By Danny O’Neil
The Seahawks played 19 games over the span of five months en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl. Here’s a look at 10 of the most pivotal, most impressive moments along the way arranged chronologically, not necessarily in order of importance:
Week 1 | Sept. 8, 2013, Bank of America Stadium
Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman force the game-saving fumble
Back in Week 1, it looked like the Seahawks escaped their season opener when they forced a fumble with less than 6 minutes left in the game and the Panthers driving inside Seattle’s 10. After the season? Well, that was Seattle’s most impressive road win of the year and the only time Carolina lost at home. The Panthers were positioned for first-and-10 at Seattle’s 8 when safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman combined on the tackle that forced DeAngelo Williams to fumble the ball. Seattle ran out the final 5:25 to win the game, 12-7.
Week 2 | Sept. 15, 2013, CenturyLink Field
Marshawn Lynch’s 7-yard touchdown catch
Marshawn Lynch already had one rushing touchdown when he walked across the goal line in the second minute of the fourth quarter, turning to stare down the rest of the 49ers’ defense with utter indifference. That 7-yard touchdown catch was part of a second-half onslaught in which Seattle turned a 5-0 halftime lead into a second consecutive blowout of the 49ers, winning 29-3.
Week 4 | Sept. 29, 2013, Reliant Stadium
Sherman 58-yard interception return
The Seahawks were a play away from forcing the Texans to punt the ball away in the final 3 minutes, giving Seattle’s offense one last chance to tie the game. Instead, Sherman took care of it himself. He ran in front of tight end Owen Daniels, picking off a pass quarterback Matt Schaub lobbed toward him. Sherman ran it back 58 yards for a touchdown, reaching the end zone missing a shoe that was lost during the return. Seattle tied the game 20-20 and forced overtime, which Seattle won with a field goal.
Golden Tate accounted for the Seahawks’ only two scores in their 14-9 win over the Rams in Week 8, including an 80-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. (AP)
Week 8 | Oct. 28, 2013, Edward Jones Dome
Golden Tate’s 80-yard touchdown catch
The Seahawks finished their 14-9 win with 135 yards of total offense, their fewest in any regular-season game under coach Pete Carroll. Eighty of those yards were gained on a single play as Golden Tate first outleaped cornerback Janoris Jenkins and then outran safety Rodney McLeod to the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown. Tate also waved off McLeod before scoring, drawing a penalty in what turned out to be the second-most conspicuous taunt from the Seahawks this season.
Heath Farwell’s goal-line tackle
Heath Farwell did not have a tackle for Seattle’s defense in the first seven games. In fact, the Seahawks’ special-teams captain was on the field for only 21 defensive snaps in the first seven games. He was on the field for the final defensive stand as Seattle held the Rams out of the end zone. On third-and-1, the Rams handed the ball to Darryl Richardson and Farwell shot the gap, making contact in the backfield and helping to blow up the play. The Seahawks held on for the victory after Kellen Clemens’ incomplete pass on fourth down on the final play of the game.
Week 10 | Nov. 10, 2013, at Georgia Dome
Tate’s 6-yard touchdown catch
You’ve got to hand it to Golden Tate. And yes, that’s hand. Singular. Because one hand is all Tate needed to grab hold of a 6-yard touchdown catch with 8 seconds left in the first half of Seattle’s 33-10 win. It was amazing enough that it was reviewed by the officials who looked and saw him stick that catch with a single hand before his momentum carried him out of bounds.
Week 13 | Dec. 2, 2013, at CenturyLink Field
Michael Bennett’s 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown
Pass rushers, plural. That’s what coach Pete Carroll said his team needed to add in January 2013. Pass rushers, plural. That’s what Seattle got when it signed first Cliff Avril in free agency and then Michael Bennett. Those two pass rushers combined to score the Seahawks’ first touchdown in their 34-17 blowout of the Saints on “Monday Night Football”. Avril knocked the ball loose from Saints quarterback Drew Brees, it fluttering into the arms of Bennett, who ran it into the end zone.
Divisional round | Jan. 11, 2014, at CenturyLink Field
Doug Baldwin’s 24-yard catch on third-and-3
Richard Sherman’s tip to Malcolm Smith in the end zone was the decisive play of the NFC Championship Game, helping the Seahawks punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. (AP)
The Saints needed a second look before they finally believed that Doug Baldwin had in fact caught that pass along Seattle’s sidelines during the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ 23-15 win. That’s true not just because of the incredible degree of difficulty of Baldwin’s catch as well as the importance. It came on third-and-3, Seattle leading 16-8 and just one play from punting the ball back to New Orleans and giving the Saints a chance to tie it. Russell Wilson checked into an aggressive pass and then made a well-placed lob that set up Baldwin for an even better catch.
NFC title Game | Jan. 19, 2014, CenturyLink Field
Sherman’s game-saving tip to Malcolm Smith
Eighteen yards separated San Francisco from the winning touchdown in the final minute of the conference title game. The difference came down to a matter of inches, though, as Sherman leaped up, twisting in the air and stretching every inch of his 6-foot-3 frame to deflect a pass intended for Michael Crabtree back into the field of play, where linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted it to seal Seattle’s 23-17 win.
Super Bowl XLVIII | Feb. 2, 2014, MetLife Stadium
Percy Harvin’s 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown
The Seahawks would have been a Super Bowl favorite without acquiring Percy Harvin. They would have won the Super Bowl without him, too. But it was a whole lot easier with him. Harvin carried the ball twice during Seattle’s 43-8 win, gaining 45 yards – the most of any player in the game. Then came his kickoff return, which erased any shadow of doubt remaining over the outcome. Harvin appeared in three games this season, playing 10 quarters, but the two kickoffs he did return this season, he ran each back more than 50 yards.