so the clash between two of the form sides across the whole National Football League (NFL) was always going to produce a classic game. And it delivered.
The Patriots drew first blood early on, with LeGarrette Blount scoring the first of his three touchdowns, before five minutes had passed. The Seahawks responded with two field goals from experienced kicker Steven Hauschka, in a game which saw the veteran set a franchise record of 161 for field goals made.
The first quarter ended at 7-6 to the Patriots, but Doug Baldwin found the end zone from Quarterback Russell Wilson’s pass, to take the Seahawks to a lead of 12-7. Hauschka proceeded to miss the extra point, which left the Patriots just a single touchdown away from regaining the lead.
New England did indeed take the lead with a touchdown, Blount once again taking it to the house. This time, the extra point was added and the Patriots found themselves with a slender two-point advantage.
The lead didn’t last until half time however, as Baldwin received a fantastic looping pass from Wilson to score just six seconds before the whistle sounded. Hauschka redeemed himself from his earlier miss, giving Seattle a 19-14 lead at the break.
The Patriots took back the advantage in the third quarter, setting up an enthralling finish in the fourth. Blount completed his hat-trick of touchdowns with another rush midway through the quarter to help his side re-take the lead at 21-19, after the extra point was added by kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The teams added a field goal apiece, before Seattle’s kicker Hauschka gave them the lead yet again at 25-24, with under nine minutes on the clock in the fourth and final quarter. This was the eighth time the lead had changed hands in the game – an incredible statistic – but it also proved to be the final time.
The game turned with 8:30 remaining, when a Patriots fumble allowed the Seahawks’ corner back Richard Sherman to collect the ball, and begin a passage of play which resulted in another touchdown for the impressive wide receiver Doug Baldwin. This gave the Seahawks a chance to extend their lead to an imposing eight points, but the resulting two-point attempt ended in an incomplete pass, and the score stood at 31-24.
Then came arguably some of the best defensive work you can ever hope to see in American Football, with the Seahawks’ ‘Legion of Boom’ denying the Patriots not once, not twice, not even three times – but four times from just two yards from the end zone in the final seconds of the contest.
The Patriots tried to run the ball on every attempt but the fourth, with the Seahawks’ defence launching themselves at the offensive line, and remarkably shutting out the drive to take the game 31-24.
This was the Patriots first defeat since the return of star quarter back Tom Brady from suspension in early October, and their first in the season since they drew a blank against the Buffalo Bills a week earlier, losing 16-0. Brady was outplayed by his opposite number Wilson, who threw for 348 yards compared to Brady’s 316, and completed three touchdown passes, compared to Brady’s failure to complete one.
If there has been a criticism of the Seahawks this season, it lies with the offense, and specifically the quality of rushing from the running backs. Again, this unit was unimpressive, being noticeably overshadowed by the ever impressive running back for the Patriots, Blount, who amassed a hat-trick of touchdowns that almost broke Seahawks hearts.
Seahawks players and fans alike will be hoping that they continue to avoid a return to earlier season offensive issues, such as the meagre performance that was displayed against the Los Angeles Rams back in September, where they finished with just three points to their name.
The result of this fluctuating match leaves both teams at the top of their respective divisions – the National Football Conference (NFC) West for Seattle with a record of six wins, two losses and one tie and the American Football Conference (AFC) East for New England, with seven wins to just the two losses.
The Patriots will look to respond with a victory at the struggling San Francisco 49ers, who have a poor record of just one win to their eight losses. The Seahawks host the Philadelphia Eagles in front of the ‘12th man’ (the Seattle home crowd) at CenturyLink Field, hoping to take another step closer to clinching their division title as we get deeper into the second half of the regular season.
The NFL weekend kicks off with the New Orleans Saints heading to the Carolina Panthers under the lights on Thursday night, and ends with the Houston Texans visiting the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football.
My pick of this weekend’s action is an all NFC clash, with the Arizona Cardinals travelling to the Minnesota Vikings. Having won all five of their opening fixtures, Minnesota have now lost all of their last four, so a dramatic response is needed from their perspective. Arizona – who sit one place below Seattle in the NFC West – will hope to cut the gap at the top by improving their record of four wins, four losses and one tie.