January 6, 2015

Ranking the Seahawks Playoff Wins (1983-2014)

This Saturday the Seahawks host the Charlotte Panthers (No, I don't call them "Carolina," because that's a deeply asinine moniker for a pro team) in the 23rd playoff game in franchise history (OK, 25th if you count Super Bowls, but I put those in a category of their own, personally), and they'll be trying to notch their 12th (! NUMEROLOGY ALERT !) all-time post-season win. As we inhale before another 3-game sprint to championship glory, let's look back at our 11 previous playoff wins.

11. 12/24/83 Seahawks 31, Broncos 7
You'd think the first-ever playoff win in team history would be higher on the list, but this one is overshadowed by the upset win at Miami the following week (SPOILER ALERT). In addition, the game was a snoozer blowout. Steve DeBerg led the Broncos to their doom that day, before being replaced by (then rookie) John Elway in garbage time.

Dave Krieg only threw 13 passes that day, but he completed 12 of them for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns.

10. 1/5/08 Seahawks 35, DC 14
In the 21st Century, the Grim Reaper of DC Super Bowl dreams has worn blue and green. In the 2007 NFC Wild Card Game, DC was a fashionable pick to upset the Seahawks. Why? DC Free Safety Sean Taylor was murdered in late November, and the team banded together in the wake of that tragedy and hit the postseason on a 4-game winning streak. Sentimentality was certainly on DC's side, as was a strong national desire to see them meet Dallas in the divisional playoff the following week. Seattle came in having lost 2 of their last 3, but built a 13-0 lead going into the 4th quarter. Then all hell broke loose.

DC scored two quick touchdowns to take a 14-13 lead, and after a special teams brainfart on the ensuing kickoff gave them the ball deep in Seattle territory, things looked dire for the Seahawks. However, the defense held, and Shaun Suisham shanked a 30-yard field goal attempt. A Matt Hasselbeck interception snuffed the next Seattle drive, but then the defense stood firm again. Beck would then put an exclamation point on his Pro Bowl-bound 2007 campaign with a 20-yard TD strike to D.J.  Hackett. With six minutes left, the Hawks were up by a touchdown, and then Marcus Trufant sealed the win in style...

9. 1/11/14 Seahawks 23, Saints 15
The Hawks ran out to a 16-0 lead over New Orleans, but put Twelves into a state of panic in the 4th quarter (At one point I yelled at the TV and ordered Bobby Wagner to urinate upon a prostrate Saints player. Not my finest moment). After cutting the lead to 8, Drew Brees tossed a deep ball that fluttered and died in the howling wind. Two Seattle defenders went up for the easy interception, but neither snared it, and the ball fell into the waiting arms of Robert Meachem. The Seahawks were clearly cursed! Future Hall-Of-Famer Drew Brees would surely tie the game, and the Saints would complete the dramatic comeback and win in overtime, right? Thankfully, no. After that fluky completion, Seattle's top-rated defense forced three straight incompletions, and Shayne Graham's 2nd shanked field goal attempt (What is up with kickers named some variety of "Sean" and 4th-quarter FG tries in Seattle?) kept the Hawks' lead at 8. On the ensuing drive, a clutch Russell Wilson completion to Doug Baldwin on 3rd and 8 set up Marshawn Lynch's game-clinching touchdown scamper.

8. 1/6/13 Seahawks 24 @ DC 14
Remember when Robert Griffin III was Offensive Rookie of the Year? It feels like that was 20 years ago, not 2. RGIII would lead DC to an early 14-0 lead, but would also clearly injure himself on the 2nd TD, a victim of the horrendously maintained playing surface at FedEx Field (later our own Chris Clemons would succumb as well). The Seattle defense stopped DC cold the rest of the evening, and a ferocious 27-yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown run would put the Hawks up for good in the 4th quarter. The Seahawks got their first road playoff win since 1983, and the career trajectories of RGIII and Russell Wilson began their spectacular divergence.

7. 1/15/06 Seahawks 20, DC 10
21 years. The Seahawks hadn't won a playoff game in 21 years, and despite winning the #1 seed in the NFC, Twelves were nervous and the football-watching nation was deeply skeptical. Anxiety turned into pants-ruining panic when NFL MVP Shaun Alexander was knocked out of the game with a concussion early on. Matt Hasselbeck responded with a gutsy performance punctuated by victory over former Hawk Shawn Springs in a sprint to the end zone pylon to provide all the points Seattle would need. Darrell Jackson delivered a stand-out performance with 9 catches for 143 yards & a score, and after Mack Strong converted a late 3rd down the Seahawks advanced to just the 2nd conference title game in franchise history.

