Tom Brady picked apart the best defense in the NFL except when it mattered most.
Too many squandered chances and missed scoring opportunities left the New England Patriots blaming themselves after watching Seattle pull off a stunning rally.
''This was a tough one, As ugly as the game was, as ugly as we played, we still had plenty of opportunities to win this game,'' New England receiver Deion Branch said.
Russell Wilson found Sidney Rice behind the secondary for a 46-yard touchdown with 1:18 remaining, and the Seahawks rallied for 14 points in the final 7:31 to stun the Patriots 24-23 Sunday.
The matchup between the Patriots' No. 1 ranked offense and Seattle's No. 1 defense instead turned in to a starring performance for Wilson, and a shocking rally that gave Pete Carroll a win in the first matchup against the franchise he coached for three seasons in the late 1990s. Carroll was bouncing around the sideline in celebration after one of his biggest pro victories.
Meanwhile, the Patriots were left to lament rolling up 475 yards of offense against the Seahawks, yet scoring just one touchdown on six trips inside the Seattle 20 in their second loss to an NFC West opponent this season.
''We had quite a few yards, you know, moved the ball up and down the field at times,'' Brady said. ''Like I said, we really squandered some scoring opportunities and that was what the game came down to. You come down to a one-point game and opportunity in the red area for a touchdown, we had a few other opportunities to put points on the board and we just didn't do it.''
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New England welcomed back Aaron Hernandez after he missed the previous two-plus games with an ankle injury suffered in Week 2. Wes Welker was nearly impossible for Seattle to cover working out of the slot and catching 10 passes for 138 yards. Brady hit eight different receivers with five catching at least five passes.
Brady's 36 completions on 58 attempts for 395 yards tied for the second most completions and was the most attempts in any game in his career. Welker tied Jerry Rice with his 15th career game of at least 10 receptions and more than 100 yards receiving.
Brady also topped 300 yards for the 49th time in his career to move into a tie for seventh all-time with Warren Moon.
And despite all those accomplishments, the Patriots headed home at 3-3.
''Who knows, it's not a magic wand, we're 3-3 for a reason,'' New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. ''Until we do something about it we are going to continue to have problems. Just didn't make enough, just didn't do enough and it cost us.''
New England held a 23-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter and saw Seattle score the final 14 points in stunning fashion. Wilson hit Braylon Edwards on fourth down for a 10-yard TD to get the Seahawks within 23-17. After a pair of holds by Seattle's defense, Wilson found Rice streaking open on a double move for his third touchdown pass of the game. Steven Hauschka's extra point gave Seattle (4-2) the lead with 78 seconds remaining.
|New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes the ball during the 1st half against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. (Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE) Oct 14, 2012; Seattle, WA|
Brady had a final chance to make up for all the opportunities the Patriots (3-3) squandered. Starting at his 20 with 1:14 left, Brady missed Brandon Lloyd then was sacked by Jason Jones, the first sack all day by Seattle. His pass for Hernandez was incomplete, and Wes Welker was stopped short on fourth down.
''We've played some tough games on the road and showed a lot of toughness and we just have to execute better. I think that's what it comes down to,'' Brady said.
There were many missed chances for New England, but the one that may linger the most came at the end of the first half. The Patriots reached the Seattle 3 with 6 seconds left in the half. Instead of kicking, New England ran one more play where Brady was pressured in the pocket and threw the ball to the back of the end zone where there were no receivers. After discussion, referee Clete Blakeman flagged Brady for intentional grounding, which required a 10-second run off and ended the half.
Asked why he didn't take the field goal, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, ''We were trying to score.''
Brady gave a bit more of an explanation.
''We thought we could take a shot at a touchdown there,'' Brady said. ''I just got to throw the ball away just a little bit closer to one of our guys. I think that's what it comes down to. It's tough to give up three points.''
Brady threw touchdowns in the first half of 1 yard to Hernandez and 46 yards to Welker, the second longest TD reception of his career. But Brady also threw a pair of costly interceptions, one picked off by Richard Sherman on a seam route in the third quarter at the Seattle 20 and the other by safety Earl Thomas in the end zone in the fourth. Thomas' interception came on a pass intended for Welker.
Wilson finished 16 of 27 for 293 yards, the best day of his young career. He added Brady to an impressive list of quarterbacks he's topped this year: Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. It was also the fifth time in six games Wilson found himself in a late drive with the game on the line.
''I think I'm always comfortable no matter the situation, I think I'm just more experienced,'' Wilson said. ''Being in those situations you have to trust what you see, you have to be quick with your decisions but also believe in your decisions and just be decisive with the football.''
NOTES: Brady threw two interceptions in a regular season game for the first time since last November against the New York Giants. He threw two interceptions in the playoffs against Baltimore. ... First-round pick Chandler Jones had two of New England's five sacks of Wilson. ... Seattle P Jon Ryan averaged 60 yards per punt. According to the team, he's the first punter to average 60 yards per kick since 1946.