It all sounds very familiar. It came down to a goal-line drive, one that was made a lot more complicated than it needed to be, and, ultimately, one that ended up costing the team that should have scored a victory.
Twenty-one months ago, the Seahawks decided against giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1-yard line and opted to throw a slant to Ricardo Lockette that was promptly intercepted. In Sunday night's Super Bowl rematch, Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense took their turn getting too cute in the waning seconds, trailing Seattle 31-24.
Instead of getting the ball to their best red-zone weapon, tight end Rob Gronkowski, early and often, they instead rushed Brady up the middle from a long 2 yards out. That was good for a yard, which should come as no surprise, because while Brady runs like a dry creek, he is the world's best when it comes to gaining exactly 1 yard on quarterback sneaks. This is where we reiterate, the Pats were 2 yards from the end zone.
On the next play, the Patriots gave the ball to LeGarrette Blount, who was stuffed for no gain. On paper, this seems like a reasonable move, particularly given the whole, "Why didn't Seattle give it Marshawn?!" backlash. But here's the thing: For Blount's prodigious talents from just about most spots on the field, he's not particularly adept in short-yardage situations. You know who isn't a bad option? Gronk.
Naturally, the Patriots ran Brady again up the middle, but this time he fumbled. Luckily, he recovered, and, finally, on fourth-and-goal, New England called Gronk's number.
Here's what happened:
It's easy to scream, "DEFENSIVE PASS INTERFERENCE!" because that's the the knee-jerk reaction. For example ...
KAM CHANCELLOR GRABBED GRONK AND PULLED HIM DOWN. OBVIOUS PASS INTERFERENCE. BUT REFS DIDN'T HAVE GUTS TO CALL IT AND DECIDE GAME.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 14, 2016
But you're going to have a tough time making the case that Gronkowski didn't initiate the contact, and if anything, the no-call was the right call. The bigger issue is the series of play calls that led us to that point. Why are the Pats running Brady from the 2-yard line? Why are they giving the ball to Blount instead of giving Gronk two or three chances to win a jump ball? It was literally minutes before that he did this:
This is where you might ask us to ratchet down the hot takes as they pertain to Blount by pointing to this 1-yard, smash-mouth run from just before halftime:
There are no words for that run, but the fact remains that Blount hasn't been great in short-yardage situations. But that's also not the only reason the Patriots lost. In fact, it was Julian Edelman's fumble that set up the Seahawks' final touchdown, one that came with its own bit of controversy.
Here are five more takeaways from one of the season's best games.
1. Why did Seattle go for 2?
That made it 31-24 with 4:24 to go in the fourth quarter. Instead of kicking the extra point to make it an eight-point game, Pete Carroll decided to go for two and make it a two-score game. We liked the call, though throwing a fade to Baldwin on the two-point conversion shouldn't have been the top option -- or, hell, among the top 15. The ball fell incomplete, and the Patriots had renewed life.
And we know how that ended.
So, no, we had no issue with going for two, but the Seahawks should remove "fade route to our shortest receiver" from the call sheet. The good news: Seattle avoided overtime and found a way to win.
2. Here's how improbable this Seahawks win was
That's right: Dating back to 2001, back when Brady was in his early 20s, the Patriots are 102-2 in home games when holding a fourth-quarter lead.
3. Here's another record Pats fans won't like
You see this? This is Brady throwing an interception:
Here is what's remarkable about that:
Tom Brady had gone 182 straight pass attempts without an INT prior to DeShawn Shead's interception— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 14, 2016
4. Russell Wilson is getting healthy
You know how folks tend to overreact whenever a player underperforms? That's the nature of sports -- both for fans and media -- but sometimes, there is no sophomore slump, or deep-seated mystery as to the drop-off in productivity. Sometimes, it's as simple as a player battling an injury, and that player at, say, 65 percent, isn't nearly as proficient as he might be at 95 percent.
That has been Wilson for much of the season, though he has been much healthier the past two weeks -- and it has showed in his play.
He's still not running like he did in previous seasons, but he's so much more mobile in the pocket now, and it's again complicating things for defenses. Which is to say: All those concerns about Wilson's ability to throw touchdowns went right out the window Sunday -- he had three, all to Baldwin -- and that again puts the Seahawks in the "They have a chance to be the best team in the NFC" conversation.
When it was over, Wilson was 25 of 37 for 348 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers.
(Meanwhile, we have no explanation for why Blake Bortles has been so unwatchable this season, but using our injury theory above, one logical explanation is that he is playing with a broken right arm. We're only half-kidding.)
5. There was a lot of hitting in this game
This isn't a shock -- the Seahawks' D is known for meting out punishment. But what is sort of surprising is that Gronk was on the receiving end of at least one hit, and it came courtesy of safety Earl Thomas, who weighs a good 60 pounds less than the Pats tight end.
Gronk on hit that knocked him out for 5 plays: "It was a good clean hit ... You are going to get laid out eventually."— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) November 14, 2016
But it goes both ways, and it was New England's best tight end on the evening -- Martellus Bennett, not Gronk -- who repaid Thomas the favor:
Bennett finished with seven catches for 102 yards, and is the latest in a long line of players traded out of less-than-ideal situations who end up flourishing in New England. It started with Corey Dillon and continued with Randy Moss and Blount, and now we're seeing it with Bennett.
And even though the Patriots lost Sunday, Bennett will be an integral part of their success going forward. At the least, he complicates the lives of other AFC defensive coordinators who also have to game plan against Gronk, Edelman and Blount. At his best, Bennett can take over games, and we got a glimpse of that against the Seahawks.
New England remains the best team in the conference, and this statement win for Seattle will get the attention of its NFC counterparts. Put another way: We wouldn't at all be surprised to see these two teams meet again.