The Seattle Seahawks flew across the country to beat the best team in the AFC on Sunday night, topping the New England Patriots 31-24 on the road. It was a statement win for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, but it was a victory that nearly wasn't.
The Patriots had the ball on the 2-yard line with about 1:20 remaining after a deep pass to Rob Gronkowski. They ran the clock down to 45 seconds before running their next play, which was a quarterback sneak by Tom Brady. He didn't get in the end zone on first down. LeGarrette Blount didn't get in on second down. Brady tried to sneak it again on third down, but he fumbled the ball and was fortunate to recover it.
The final play for the Patriots came down to a fade to Gronkowski, which some believed was defensive pass interference. There was a lot of contact, but it was mostly initiated by Gronk.
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While it was a good no-call, the Patriots' play-calling was a bigger issue. Not surprisingly, however, there was thought behind sneaking it twice on the goal line.
"We were definitely trying to score, but I'd say managing the clock was part of it," Bill Belichick said, via ESPN.
The Patriots have one of the best running backs in the league in Blount, but he received only one carry from the 1-yard line. That's somewhat baffling, even for a mastermind like Belichick. As it turns out, the Patriots were trying not to score, attempting to leave little time on the clock for the Seahawks.
"It was just some situational football. We were trying to get it very close but not in," Brady said.
That's obviously a fair approach to have. However, had the Patriots scored on first down, the Seahawks would have had about 30 seconds and one timeout remaining in a tie game. Wilson is a great quarterback, but that's a difficult task even for him.
The odds of Brady getting into the end zone from the 2-yard line was highly unlikely against a front like Seattle's, which the Patriots knew. That's why Belichick called it -- he knew Brady wouldn't get in.
Despite that fact, it was a poor decision. They should have run the ball with Blount four times and pounded it into the end zone. Or if Belichick wanted to get really gutsy, he would have called a slant to the right side, scoring on a play that cost the Seahawks a Super Bowl the last time the two teams met.
Belichick wouldn't say whether Brady checked into the quarterback sneak after seeing what the defense was giving him.
"I'm not going to get into the specific calls. I mean, we'd be here all night talking about every play and 15 things that could've been different on each play," he said. "We have different ways of calling plays."