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Originally published October 14, 2012 at 8:56 PM | Page modified October 14, 2012 at 10:58 PM

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Defense gives offense hope

Seattle's defense found a way to make Tom Brady look average. It kept alive this game that appeared to be fading to black.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Tom Brady rarely throws interceptions. But he threw two Sunday.

The Patriots offense doesn't have three-and-outs, but twice in the fourth quarter when the game tightened, the Pats couldn't move the ball.

New England converts with Swiss-watch precision in the red zone, but in Sunday's remarkable 24-23 Seahawks win over the Patriots, New England twice got inside the 7 and couldn't score.

"Me and Earl (Thomas) walked up to Brady and said, 'We're better than you. You're just a man. We're a team,' " Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We're never gonna let just one man beat us."

The Seahawks defense surrendered 475 yards to New England. It allowed 17 points and 252 yards in the first half. But in this sweet, sweet slugfest, it was the defense that gave the offense a chance to make magic.

The defense found a way to make Brady look average. It kept alive this game that appeared to be fading to black.

"Even when Tom Brady was eating us up and they were getting big yards here and there, we wouldn't break," defensive end Red Bryant said. "We kept coming. That manifests through the team. You witnessed it today. It was 23-10. We were down. But we kept fighting tooth and nail. I'm happy today because of the way we responded."

The defense held the NFL's statistically best offense to six second-half points. It didn't cave to New England's constant pressure, didn't stress when the Patriots tried to speed the tempo. The defense endured.

"We went and got this game. They didn't lose it," Bryant said. "This defense is resilient. We're hardheaded. We're gonna keep coming. And the offense feeds off us. They know that no matter what the situation is, instead of complaining and moaning at each other, we buckle down. We understand, it ain't how you start, it's how you finish. And today we finished."

The defense made just enough stops to give the offense hope.

At the end of the first half, the Patriots moved to the Seahawks' 3, but the pass rush pressured Brady into intentionally grounding the ball in the end zone with one second left. By rule, the half was over.

And early in the fourth quarter, with the ball on the Hawks' 6, Earl Thomas outfaked and out-thought Brady, intercepting a pass in the end zone and returning it 23 yards.

Still, with nine minutes left, New England led 23-10 and even in CenturyLink's House of Thrills this game appeared to be done. New England doesn't lose these games.

But the defense stopped the Patriots on their last four possessions.

"We have a mindset," safety Thomas said. "We're hungry. We're young. We're physical. We always say, 'Just give us an inch and we'll protect it.' We bent a little bit today. That was the first offense that was able to move the ball like that on us. But in the red zone, we played good ball."

The defense gave the offense the luxury of time. It didn't let the game get unruly. It maintained hope, hung together and gave a rookie quarterback the chance to settle into a game and maybe even settle into a season.

The defense afforded Russell Wilson enough chances to win the game. And the rookie responded. In the fourth quarter, he out-Brady-ed Tom Brady, throwing two touchdown passes.

"I was in awe (of Wilson)," Sherman said. "He was a magician. He was magnificent."

It's early and the Seahawks are only 4-2, but there is a feeling in town and in the locker room that something special is happening. It's beginning to look a little, just a little, like 2005.

"We've thought that from the beginning," said nickelback Marcus Trufant, who was a starting corner on the Hawk team that won the '05 NFC title. "We've got room to grow and we can get better."

Just how good?

"Very good. The NFL Network and all those pundits, they can't know everything and we keep shutting them up week by week by week," said Sherman, the unofficial spokesman for the defense who stopped a third-quarter drive with an interception. "We're resilient. We don't break. Even when they were moving the ball, we stayed disciplined and eventually we wore them down."

After the game, sitting in his locker cubicle, Sherman was talking as fast and hard as he played. He was revved up, full of so much energy he looked ready to play the Thursday night game against San Francisco.

"I am pretty jacked," he said. "I wish I was going on the NFL Network right now to tell them exactly how I feel. If y'all could let them know I want to be on, that would be awesome."

Yo Richard, trust me, the NFL Network knows how good you are. A defense that is making this much noise, a team that is winning games this dramatically, week after week, gets noticed.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Best defenses
The NFL's top five defenses this season, by average yards allowed.
Team Yds/gm Pts/gm
1. San Francisco 275.8 15.7
2. Dallas 285.2 23.8
3. Chicago 291.2 14.2
4. Seahawks 294.7 15.5
5. Pittsburgh 295.8 23.0
Source: NFL.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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