December 26, 2011

Seahawks Top 10 Regular Season Finales

The Seahawks go into Glendale on New Year's Day striving to level their record at 8-8, which would provide the team (and us Twelves) a pleasant conclusion to a hope-building season. In our franchise history, Seattle is a maddeningly inconclusive/mediocre 18-17 in regular season finales. Here's the Top 10 wins that either sent us into the offseason on a rousing high note, or in some cases rocketed us headlong into the postseason- Enjoy!

10. 12/21/97 Seahawks 38, Niners 9
The Niners came in with their playoff seeding locked in, and treated this like a glorified preseason game. Despite that, this was still a very satisfying win to close out my first season as a season ticket holder. Warren Moon wrapped up his spectacular 1997 season with four TD passes, including two to Joey Galloway. Michael Sinclair notched two sacks to bring his season total to 12, and Chris Warren closed out his Seahawks career with 99 yards (making him the all-time leading rusher in Seahawks history by a single yard over Curt Warner until Shaun Alexander came to town).

9. 12/29/02 Seahawks 31 @ Chargers 28 (OT)
This win might have "only" gotten the Seahawks to 7-9, but it was a thrilling glimpse of the great things coming in the mid-00s for Seattle. Matt Hasselbeck closed out an amazing 2nd half of the 2002 season with a career high 449 yards passing, outdueling future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees. The Hawks trailed 28-14 in the final quarter, but Hasselbeck rallied the Seahawks to tie the game in the waning moments of regulation and then whipped the offense into field goal range in Sudden Death. Itula Mili and Koren Robinson both had 100-yard days and John Randle added three key sacks of Brees.

8. 1/6/02 Seahawks 21, Chiefs 18
This one is very deserving of a spot on this list, but it was still a pretty damn somber win despite Alexander's 127 yards rushing and Darrell Jackson's pair of touchdowns...

A) This game was rescheduled from right after the 9/11 attacks, so that was on everyone's minds.

B) It was the most intolerable weather I've ever sat through at an NFL game. Heavy rain, wind gusts, temps in the 30s... WAY worse than simple cold or snow- And it was at Husky Stadium, which was usually a pain in the ass even in the best weather.

C) Late in a fairly boring Seattle win, we found out that John Hall had hit a 50+ yard FG to beat the Raiders and almost certainly kill Seattle's playoff hopes.

D) We decided to do the park & ride thing to and from the game. Big mistake that day.... Wet, cold and depressed, it took almost two hours on the bus to get back to the parking lot. Ugh.

7. 12/30/90 Seahawks 30, Lions 10
A win would keep Seattle alive for the playoffs (but they'd need Pittsburgh to beat Houston in the SNF game too), but the electric Barry Sanders was coming to town with the rest of the Lions in tow.

The tandem of Derrick Fenner and John L. Williams clearly outplayed the NFL's leading rusher, as Sanders was held to only 23 yards while the Seahawks piled up 151 yards rushing. The Seattle defense sacked Detroit QBs 5 times, and Eugene Robinson scooped up a fumble and returned it for a TD... A tie game at the half became an easy 30-10 Seahawks win, and the Twelve Army was sent home happy but nervous...

I had the particularly terrible experience of listening to Seattle's playoff dreams die on the long, treacherous drive over the pass and back to the Tri-Cities. Houston pounded the Steelers 34-14, which meant that the 9-7 Oilers and Bengals made the playoffs despite the fact that both teams lost to the 9-7 Seahawks (The Bengals won the AFC central, and Houston had a better conference record than the Seahawks and the 9-7 Steelers). Grrr.

6. 12/20/86 Seahawks 41, Broncos 16
The 1986 Seahawks would miss the playoffs on tiebreakers, but after this demolition of the eventual AFC Champion Broncos, the rest of the NFL breathed a collective sigh of relief. Curt Warner rambled for 192 yards and three touchdowns, Daryl Turner scored twice, and the Hawks racked up 586(!) yards of total offense. The Seahawks would be picking chunks of Bronco out of their cleats for a week after this one- Total domination.

5. 1/2/05 Seahawks 28, Falcons 26
The Hawks had already clinched a playoff spot, but with a win in the season finale (or a Rams loss to the Jets), Seattle would win its first NFC West title. I was at this one, and with the playoff-bound, seeding-locked-in Falcons treating it like an exhibition game, I loved our chances.

But this was 2004- and this team was determined to torture their fans. They fell behind 17-7 before clawing back into a 21-20 4th quarter lead. Matt Hasselbeck scored on a QB sneak to make it 28-20 in the waning minutes (oh, we'll come back to that), but the Falcons marched right back down to the Hawks' Nest to get within a two-point conversion of OT... But then a draw play- Dunn struggling for the goal line- and he is stopped short! Wooooo! NFC West Champions!

