A closer look at the Seahawks’ successful onside kick
So many things had to go right for the Seahawks in order to erase a 12-point deficit with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game. That means just as many things had to go wrong for Green Bay.
One of them was an onside kick recovery that was a product of perfect execution by Seattle and an error in assignment by the Packers, among other things.
The Seahawks trailed 19-14 with 2:09 remaining in regulation, having just scored on Russell Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown run, when they lined up for the onside kick. When Chris Matthews came down with the ball after it was bobbled by the Packers’ Brandon Bostick, Seattle’s win probability – according to ESPN Stats & Information – jumped from 10.6 percent to 30.1 percent.
“We were very fortunate,” coach Pete Carroll said afterward, “and all of a sudden, there we are.”
Only nine of 56 onside kick attempts were recovered during the regular season, according to SportingCharts.com. That’s a success rate of just 16 percent, which speaks to how difficult it is to pull off.
So how did the Seahawks do it?
“We had a great kick by Hausch,” Carroll said.
Specifically, the big bounce the ball got off the turf, allowing it to stay in the air long enough for Matthews to get himself into position for the recovery once the ball popped free. That big bounce is never a given, and as Hauschka explained afterward, it’s even more difficult to achieve when the turf is wet – which it was Sunday – because the ball has a tendency to slide.
But as good as Hauschka’s kick was, Bostick was still in position to come down with it. That wasn’t his responsibility, though. It was actually to block Matthews – who was bearing down on him – and give Jordy Nelson enough room to safety catch it. Bostick, a tight end, instead tried to do it himself.
“I feel like if I would have done my job – my assignment was to block – then Jordy would have caught the ball and the game would have been over,” Bostick said.
But when he went for it himself only to have the ball bounce off the crown of his helmet, Matthews was right there to corral it in mid-air.
“I thought for sure he caught it, because I was going to go tackle him,” Matthews said. “He ended up bobbling it, and it was perfectly set up for me just to jump and go catch the ball, which is exactly what I did.”
The Seahawks’ comeback was so improbable because of everything it took to pull it off. The same was true about their successful onside kick.
“Another great moment in that game,” Carroll said.