They did it again.
We don't know how they keep doing it, but they somehow, someway persevere when we least expect it.
With several starters on defense out of the lineup, and several more heading to the sideline during the game, the New England Patriots avoided a disastrous pitfall Sunday by rallying to beat the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field.
One of the trademarks of the Bill Belichick-led Patriots is their ability to win despite injuries. They plug in players off the street and somehow find a way to press forward without missing a beat.
On Sunday, they started the game without Ty Warren, Pierre Woods, Deltha O'Neal and Adalius Thomas. Then they lost Tedy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork and James Sanders by halftime.
Some teams might've folded the tent. Not the Patriots. They rallied from 11 points down and scored the game-winning touchdown in the closing minutes on a goal-line plunge by Sammy Morris to pull into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with the resurgent Dolphins and the suddenly slumping Jets.
Of all the improbable - and impressive - victories during the Belichick era, this one might rank among the Top 10 given the circumstances. Sure, the Seahawks are bad - they entered the game with a 2-10 record - but they fought tooth and nail in front of their raucous home crowd, forcing the Patriots to once again dig deep with the game, and perhaps their season, on the line.
"We have a chance," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "That's what's it's really coming down to ... these last three games. Everybody has to play like they're the last downs. Because for this season, it is. For some, it may be the end. That's how we're all playing out here, like rookies trying to make the team."
After losing to the Jets, the Patriots - or at least their fans - began shifting their attention toward the wild card. Now the Jets have lost back-to-back games to Denver and San Francisco, leaving the division up for grabs with three games to go.
Can the Patriots pull this out? Why not? They'll finish their West-Coast road trip next weekend in Oakland - the home of the pitiful Raiders - before returning home to face Arizona in their regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium. Week 17 will be spent in Buffalo against the free-falling Bills. Even with the tiebreakers working against them, the Patriots remain as much a contender as anybody with the end of the season looming on the horizon.
"Now, it's a three-game season," Belichick said. "We have to pick up the pieces, and get ready for Oakland."
--Safety Brandon Meriweather punched the final nail in Seattle's coffin Sunday on a perfectly-executed blitz in which he forced quarterback Seneca Wallace to fumble on the Seahawks' final drive.
Richard Seymour recovered with under two minutes remaining, sealing New England's eighth victory of the season.
"Coach made a great call blitzing me right there," Meriweather said. "I was trying to disguise it and show late, but I had a feel on how they snapped the ball, what sound they go on. I just kind of timed it up good. It's a West Coast offense. They pretty much do everything fast, up tempo. Once you realize that, you can go off them."
--Two of the key contributors in Sunday's win are familiar faces - linebackers Junior Seau and Rosevelt Colvin.
The ex-Patriots re-signed with the team during the week leading up the game and ended up playing major roles due to injury.
"I did not think (I'd be thrown in so quickly), but it was definitely a good time. It was like old times out there," Colvin said. "When I went into the game, Mike (Vrabel) said, 'We're going to do this old school. You go right, I go left, and we're going to bring it.' It was definitely fun. I think the big plus is we got the win."
--Junior Seau's soon-to-be-40-year-old body certainly felt rust, but he looked sharp at times as the Patriots' defense stemmed the tide in the fourth quarter to allow the offense to rally from an 11-point deficit.
"It felt great," said Seau, who turns 40 in 42 days. "There were some wrinkles here and there, but for the most part, the calls were the same. That was my training camp. . . . I expected to be thrown in there later in the game, but with the injuries we had, I was rushed in."
Week 14 Patriots - Seahawks Game Thread