L.J. Collier was either injured or largely ineffective for much of his rookie season. It was a disappointing development at a time when the Seattle Seahawks defensive line needed young talent to blossom quickly in order to establish themselves as title contenders.
Enter year two of Collier — healthy and raring to go, and he was the hero on the final play against the New England Patriots.
With Seattle’s defense bending but not breaking, the Pats had the ball at the 1-yard line with :03 left. Barring a defensive penalty, either the Patriots win and get out of Seattle with a comeback victory or the Seahawks survive and improve to 2-0.
Pretty much everyone who knows gridiron football expected a designed run with Newton, ordinarily a guaranteed touchdown and indeed Seattle easily let Newton score twice from the same distance earlier in the game. It’s one of the most difficult short yardage plays in football alongside of the Tom Brady sneak.
Well you may recall last meeting that the Seahawks “denied” Brady on the sneak via Brady fumbling the snap. This year, faced with preventing Newton from the hat trick of rushing touchdowns, in steps L.J. Collier.
First off, credit goes to Lano Hill for submarining fullback Jakob Johnson as the first key win at the line of scrimmage. He has been much-maligned throughout his Seahawks career and really it’s been justified, but this was a clutch play and he really stepped up with the game on the line. Then watch that video closely again as Collier easily sheds the block of Patriots rookie guard Michael Onwenu, denying Newton the ability to Superman his way into the end zone.
The overhead shot does show that yes, Newton had a chance to bounce this outside and it’s game over, but I think at full speed it’s a hard cut to make with how quickly Hill shot through the line of scrimmage and owned Jakob. Collier’s move slowed Newton down and forced the early jump, and Poona Ford (who also shed his blocker) provided help over the top.
As an aside, Cody Barton got washed out of this play by TE Ryan Izzo and in fact he was dominated at the point of attack on all of these Newton rush attempts at the one-yard line. Not good.
But we’re here to highlight what Collier and Hill did to deny the Patriots a dramatic comeback win. The Seahawks defense has struggled through two weeks and injuries will really stretch the depth of this team in upcoming games, so it needs the likes of those two to perform at even baseline competence in order to get key stops to propel the team to victory. I’m delighted to say that when it mattered most, it was mission accomplished.