6. 1/6/07 Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20
I've talked a lot about this game in this space before, but I think it's important to focus on the stuff BESIDES Romo's blunder that led to this stunning Seattle victory. First of all, Romo ALMOST still killed our season anyway after fumbling the snap. He nearly ran for the go-ahead TD. Even worse, he was INCHES away from a converting a 1st down that would have allowed Dallas to burn off the clock before trying an even shorter field goal. Jordan Babineaux saved the day with his spectacular hustle and a textbook tackle.

A couple of other things to remember: Even if Dallas had converted that FG attempt, the Seahawks would have had over a minute to get into range for a game-winner off the foot of Josh Brown, who had already won FOUR games in 2006 with last-second kicks. After the Seahawks got the ball back, Dallas still had timeouts remaining. If they had held Seattle to a 3-and-out, they would have gotten the ball back in good field position with time to get back into field goal range. Seattle's victory wasn't sealed until Shaun Alexander tore off a 22-yarder to eat up almost all of the time remaining.

5. 12/22/84 Seahawks 13, Raiders 7
The Seahawks entered the 1984 playoffs on a two-game losing streak, and the national media gave the fading Hawks little chance to knock off the World Champion Raiders. The greatest defense in team history (Pre-LOB Division) had its finest hour in that Wild Card game, though... Easley, Green, Nash, Brown, Bryant and the rest held L.A. to a single touchdown while sacking Plunkett 6 times and forcing three turnovers.

Coach Knox called 51(!) running plays, and Dr. Dan Doornink put up Curt Warner numbers: 29 carries, 126 yards and a key 3rd-down conversion late in the game. In all, the Seahawks rushed for 205 yards as a team and took complete control of the game. This is still probably the most physically dominant win in team history.

4. 1/8/11 Seahawks 41, Saints 36
The BeastQuake is the 2nd greatest play in franchise history (after Sherm's tip to Smith in  the 2013 NFC Championship), and it was so blindingly awesome that it obscured the incredibly satisfying final performance by Matt Hasselbeck at Seahawks Stadium. After three sub-par/injury-marred seasons, Hass came up HUGE against New Orleans, firing four touchdown passes and outplaying defending Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. When he ran off the field in front of the Twelve Army for the last time, it was in a moment of unexpected, satisfying triumph.

3. 12/31/83 Seahawks 27 @ Dolphins 20
A whole generation of kids became Twelves for life on New Year's Eve 1983. I was eight, and just two weeks earlier I went to my first game at the Kingdome- The Seahawks won and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They won the Wild Card game against Denver, but anyone with sufficient football acumen KNEW that was as high as the '83 Seahawks would fly. Now they had to schlep to Miami and face the defending AFC Champions, led by rookie phenom Dan Marino. The Seahawks got a collective pat on the head and a "nice season, kid" from the football world. They'd all get to see that epic Dolphins/Raiders AFC title game cage match everyone was dreaming about, right?

Weird shit started going down, though. For one thing, Dave Krieg was outdueling Marino. The unheralded Seattle defense outplayed the famous "Killer B's." Chuck Knox was out-coaching Don Fucking Shula, and Miami had no answer for Curt Warner, who racked up 113 yards and two TDs on the ground. Miami held Steve Largent without a catch all day, but #80 would haul in two catches for 56 yards on the climactic Seattle possession to set up Warner's go-ahead touchdown run. Nobody needed mistletoe as an excuse to kiss a stranger in Seattle that night... 

2. 1/22/06 Seahawks 34, Panthers 14
As I wrote back then, about the Seahawks earning their first trip to the Super Bowl:

From the moment owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man Flag, the crowd became a roaring, towel swirling mass of noise which only rested when Seattle had the ball. When did the crowd go particularly insane?

-Hass to back-up QB Seneca Wallace (huh? We were ALL stunned), followed immediately by a lazer-beam snagged by Jerramy Stevens.. 7-0 Seahawks.

