From the press box of an eerily empty CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks bench’s cheering — which usually would have been muted by the roar of 69,000 fans — was often all that could be heard.
And there was no shortage of opportunities for the Seahawks to do some hootin’ and hollerin’ during a 35-30 victory Sunday night that further stamped Russell Wilson as an MVP candidate and Seattle as a legitimate contender for a deep playoff run.
The loudest roar, though, was saved for the last play, as L.J. Collier and Lano Hill combined to stop a Cam Newton run from the 1-yard line that saved the victory for Seattle — the same 1-yard in the same end zone that Seattle couldn’t get the last time it played in this stadium against the 49ers last December.
“It’s an extraordinary moment for football players and for our team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said via Zoom after the game. “You either come through or you don’t. The guys on the field will never forget it.”
Carroll says the Seahawks figured the ball would be in the hands of Newton, who scored two earlier touchdowns from 1 yard out with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner telling the defense before the play to expect it to go to the right side.
“We took a shot at that play because it had been real successful for them earlier,” Carroll said. “The guys did a fantastic job of adjusting on the fly. Amazing play, amazing moment. I’d love to go back out there and do it all over again.”
Hill blew up a lead block that allowed for Collier to make the stop and prevent what would have been one of the most stunning defeats in recent Seattle history that instead made the Seahawks 2-0.
“Those are big-time plays, man, just to finish it off,” said Collier, the team’s first-round draft choice a year ago out of Texas Christian who was making only the second start of his career. “It’s a hell of a play. Imagine if we had fans, man. Seattle would still be shaking.”
It seemed somewhat unfathomable that the Patriots had gotten to that position.
Seattle had a chance to run out the clock but was forced to punt with 1:42 left after Wilson threw incomplete to Tyler Lockett on third-and-one.
Carroll said Wilson — who threw a deep pass to Lockett on the play — had two other shorter options.
“We got kind of jammed on the things, we wanted to just make the first down,” Carroll said. “That was his third choice.”
Wilson said he saw the Patriots in cover zero — meaning no safety help — and thought it would work.
“So close,” Wilson said. “We took our chance. Almost had it.”
The final-play heroics meant the spotlight could rightly shift back to Wilson, who tied a career high with five touchdown passes — to five different receivers.
It was the fourth time in Wilson’s career he has thrown five touchdown passes. He now has nine for the season, capping another nearly flawless performance. His only interception came on a pass that went off tight end Greg Olsen’s hands on the third play of the game and returned for a touchdown by Devin McCourty.
“Those seven points just kind of seemed to hang all night long,” Carroll said.
Wilson and the offense, though, rebounded immediately on the way to 429 yards.
While no one questions Wilson, some might have wondered coming into the game if his receivers could get consistently open against New England’s vaunted secondary.
But DK Metcalf beat reigning NFL defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore for a 54-yard touchdown in the second quarter and had four catches for 92 yards in the game, while Tyler Lockett caught seven more for 67 yards.
Carroll called Metcalf’s touchdown “only maybe as perfect as the one they had last week (a 38-yard score against Atlanta).”
The Seahawks also got back to being more balanced offensively — which Carroll felt was necessary against the Patriots — with 154 yards rushing.
It was needed on a night when the Seahawks’ pass rush was nonexistent and the secondary gave up a few too many deep balls after losing safety Quandre Diggs to an ejection in the first quarter.
“We had some mistakes,” said safety Jamal Adams. “We didn’t attack it enough as players on the defensive side.”
However, the defense at least came up with some big plays when it mattered most, even if, again, for the second consecutive week, it gave up an uncomfortable amount of yards (464).
The last play was the biggest, but Adams also came through with a stop on a two-point conversion attempt that proved pivotal and a sack that helped force a field-goal attempt. And Quinton Dunbar had an interception that led to a touchdown.
It was Wilson, though, who again was the brightest star. Carroll said “he had a terrific night,” with everyone beginning to run out of superlatives.
Wilson said later that Seattle’s receivers got a great look in practice all week from Seahawks corners playing man-to-man defense, which Seattle knew it would get from New England.
Wilson and the Seahawks feasted on those, with Wilson throwing touchdowns to Metcalf, Lockett, David Moore, Freddie Swain and running back Chris Carson.
Moore’s might have been the most spectacular. He caught the ball while backpedaling into the corner of the end zone to give Seattle a 21-17 lead midway through the third quarter that it would never relinquish.
“When I hit the pylon I was like, ‘It had to be a touchdown,’ ” Moore said. “It had to be.”
Wilson’s 18-yarder to Carson put Seattle up 35-23 with 4:32 left and seemed as if it might finally put the Patriots away.
But Newton, who threw for 397 yards, led a scary quick drive. Carroll said the defense sorely missed Diggs.
“We got in trouble on the back end a couple times tonight and gave up some easy stuff that should never have happened,” Carroll said.
On the final drive, the Patriots needed eight plays to move from their own 19 to the Seattle 1. After a first-down pass from the 13 with 13 seconds left went through Julian Edelman’s outstretched hands, his next pass went to N’Keal Harry, who was stopped at the 1 by Dunbar.
But the Patriots got no closer. Newton officially was stopped for a 1-yard loss, and Carroll lamented only that the Seahawks were the only ones who could be heard cheering.
“Our guys were trying to fill in for you,” Carroll said speaking to the team’s fan base. “And I just wish so much that you’d have been there for the last play of the game.”