Perhaps the craziest thing to come out of the Seahawks’ miraculous comeback in their 28-22 overtime NFC Championship win was how their late surge started, and the two unlikely players who were at the center of it.
Vital offensive players Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Jermaine Kearse all had their moments in the turnaround, but it was Seattle’s first touchdown, a 19-yard pass from punter Jon Ryan to tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal in the third quarter, that finally started turning the tide for the Seahawks.
Ryan joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Danny, Dave and Moore” on Monday, and his thoughts on the play were typical of the modest Canadian native’s usual disposition.
“At that time, maybe the offense needed a little bit of a spark, and who would have thought it would have come from the field-goal unit?” Ryan said. “But that’s just how the team is – never know where it’s gonna come from.”
The Packers certainly didn’t. When Ryan, the placeholder for kicker Steven Hauschka on field goals, picked up the ball and rolled to his left, there was only one Green Bay player he needed to deal with. And with Gilliam, a tight end during his college days at Penn State, wide open heading to the end zone, all Ryan needed to do was throw an easy toss to get Seattle on the board.
“It was a run-first option type play, and the whole goal of the play was to kinda get (Green Bay linebacker) A.J. Hawk on an island and option him,” Ryan said. “If he came up and took me I was gonna flip it over to Gill, and if he stuck with Gill I was gonna run around the corner. As it turns out we kinda got him on that island just like we wanted, he bit up and (I) just flipped it over.”
It may not have been the tightest spiral thrown, but Ryan’s OK with that. After all, it still resulted in a score.
“It was one of those things where it didn’t need to be a pretty throw because I was rolling out to my left (and) I don’t have a great arm to start with … I just wanted to flip it up there. Didn’t need to make it look pretty, but it got the job done.”
Another thing that didn’t look pretty during the throw: Ryan’s face. Images of his expression during the toss made the rounds on social media, which he’s acknowledged multiple times on his Twitter account.
“I did the ugly face,” he admitted. “Apparently I do a real ugly face when I throw a football.”
Not surprisingly, the play was Ryan’s first career touchdown pass, but don’t confuse his lack of experience throwing in game situations for a lack of eagerness. In fact, when the Seahawks introduced the fake idea to the game plan last week, he was vocal about his desire for the play to be called on game day.
“We had worked on it on Thursday and we were pretty comfortable with it and pretty confident with it if the situation presented itself we were gonna be able to execute that play,” he said. “I had been in (Seahawks special teams coordinator) Brian Schneider’s ear all week, telling him that we needed to run that fake. I’m sure he was getting sick of me by the end of the week, and I was just fortunate they called it.”
So were the Seahawks.