Hold those positive vibes, though. In a post-game interview, Shaun Alexander accused Coach Holmgren of "stabbing him in the back" when he called for that QB sneak, rather than handing it to #37. It turned out that Alexander was one yard short of winning the NFL rushing title, and was also acutely aware of that fact. Holmgren either didn't know or (more likely) didn't care, and suddenly the story wasn't Seattle's division title and upcoming home playoff game- It was Alexander's outburst, which ultimately gave unlimited ammunition to Seahawks fans already predisposed to dislike him for his less-than-hard-nosed running style.

4. 12/27/03 Seahawks 24 @ Niners 17
The Seahawks went to Candlestick Park for a Saturday afternoon game just after Xmas, needing a win and some help the following day to qualify for the postseason for only the 2nd time since 1988. Seattle entered the game at 9-6, but sported a pathetic 1-6 road record coming into the game. Niners coach Dennis Erickson was hoping for a win to finish the season 8-8 (which was a habit he picked up back in Seattle during the 1990s), and to exact vengeance upon his old employers and the coach who replaced him in Seattle.

The Hawks quickly fell behind 14-0, and lamentations of "same old Seahawks" rang out across the land like church bells. Another winning but playoff-free season loomed.. It was '78, '79, '86, and '90 allll over again... but the Seahawks clawed and gouged back into the game, and then something amazing happened late in the 3rd:

Matt Hasselbeck threw a PERFECT pass to Koren Robinson in the back of the end zone... and K-rob HELD ONTO IT and got both feet in bounds. 21-17 Seahawks. Josh Brown extended the lead to 7, and Shaun Alexander ate up most of the 4th quarter on the ground. The D stopped a last-gasp Niners drive, and Seattle triumphed in a game very few expected them to win.

3. 1/2/11 Seahawks 16, Rams 6
It was fashionable for the national media to crap on this game between a 7-8 and 6-9 teams that would decide the NFC West title. It was damn near conventional wisdom among Seahawks "fans" that the team would be better off losing the game and getting a higher draft pick than going to the playoffs only to get bludgeoned to death by a superior team.

53 players, their coaches and 67,000 screaming Twelves didn't give a FUCK about any of that shit. Charlie Whitehurst etched his name into Seahawks history by leading Seattle to a win over the prematurely anointed Rams- He hit Ruvell Martin for a huge gain on the opening drive, which he closed by connecting with Mike Williams for what would ultimately be the deciding touchdown.

Whitehurst got a huge assist from Seattle's maligned offensive line and the defense crashed The Sam Bradford Coronation Party, spiked the punch, smashed the ice sculptures, and ate all the bacon-wrapped shrimp. Steven Jackson was held to 45 yards rushing, and the only points STL could muster were two field goals by The Traitor Josh Brown.

2. 12/18/83 Seahawks 24, Patriots 6
The 8-7 Seahawks found themselves needing a home win against the 8-7 Patriots to clinch the franchise's first-ever playoff berth.

My Dad took me to that game (my 1st ever, at age 8), and EVERYTHING about it was awe-inspiring; from the first moment I saw the Kingdome driving in from I-90, to the dizzying cavernous grandeur of the Dome's interior. Of course, as I grew older I began to consider King County Stadium more or less a shithole, but on that day, it was the Louvre to me.

I screamed for what seemed like 4 hours straight, starting with a shrieking series of boos aimed at the Patriots as they took the field for warm-ups. We were in the 300 level, and there was no way they could possibly have heard me, but I still roared until my voice was gone. What an annoying little shit, huh?

The game itself was perfect: The deafening roar of the 12th Man, a Largent touchdown, and an easy blowout victory. Famously, the Seahawks came out of the locker room after the game to mingle with the remaining Soldiers of Twelve left in the Dome. If I wasn't already hooked for life, this game sealed the deal.

1. 12/18/88 Seahawks 43 @ Raiders 37
L.A. and Seattle came into the Coliseum that day with a combined record of 15-15, but the winner would make the playoffs. On that damp, dreary, Seattle-like day, the Seahawks were playing for their first AFC West title. Both defenses seemed to have brought the wrong shoes for the muddy track... The teams traded scores all day, but the Hawks pulled ahead in the 4th and held on for the biggest regular-season road win in team history, keyed by a spectacular John L. Williams TD on a perfectly executed "middle screen."

Here's the whole game! 1st half, then 2nd half... Dig it!

What do you think, sirs?


Chango said...

Dude, I absolutely love these types of entries. They take me back to when I was the only kid in my SoCal school district, and mostly likely county, who openly rooted for the Hawks. I took so much shite from those kids. But it was all worthwhile when we took one from the Raiders, Broncos or whomever my classmates' dads told them to root for.
Keep up the great work!
By the way, where is Tri Cities?

DKSB said...

Thank you for reading, man! I'm glad you dig this stuff.. The Tri-Cities is in eastern Washington, about 3.5 hours southeast of Seattle- Our main claim to fame is our involvement in the Manhattan Project... The bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki was built in my hometown, and my high school had a MUSHROOM CLOUD on their football helmets. The nuclear power industry and the departments of energy & defense are still big-time influences there today.

nach said...

Great memories. I had a poster of John L. William's 75 yard screen pass as a kid. So cool to see it again.