Seahawks improbably escape another postseason near-loss
“I don’t believe in luck, but I don’t know what else to call that.” – Doug Baldwin
MINNEAPOLIS – Ahtyba Rubin was face down on the ground, holding the thumb he had injured two plays earlier as the football sailed overhead.
Left tackle Russell Okung was looking up into a nearly cloudless sky on the coldest game in Seattle’s history.
Coach Pete Carroll’s eyes never left the football from the snap to the hold, in which the laces were turned toward Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh and the point-blank kick went wide left.
Way wide left.
“I heard the crowd,” said linebacker Brock Coyle, part of Seattle’s field-goal block unit. “I looked back and I look right at the ref and I just see him going no good. I was just in shock, and I saw big Ahtyba Rubin was laying down. I just went over to him, and I was like, ‘Hey man, we just won the game.’
“He just lit up.”
So did an entire city, which then was left to try and digest a second absolutely incomprehensible playoff win in the last 365 days.
But if coming back to beat the Packers in last season’s NFC Championship Game was the equivalent of surviving an avalanche, this was like being blindfolded and lined up in front of a firing squad, only having every shot miss wide left.
“What was it, like a 27-yarder?” Bruce Irvin asked. “That’s a chip shot.”
There were 26 seconds left, 5 fewer than the Seahawks had left Atlanta in the last NFC playoff game that Seattle lost. Seattle didn’t have any timeouts, either. Walsh’s attempt was closer than an extra-point these days, and after making two field goals of more than 40 yards most everyone assumed that the two-time NFC champions were about to be knocked out.
Of course, you know what happens when you assume, right?
“They’ve still got to snap it,” Carroll said, “and they’ve still got to hold it and put it down on the ground and kick it. There’s a lot that has to happen there.”
Stuff happens in the NFL, and in this case, stuff happened to the other team.
“It’s just meant to be,” Irvin said. “I feel like it’s destiny man.”
There will be plenty of time searching for a deeper meaning in this victory, only the third time in NFL playoff history that a team won after failing to score in the first three quarters. The truth is that this wasn’t a tribute to anything other than Seattle’s willingness to keep playing hard all the way to the end of the coldest game in franchise history.
“I don’t think that this is a measure of anything as far as your football,” Carroll said, “other than it was guts and stick-to-it and grit the whole thing for both sides and somebody had to win. So we got one. We’re thrilled about that.”
After that kick missed, Michael Bennett fell to his knees and pointed to the sky. Richard Sherman was on the turf, too, facemask pressed to the turf with his hands on his earholes. And in the locker room afterward, Pete Carroll had a simple message:
“Enjoy the heck out of it. They’re so hard to come by. Just to survive this game and get a win and get on out of here and get to the next ball game is an enormous accomplishment and that’s all we take out of it. We’re not going to take great pride in our execution during the day, but we are going to take pride in the way we went about it and how hard we played and how tough we played and how we stuck with it to the end to get yourself in position to win.”