Football is a game of inches. Bet you haven't heard that before.
It’s fair to say that it has become tradition for Seahawks and Patriots games to be decided by mere inches.
In 2012, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a 24-23 win with a go-ahead TD with 1:27 to go in the game.
In 2015, in Super Bowl XLIX, who can forget Russell Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette at the New England one-yard line that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler? That game ended 28-24.
In 2016, the Seahawks scored 12 points in the final five minutes to come from behind and win in Foxborough.
So, Sunday Night Football on NBC was primed and ready for a similar nail-biting finish.
And they didn’t disappoint.
The Patriots, with three seconds on the clock, down 35-30, had the ball on Seattle’s one-yard line.
Where have we seen this before?
Patriots QB Cam Newton had two rushing touchdowns already, and the play call was clear and obvious: New England was going to ride-or-die with Newton.
The Seahawks stacked the box and LJ Collier landed the game winning blow to the Pats QB.
They sniffed it out.
“It was time to put up or shut up,” Collier said postgame. “We worked too hard not to make that play.”
Patriots HC Bill Belichick was asked about his thought process on the final play-call:
"We had one play to score. We tried to go with what we thought would be our best play. What else is there to think about?"
And that predictability may have been the ultimate downfall of the Patriots Sunday night.
“It was a great play by them,” Cam Newton said postgame. “That’s a play we favored in the game plan—we ran it a couple times. I just think we probably went to the well too many times. But, at the end of the day, I still feel confident about it. We’ve just got to execute."
So, what could Newton have done differently?
"I could have bounced it. Looking at the clip, I’ve just got to be better.”
In hindsight, Newton may have been able to sprint to the pylon and try to engage in a footrace and score that way. It's convenient to suggest any number of things New England could have done in this scenario.
But when everyone knew what was coming, isn't that the time to pull out all the stops?
Ultimately, their predictability left them losers of their Week 2 contest against the Seahawks.
It’s unlikely that Newton is calling out his new head coach for the play call. For the Pats, Newton was their best option. But, coming from a Belichick run team, New England could have been more inventive, which Newton seems to suggest. No matter, Newton failed to reach the end zone and the Patriots lost.
“We put ourselves in the position to win and when you do that,” Newton added. “You’ve just got to finish.”