With Sunday night’s game on the line, the New England Patriots decided to take their chances with Rob Gronkowski against Kam Chancellor.
The Patriots faced fourth-and-goal from the Seattle Seahawks‘ 1-yard line with 14 seconds left.
Gronkowski lined up wide to the left. There was plenty of contact between him and Chancellor in the end zone, but the officials didn’t throw a flag, Tom Brady‘s pass fell incomplete, and the Seahawks escaped with a 31-24 victory.
The play was fascinating for a number of reasons. For starters, there was the link to Super Bowl XLIX when the Seahawks decided to pass from the 1-yard line, and Russell Wilson was intercepted by cornerback Malcolm Butler.
But standing at his locker after the game, Chancellor revealed another nugget: the Seahawks ended practice Friday with a nearly identical play.
“In practice, we actually ended the same exact way. Same side of the field. It was against [practice squad TE] Marcus Lucas,” Chancellor said.
“He did the same exact route, and we both fell and hit the ground, just like that. But I actually got my hand on the ball on that one. He didn’t push me, so it was just a little different. But Gronk’s a great competitor, and with us two on the field, why not end it like that?”
Pete Carroll, like all coaches, constantly harps on the importance of practice.
For him, it had to be rewarding to see something they had run through Friday show up Sunday night.
“It was a big moment in practice because Kam was battling,” Carroll said. “He wanted to prove that he could do it.
“Kam slammed the ball and went crazy in practice.”
Chancellor, who was returning from a groin injury after a four-game absence, made his presence felt, especially in the fourth quarter. Along with his coverage on Gronkowski at the end, he also had a forced fumble on the previous drive.
“He gave us a ton more than that,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “There’s no quantifying his impact. There were run game fits. There were adjustments that he made on the fly. There were things where he got us in the right formation and got our line adjusted and things that you can’t measure and a lot of times won’t show up on film and won’t show up on the stat sheet. So we’re grateful to have him back.”
The Seahawks’ defense wasn’t perfect, but considering the opponent, its performance down the stretch was impressive. On the Patriots’ last three drives, Seattle forced a field goal, came up with a turnover and had a goal-line stand. It was an encouraging performance for a group that had looked pedestrian in the previous two weeks against the New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills.
The Seahawks are showing that they can win games in different ways. Chancellor gave them a boost Sunday night, and they are hoping to get defensive end Michael Bennett back in the weeks ahead.
“We have been through so many games in the last month that we have been on the field for 80 plays, 90 plays, that our guys, it’s no big deal anymore,” Carroll said. “… It doesn’t matter. We came out of last week’s game, and nobody was worn out. We are just kind of in shape for those kinds of matchups. It’s making them stronger.”