SEATTLE — Let us imagine, just for a moment, that the sport in question Sunday had been freestyle skiing.
The winner? No question. It’s the Patriots based on style points.
Gymnastics? Patriots again, based upon the degree of difficulty involved in having your quarterback throw 58 passes.
Boxing? Heck, they would have stopped it in the eighth round and called it a TKO.
But because New England — big, bad, Super-Bowl-or-bust New England — couldn’t land a knockout punch, the Seattle Seahawks danced away with a 24-23 victory.
Think about it. The Patriots built a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, and over the final 15 minutes there were no less than four occasions where the Seahawks’ knees had buckled and their bodies were leaning on the ropes. No less than four occasions where a single play could have ended Seattle’s hopes.
There was a Patriots drive that reached the shadow of the end zone before Earl Thomas picked off a pass.
There was a third-and-2 for New England with 10 minutes to play, a sequence in which Seattle stopped Stevan Ridley for no gain and held the Patriots to a field goal.
There was a fourth-and-3 for the Seahawks with 71/2 minutes to go, resulting in a 10-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Braylon Edwards.
And there was a New England possession that started with 3:02 to play and lasted all of 14 seconds before the Patriots punted.
New England going three-and-out? That happens about as often as a man skydives from the stratosphere.
Yes, just hours after Felix Baumgartner safely fell 24 miles back to earth, Seattle gave New England a crash-landing.
“There’s no moment that we’re going to turn things all around,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re just trying to keep growing and getting better. We’re a young football team that knows how to hang, and we’re really tough. That’s going to give us a chance in every game.”
A chance? At times Sunday, Seattle didn’t have a prayer. The Patriots were playing throw-and-catch so effortlessly that it seemed they should never call a running play. It was death by a thousand papercuts, and the Seahawks were bleeding profusely.
But when the game was on the line, when Seattle had given itself that chance, it was an unheralded rookie quarterback who made the plays that Tom Brady couldn’t. You know, like a 46-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice with 1:27 to play.
“He’s a hell of a leader,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said of Wilson. “He never gets down on himself, never gets down on his team. Mistakes happen, but he keeps going.”
Wilson? The guy who was a surprise third-round draft pick? The guy who became a surprise starter in Week 1? The guy who couldn’t see over his offensive linemen if he was standing on a stack of phone books?
Yeah, him. He now has victories over Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, not to mention Tony Romo and Cam Newton. All of which brings up the pertinent question of the day: When do Peyton Manning and Drew Brees appear on the schedule?
“Obviously, I’m a rookie,” Wilson said, “but I’ve played a lot of football games in my lifetime. To get little experiences and little nuggets of information from every game, that has to be your goal.”
And while there was much to be learned Sunday about the difference between seizing opportunities and failing to do so, the more important lesson was this: They don’t award style points in football.