For the second time in as many meetings, the New England Patriots came up 1 yard short against the Seattle Seahawks.
Four years ago, an incomplete pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski foiled the Patriots’ comeback bid. On Sunday night, New England put the ball in the hands of Brady’s successor, Cam Newton.
Newton already had run for two touchdowns in the game — and four in his young Patriots tenure — but he couldn’t find the end zone on first-and-goal from the 1 with three seconds remaining.
Seahawks defensive end L.J. Collier and safety Lano Hill fought through blocks by Mike Onwenu and Jakob Johnson, respectively, to drop Newton in the backfield, sealing a dramatic 35-30 victory for Seattle.
Newton during his postgame video conference explained what went awry on the deciding play.
“It was a great play by them,” the quarterback said. “That’s a play we had favored in the game plan. We ran it a couple times. I just think we probably went to the well a few too many times, but at the end of the day, I’d say I felt confident about it. We’ve just got to execute.
“And I could have bounced it (outside), looking at the clip. I’ve just got to be better. I’ve just got to be better here at the end. We put ourselves in a position to win, and when you do that, you’ve just got to finish, and we didn’t do that today.”
Newton’s two earlier rushing touchdowns came on nearly identical plays out of the same unusual personnel package (tight ends Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi, extra linemen Onwenu and Justin Herron, and Johnson, a fullback, as the “skill” players).
New England also ran the same play — QB power to the left side out of its super-jumbo package — twice during last Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots did change things up in one goal-line situation earlier in the fourth quarter Sunday, with Newton throwing a touchdown pass to Johnson out of that look rather than running the ball himself.
Newton said the final play was one he wishes he had back.
“I just didn’t make everybody right, and that’s the only thing I regret,” he said. “In that type of situation, it’s humbling to be able to have the respect of a team, to have the ball in my hands. I’ve just got to deliver.
“I saw a clip of it. I could have made it right by just bouncing it. I was just trying to be patient. I was just thinking too much, man. Or even diving over the top. There’s so many different things that flashed over me. And playing a fast defense like that, as soon as you guess, you’re wrong.
“So I’ll definitely learn from this. The play was there. The play was there all game. And moving forward, we’ve just got to scheme up things, and hopefully if we’re put in that situation again, we can have a better outcome.”
Sunday’s game was one of the most statistically productive of Newton’s 10-year NFL career. He threw for 397 yards — his third-highest total ever and the highest since his rookie season in 2011 — on 30-of-44 passing and scored three touchdowns — two running, one passing. Newton also led all Patriots rushers for the second consecutive game, finishing with 47 yards on 11 carries, and threw one interception.
“It was something to build on, definitely,” he said. “But I feel as if, put in that situation, I’ve got to be better. That’s just simple.”
Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images