April 2, 2015

The 10 Most Traumatic Plays in Seahawks History

On Saturday I turn 40, which has put me in a reflective mood. Unfortunately, early April is also when I think about the death of Kurt Cobain, which makes me both reflective and depressed.

SIDEBAR: I was a freshman at Western in 1993-1994. I was already a Nirvana fan, but "In Utero" came out in the Fall of 1993 and became the oddly specific soundtrack of an intense friendship that curdled into obsession for me and then spectacularly, devastatingly disintegrated. Years later, when "You Know You're Right" was finally released, it seemed to be EXACTLY describing my headspace in the Spring of 1994. I'll never forget the day news broke of Kurt's death- I remember walking through the courtyard at the Fairhaven dorms, with people leaning out their windows wailing in rage and despair. Cobain wasn't just an incredibly talented musician- He was also someone who was a devoted feminist and anti-racist, and had very progressive views on gender identity for the late 80s/early 90s. So yeah... About this time every year a wave of sadness tends to wash over me.

Why not use it to be productive, then? Here's my list of the ten most traumatic SINGLE PLAYS in Seahawks history. I'm sure #1 will surprise no one, but let's take a stroll through the darkest passages of the Twelve Hive Mind anyway...

10. John Elway: Seattle Soul Eater
This one gets a spot on the list for its personal significance...

That friend I got obsessed with a couple paragraphs above? Well, I was going to take her to this Seahawks/Broncos dust-up in November 1993. At the very last minute, she told me that not only was she not going to the game with me, but that she would get a ride back to Bellingham with her new boyfriend.

SIDEBAR: With the benefit of maturity and hindsight, I know that I was a total shitheel about that whole situation. Thankfully her and I fleeced everything out a few years ago. 

I wish I could tell you that I took the news with grim stoicism and class. Nope. I had a panic attack and by the time I got my shit together, it was 9 am and I had to hustle to make it to the game by kickoff. For the first time, I'd be going to a game solo.

I hit Seattle about 12:30, and drove right into the gaping maw of pre-game traffic, which I usually missed by being ridiculously early. So I found myself sitting on the ramp off I-90, within sight of the Dome, gridlocked. I didn't get into the stadium until a few minutes into the first quarter, but there was no score yet.

I got to my seat in the 300 level, just in time to see the pivotal play of the game, and of Seattle's season. I hadn't even sat down yet... It was 3rd and long for Denver from midfield. 65,000 twelves combined to make a deafening roar, and it looked like Antonio Edwards was going to force a 3-and-out or a turnover with a vicious blindside hit on Mr. Ed...

Somehow, Elway pulled a Ben Kenobi, sensed his impending doom, ducked under Edwards and fired a perfect 50-yard TD strike to Shannon Sharpe. 7-0 Denver, but it felt like 70-0.

The Hawks would get it together, sacking Elway 4 times (including once for a safety) and picking him once, but once Rod Bernstine punched it in late in the 4th to make it 17-9 the game and Seattle's season was over (nope, no two-point conversions in the NFL until 1994, boys and girls).

The Seahawks would finish with a 1-4 Death March towards a disappointing 6-10 finish (yes, much better than 2-14 in 1992, but still a gut punch after a 5-5 start), while Denver once again made the playoffs. When you couple that play with what was going on in my personal life, that play is still one of my most unpleasant memories as a Seahawks fan.

9. Mike Harden's Dirty Hit on Steve Largent 
8. Curt Warner's Knee Injury in 1984 opener 
Steve Largent's REVENGE upon Mike Harden is rightfully legendary...

But back in week 1, Harden obliterated #80 with a late and dirty forearm that broke Largent's facemask and a handful of his milk-strengthened teeth as well. I honestly thought our best player might have just been killed on the field. It felt like Ivan Drago murdering Apollo Creed. It was awful.

Back in 1984, the Seahawks began the season with stratospheric expectations after reaching the AFC Championship Game the previous year. Rookie running back Curt Warner was a proto-Barry Sanders in his initial NFL campaign, and seemed set on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory. On Kickoff Weekend, Warner took a toss on a sweep near Cleveland's goal line. Without being touched, he collapsed in a heap. His ACL was shredded. Yes, the Hawks would have a great season anyway, going 12-4 and winning a playoff game. Yes, Warner would come back in 1985 and have multiple 1000-yard seasons and Pro Bowl appearances. But that injury robbed him (and the Seahawks) of quite a few triumphant moments.

7. Shawn McDonald's OT TD to Finish Off Epic Seattle Collapse 
6. Bobby Engram's Dropped TD in 2004 NFC Wild Card Game
Two from the unspeakably gruesome 2004 season!

First, the biggest 4th-quarter collapse in franchise history: For 54 minutes, the Seahawks dominated the defending NFC West Champion Rams. They led 27-10. Shaun Alexander shredded the St. Louis defense for 150 yards and the defense forced three Marc Bulger interceptions. Then, it was like a switch got flipped- Seattle's offense became a 3-and-out machine, and the defense absolutely could not stop St. Louis' air attack. 27-10 became 27-17, 27-24 and then 27-27 before millions of stunned Twelves could comprehend what was happening. In overtime, Shaun McDonald hauled in a 52-yard Bulger TD and the implosion was complete. Even though I was a 29-year-old semi-adult, I collapsed into a sobbing heap after that play.

