THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Meriweather shines in breakthrough moment

By Rich Garven
Worcester Telegram &Amp; Gazette / December 8, 2008
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SEATTLE - It was over in a snap.

The Patriots trailed all afternoon before taking the lead on Sammy Morris's 1-yard touchdown dive with 2:44 to play yesterday against the Seahawks. Forty-five seconds later, Seattle found itself faced with second and 11 at the New England 44 following the two-minute warning.

With the outcome hanging in the balance, the Patriots showed blitz. Safety Brandon Meriweather, despite setting up on the line, was doing his best to convince the Seahawks otherwise.

"I was trying to disguise it and show late," Meriweather said. "But I had a key on how they snapped the ball - what sound they go on - so I hit the hole right on time."

Seneca Wallace received the snap at about the same time Meriweather introduced himself to the Seahawks quarterback. Meriweather came up with a strip-sack and defensive end Richard Seymour corralled the fumble to seal an improbable 24-21 victory at Qwest Field.

"Brandon came up and made a good, heads-up play," Seymour said. "He got the ball out and we were just able to recover it and kind of seal the deal for us. It was a big play on defense, something we haven't had in a long time."

It was a play that saved the day in so many ways.

"Any time you can time an all-out blitz like that," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "If the ball comes out fast we're in trouble in the back."

That opinion was seconded by the Seahawks.

"They gave us what we wanted, but we just couldn't block it up," wide receiver Deion Branch said.

That was one of the few times the Patriots stopped Wallace, who started in place of the injured Matt Hasselbeck. He finished 20 of 28 for 212 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked that one time despite playing behind a makeshift line missing Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones.

"They actually came out with that defense three times in the game," Wallace said of the all-out blitz. "I called timeout twice. It's tough because we don't have an answer for it."

And if they had had one?

"If he didn't make that play I'm pretty sure that we probably would have made a play down the field," said Wallace, who felt Branch had beaten his man to the inside.

It was the only turnover of the game and just the second fumble recovered by the Patriots in the last seven games, something coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Dean Pees harped on last week. Despite the magnitude of the play, Meriweather deflected any praise.

"I think it was a bigger play for the team than it was for me," the second-year pro said. "Personal glory for me really means nothing. The team winning and continuing to run for the playoffs means everything for me."

The team needed the win and it got it. The Patriots are 8-5 and tied with the Jets and Dolphins atop the AFC East.

For most of the game it looked as though it would be another lost opportunity for the Patriots.

The Seahawks drove 87 yards in 13 plays on their first possession, capping the nearly seven-minute trek with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Branch.

Meriweather was in coverage and stayed with Branch as the two crossed the goal line on the left side. One hard cut later and the Seahawks had 6 points.

"Deion ran a great route and Seneca made a great pass," Meriweather said. "There's nothing you can do about that when two people click."

The Patriots answered with a field goal from 50 yards by Stephen Gostkowski before the Seahawks went back to work. Nine plays and 74 yards later, they had a 14-3 lead as tight end John Carlson pulled in a 10-yard scoring strike.

Seattle had 161 yards of offense to that point. It would finish with 339, but just 29 over the final 15 minutes as the Patriots' beleaguered and battered defense refused to fold.

"Coach [Belichick] just made great adjustments," Meriweather said. "It wasn't anything major. Guys started playing better techniques, doing exactly what Coach has taught. That's better than trying to do our own thing."

Meriweather finished with six tackles, including a team-high three for a loss. He had two passes defensed and that memorable strip-sack - a play that was over in a snap.

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