What we learned: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23
1. Seattle does, in fact, have some downfield weapons.
Quarterback Russell Wilson passed for a career-high 292 yards, but what was as impressive as the total was the distribution. No Seahawk caught more than three passes, and Wilson completed a pass of more than 40 yards to each of Seattle's three top receivers. Doug Baldwin caught a 50-yard pass in the first quarter, Golden Tate had a 51-yard reception in the fourth and then of course Sidney Rice had a 46-yard catch for the game-winning touchdown. Seattle totaled eight completions of 20 yards or more in the first five games. The Seahawks had six of those on Sunday alone.
2. Seahawks can, in fact, play (mostly) flag-free football.
Seattle was penalized four times Sunday, a season-low for the Seahawks and their fewest in any game since they were penalized just once in a Dec. 26, 2010 loss at Tampa Bay. When coach Pete Carroll was asked after the game about Breno Giacomini's play at right tackle, he asked, "Was he penalized?" Well, yes, but only once, and it was a holding penalty called as Wilson fled the pocket instead of stepping up. So consider it a sign of progress all the way around for Seattle, and especially its offensive line.
3. Sacks failed to adequately describe the effect of Seattle's pass rush.
The Seahawks got their only sack of the game on the Patriots' final possession when defensive end Chris Clemons turned Patriots lineman Nate Solder
Dan Connolly into a human lawn dart, piling him on top of the Patriots' Tom Brady, knocking the quarterback down. But the fact Seattle sacked Brady on only one of the 59 times he dropped back doesn't accurately illustrate the effect the Seahawks' pressure had on Brady, who was penalized twice for intentional grounding and hit on five other plays. Brady was hardly under siege -- the Seahawks often choosing to rush three and drop into coverage-- but Seattle did make him uncomfortable, and it had a noticable effect in the fourth quarter. Brady certainly seemed affected by the play in which defensive tackle Jason Jones was penalized 15 yards for striking Brady in the head after he released the ball.
Three things we're still trying to figure out
1. What was more telling of Seattle's defensive performance: the 475 yards allowed or six second-half points?
The Patriots gained the most yards of any Seahawks opponent since the Chiefs rang up 503 yards back on Nov. 28, 2010. But by the same token, Seattle held the Patriots to a pair of field goals in the second half and allowed New England to score a touchdown on only one of the six times New England had the ball inside the Seattle 20. That was pretty impressive when you consider the Patriots had scored touchdowns on 15 of 23 red-zone possessions entering the game, tied for the fourth-highest percentage in the league. So give the Seahawks credit bending without breaking, but at the same time consider it a warning sign that this defense is not impregnable.
2. How does free safety Earl Thomas have one interception this season?
His ball skills are among the best of any safety in the league, and in the past two games he has had three different passes hit him in his chest -- one of which he might have returned for a touchdown if he held on. It wasn't until the fourth quarter of Sunday's game that he got his first interception of the season. Thomas is happy to have opportunities coming his way as it seems opponents avoided him a year ago, but he has yet to make a quarterback really pay this season. Key word: yet.
3. Where exactly Seattle found the third-down kryptonite to stop New England?
We know when the Seahawks found it -- at the start of the fourth quarter -- just not sure where. The Patriots converted eight of their first 12 third-down plays over the first three quarters as Brady was 9-for-11 passing on third down for 61 yards and a touchdown, a quarterback rating of 120.1. In the fourth quarter, Brady was 1-for-4 passing on third down for 9 yards, no first downs and an interception, which is a quarterback rating of exactly 0.