SEATTLE — As dangerous and prolific as the Patriots’ passing attack can be with Tom Brady at the controls, the franchise quarterback has gone on record saying he doesn’t want to be throwing it 60 times a game, because it probably spells trouble.
Sunday can serve as a prime example. Brady threw 58 passes — the most he’s ever attempted in an NFL game — for a season-high 395 yards. But it came in a 24-23 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, a game that featured squandered offensive chances and multiple mistakes by Brady at inopportune moments that came back to haunt the Patriots.
He was intercepted twice, including once in the end zone, when the Patriots were driving inside Seattle’s 10-yard-line and looking to push their fourth-quarter lead to 17 points. He also drew two intentional grounding penalties, one at the end of the first half that denied the Patriots a chance to kick a chip-shot field goal. Losing by 1, it would ultimately prove costly.
“A lot of things we could have done better,’’ Brady said. “We have to do a better job. I have to do a better job.’’
The Patriots have had success this year when they’ve racked up the rushing yardage and taken some pressure off Brady’s right arm. In three wins, they’ve averaged 223.3 rushing yards; in three losses, that number plummets to 84.7. Seattle came in with the league’s top-ranked defense, and limited the Patriots to just 87 rushing yards on 26 carries.
That left it up to Brady, who spread the ball around to eight pass-catchers and was able to throw to Aaron Hernandez for the first time in a month, with the tight end returning from an ankle injury. He caught six balls for 61 yards and a touchdown.
An uncharacteristic error at the end of the first half might be the throw Brady would most like back. With the Patriots ahead, 17-10, they had it at Seattle’s 9 with 19 seconds left, and tried three times to get into the end zone for a momentum-building touchdown.
The first pass went to Danny Woodhead for a 6-yard gain, taking the ball to the 3. The second was intended for Rob Gronkowski and fell incomplete, stopping the clock with 6 seconds left and leaving the Patriots with third-and-goal.
Brady dropped back on third down, and with nobody open, threw the ball away down the middle, through the end zone with 1 second left. With no Patriot in the vicinity, referees ruled intentional grounding, and with the 10-second clock run-off, the half was over, denying the Patriots the chance to kick a field goal.
“It’s my responsibility to take care of the football and do something good with it, and when the play comes in from the sidelines, certainly they’re not thinking that we’re going to have intentional grounding,’’ Brady said. “They trust me to be smart with the ball and get 3 [points] at worst, and I just made a bad play.’’
Said Wes Welker, who caught a team-high 10 passes for 138 yards: “It’s just one of those things where we just came up short in that instance, and the one thing that probably couldn’t have happened happened.’’
Both of Brady’s interceptions came in the second half, on successive offensive possessions with the Patriots holding a 20-10 lead.
The first pick was by Richard Sherman late in the third quarter. The second, and more damaging, was by Earl Thomas on the third play of the fourth quarter, just when it appeared the Patriots would push to a 17-point lead. It helped swing the momentum Seattle’s way.
“That’s why we lose games, because we squander opportunities to score points,’’ Brady said. “That’s what the game came down to. It was a 1-point game, and we had an opportunity in the red area for a touchdown, a few other opportunities to put points on the board, and we just didn’t do it.’’
Brady completed a season-high 36 passes, but his 58 attempts established a career high; previously, Brady had reached 55 twice, against Denver in 2006 and at Chicago in 2002.
The Patriots beat the Bears, but lost to the Broncos. Now they’ve got another loss to stew over, wondering why they couldn’t close the deal in Seattle, and getting ready to face the rival Jets in the nastiest of moods.