As 2019 draws to a close, we’re counting down the 15 greatest New England Patriots games of the past decade.
Coming in at No. 13 is one of the three New England losses that cracked this list: Patriots at Seattle Seahawks, Week 6, 2012
Two years before their epic Super Bowl matchup, the Patriots and Seahawks squared off on a rainy October afternoon in Seattle. New England, fresh off a loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, had stumbled out of the gate with losses to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 and Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 but rebounded with back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos.
Seattle had scuffled through consecutive 7-9 seasons in the first two years of the Pete Carroll era, but the groundwork had been laid for a defense that would become one of the best the NFL has ever seen. Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner were rookies in 2012. K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman were in their second pro season. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were in their third.
Offensively, the Seahawks were led by bruising veteran running back Marshawn Lynch and a rookie quarterback named Russell Wilson, who’d unexpectedly beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job that summer.
HOW IT HAPPENED
A 46-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker — who led all receivers with 10 catches on 14 targets for 138 yards — put the Patriots up 7-3 early. They led 20-10 after three quarters following an Aaron Hernandez touchdown and two Stephen Gostkowski field goals.
Then, with the Seahawks’ offense still slumbering (its five drives in the second and third quarter went fumble, turnover on downs, punt, punt, punt) the Legion of Boom intercepted Brady passes on consecutive Patriots possessions: one by Thomas in the end zone, the second by Sherman on a deep ball to Deion Branch. That ball-hawking defensive back duo also broke up three additional passes in the game.
Seattle lost another fumble two plays after Sherman’s pick, allowing the Patriots to extend their lead to 13 points with Gostkowski’s third field goal of the afternoon. Then, Wilson took over.
The third-round draft pick delivered a 51-yard heave to Golden Tate, followed by a 10-yard touchdown to Braylon Edwards that cut the deficit to six. The Patriots’ defense forced a three-and-out on Seattle’s next possession, but Wilson got the ball back just before the two-minute warning. Wide receiver Sidney Rice beat Tavon Wilson deep with a double move, and the Seahawks QB found him for a go-ahead 46-yard touchdown with 1:18 remaining.
Seventy-eight seconds is an eternity for Brady and the Patriots’ offense, but Chris Clemons spun past Nate Solder for a sack, Hernandez had a pass zip through his hands and Welker was brought down short of the sticks on fourth-and-17.
Final score: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23
Facing a third-and-8 up six with just under three minutes remaining, Brady couldn’t connect with Branch on a quick slant. A Leon Washington punt return gave Seattle prime field position, and Wilson delivered his game-winning bomb to Rice four plays later.
THEY SAID IT
“U mad bro?” — Richard Sherman to Tom Brady, both on the field postgame and later in a legendary, since-deleted tweet
“I kept saying I’m going to get that next time. Every TV timeout, I went up and said it right to (Brady): ‘Please keep trying me. I’m going to take it from you.’ That was when they were winning. He just gave me that look and said, ‘Oh, I’ll see you after game.’ Well, I made sure I saw him after the game.” — Sherman
“Any time you run a gimmick offense, you’re a little bit afraid — you’re not sound in what you’re doing in your base stuff. You’re running this hurry-up stuff, and there’s a reason it’s not effective, because there are great defenses out there who will stuff it. We figured out early in the game what the calls were, what they were doing, and what the adjustments were. We started executing better, and that’s why they got only six points in the second half.” — Sherman
“They’re going to say, ‘What’s wrong? He threw two picks. Well, he should have thrown five picks. If Earl catches every one, then it’s a long day for him.” — Sherman
“Me and Earl walked up to him and said, ‘We’re greater than you. We’re better than you. You’re just a man — we’re a team.’ That’s the Brady Bunch; this is a defense.” — Sherman
Sherman’s antagonizing of the NFL’s best quarterback put him on the map nationally, and this game proved Seattle’s defense, which had held Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to 12 points two weeks earlier, was the real deal. The Seahawks proceeded to allow the fewest points in the NFL in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, winning one Super Bowl during that span and losing to the Patriots in another.
The Patriots bowed out in the 2012 and 2013 AFC Championship Games before erasing a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win Super Bowl XLIX — a game we’ll cover in much greater detail later in this Games of the Decade series. When Brady took a knee to end that contest, Sherman was the first to shake his hand.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images