-Lofa Tatupu picks off Jake Delhomme (I spontaneously hugged my little brother for the first of many times at that moment)..

-D-Jack scores to ice it.. 27-7 Seahawks..

Once the score got to 34-7, the party began.. Chants of MVP for Shaun Alexander, roaring choruses of “Super Bowl! Super Bowl!”, old-school types singing “na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey hey hey.. gooooodbye!”

You know all about the action that went down on the field, but I was so gratified to see my team blossom before my eyes as a juggernaut on both sides of the ball. 

Steve Smith? Erased. Those road-warrior Panthers? Reduced to quivering piss-stained wrecks by our smothering D and the assault of the 12th Man. Jake Delhomme? Don’t EVER claim he’s half the QB Hass is after that display of inept chucking and diving… The “soft” Seahawks? Ask Nick Going’s concussed brainpan about that one.

Every week, legions of reporters and opposing fans sound our death knell.. Every week, our opponents have been the ones feeling the bony hand of the football reaper on their shoulders… Pretty nice pattern, huh?

After the final kneel-down, grown men cried, including a little bit of misting up on my end.. Complete strangers hugged each other, and our howls of triumph cut through the damp Seattle night sky.

For 22 years I’ve waited for this, and it’s even better than all those scenarios I’ve imagined for years.

The best was yet to come... 8 years later.

1. 1/19/14 Seahawks 23. Niners 17
'The Tip" is the greatest play in team history, but what about "The Catch?" Earlier in the 4th quarter, with the Hawks trailing 17-13, Seattle faced a 4th-and-7 from the San Francisco 35. Thanks to NFL Films, we know that Pete Carroll considered a 52-yard field goal attempt, but Steven Hauschka didn't think he could connect from that distance. Russell Wilson was convinced he could get the Niners to jump offsides with a hard count, and Big Balls Pete decided to gamble in the biggest of spots. RW3 was prophetic, and the flag on SF gave Seattle a free play. Wilson took advantage, firing a RPG to Jermaine Kearse, who made the catch blanketed by a defender. Seattle took the lead for good, and here's what I wrote in this space about the game's dramatic conclusion:

There were three minutes and change left, and one more defensive stop would put the Seahawks in XLVIII. I was mentally and physically exhausted up in Section 325 by that point, but I somehow squeezed a few more minutes of noise out of my wheezing lungs. I'd love to tell you I was supremely confident, but as the Niners moved deeper and deeper into Seattle territory fright spread through my mind like an infection. Thoughts flashed through my head- Can I get out of the Stadium fast enough to avoid seeing those Emperors of Fucksville celebrate on our field? How would I get back to the light rail without talking to anyone? How depressing is my flight home going to be? Even as these thoughts clouded my mind, I yelled. I screamed. I roared. That was my only tether to some semblance of sanity.

My seats are up in the south end zone, next to the Twelfth Man Flag. They're not the best seats, but sometimes they give me a perspective you don't get watching on TV. With 30 seconds left, the Niners lined up at our 18-yard-line. From where I sat, I could see Richard Sherman was covering Michael Crabtree. Once the ball was snapped, Avril pressured Kaepernick into a slightly hurried throw and I thought "OH SHIT! He threw at Sherm!" For a split second, I thought Sherman would pick the ball off, but we all know what happened next: He somehow tipped the ball volleyball-style back to Malcolm Smith. Interception. Bedlam. 

In an instant I shifted from pre-emptive depression to the most boundless joy imaginable. The Seahawks win! The Seahawks beat the Niners! THE SEAHAWKS ARE GOING TO THE FUCKING SUPER BOWL!!!!! At the moment, I knew that I was experiencing the best it could EVER get at a Seahawks home game. This was it. This was better than my first game. It was better than being there for Steve Largent's last NFL game. It was better than the last regular season game at the Kingdome, or seeing Romo drop the snap, or even the 2005 NFC Championship Game. I have been at dozens of Seahawks home games over the last 30 years, but there's no way another game in Seattle will ever top the 2013 NFC Championship Game. The Hawks battled their fiercest rival with a Super Bowl berth on the line, and both teams played magnificently. With a huge chunk of the nation watching, the Seahawks (and the Twelve Army) prevailed and proved their quality. 

What do you think, Twelves? Did I get the rankings right? Let me know in the comments!

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