Just over two months later, Seattle would meet the Rams in the NFC Wild Card Game. The Hawks came out oddly flat and fell behind 14-3. Shaun Alexander disappeared, only scratching out 40 yards on the ground, but Hasselbeck and Jackson were magnificent- Matthew scorched the Rams for 341 yards passing, 128 of which were snagged by D-Jack. Once again, the Seahawks would fight back and lead 20-17 in the final quarter. Once again, the defense would squander that lead. Hasselbeck, Jackson and the rest of the Seahawks sprinted downfield on a desperate final drive, trailing 27-20. They'd reach the St. Louis 5-yard-line before stalling. 4th Down. Hasselbeck would avoid pressure and chuck a little sidearm toss at Bobby Engram. It wasn't the easiest catch to make, but it was one you have to make in the playoffs.

Engram didn't. Game over. Season over.

5. Fredd Young's OT interception waved off in Wild Card loss at Houston
In the 1987 AFC Wild Card game, the Hawks were severely outplayed for about 58 minutes. After a missed Houston FG gave the Hawks the ball down by seven in the waning moments, Dave Krieg led an amazing TD drive that included a 4th and 10 conversion BY INCHES on a diving Steve Largent snag, a long bomb to Ray Butler and the tying score on a lazer-beam strike to Largent. This was probably the single greatest performance of #80's career: 7 catches for 132 yards and both Seattle touchdowns. Largent had more impressive statistical performances, but none on a bigger stage, and none with the team's main offensive weapon (Curt Warner) sidelined with an injury.

In overtime, All-Pro linebacker Fredd Young picked off a deflected Warren Moon pass deep in Oilers territory. Unfortunately, the INT was waved off and declared incomplete despite clear visual evidence that the ball never touched the astroturf. There was no Instant Replay in 1987, and this would just be start of a long and traumatic relationship between the Seattle Seahawks NFL officiating incompetence. On the next Seattle possession, Krieg would throw a pick, setting up the Oilers in our territory. Tony Zendejas wouldn't miss again, and I retreated to my room to cry out the cruel end of a promising season.

4. Vinny Testaverde's Phantom Touchdown
The 1998 Seahawks were 6-6 and fighting not only for their playoff lives, but to keep Coach Dennis Erickson employed. They played their best game of the year, on the road, at 10 am Seattle time, and against the playoff-bound Jets. All they had to do to hold on to a 31-26 season-defining, coach-saving victory was to stop the Jets on 4th and goal... and they did.

Until uber-dipshit official Phil Luckett signaled touchdown. Later, he would say that he thought that Testaverde's helmet was the ball. I was so incensed that I broke numerous items in my tiny Bellingham apartment. Seattle would limp to 8-8, and Dennis Erickson would get canned.

Two very important things happened because of this game. The NFL brought back Instant Replay, and Paul Allen hired Mike Holmgren to run and coach the Seahawks. In the end, it all worked out- But I'll never forget the rage and hopelessness I felt that day.


3. "We Want The Ball And We're Gonna Score."
When Matt Hasselbeck uttered those fateful words after Seattle won the coin toss to start overtime of the 2003 NFC Wild Card Game against Green Bay, I honestly thought "Cool! That's our Hass! Bad ass!"

After his pass intended for Alex Bannister was intercepted by Al Harris and returned for a season-murdering score, Beck's boast won immortal infamy. Oh well... We kinda returned the favor last January.

Squarsies, Cheeseheads?

2. Ticky-Tack Holing Call on Sean Locklear in Super Bowl XL derails Seattle Comeback 
As the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XL began, the Seahawks only trailed 14-10. Despite playing in a unprecedentedly hostile environment for a Super Bowl and being hamstrung by incompetent, frightened, and intimidated officiating, Seattle was in the midst of what seemed destined to be a 98-yard go-ahead touchdown drive. Matt Hasselbeck delivered a strike to Jerramy Stevens to set up the Hawks on Pittsburgh's 1-yard line. Surely NFL MVP Shaun Alexander would punch it in on the next play and Seattle would pull away for the franchise's first Championship. Mike Holmgren would become the first coach to win Super Bowls with two different franchises. Matt Hasselbeck would instantly be considered an "elite" quarterback. Everything would change, forever.

Then you noticed the flag.

Sean Locklear got flagged for holding. Was it technically holding? Maybe. Would it have been called against the Steelers that day? No fucking way. On the next play Hasselbeck threw a crushing interception, and Pittsburgh exploited their advantage with the officials and the limitations of Etric Pruitt to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy.


1. Malcom Butler's Interception in Super Bowl XLIX
Ugh. I really didn't want to watch this again. I don't really want to THINK about it ever again. Here's what I said strolling through the debris field of our collective shattered minds two months ago:

On Sunday night and into Monday, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone enraged that Carroll didn't just give it to Shawn at the 1-yard-line. I'm glad I waited to write about the game until now, though. For one thing, I didn't fall into the trap of espousing dipshit conspiracy theories about the play call (Sidebar: If there was a conspiracy to get Wilson the MVP instead of Lynch, why was Shawn's number called on first down?). Beyond that, upon reflection, calling a pass on 2nd down in that situation made a LOT of sense.

It's natural to become obsessed with that fateful play. We were one yard away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. We were one yard away from football immortality. What if Bevell had called a fade to Matthews to the back corner? What if Russell had pulled it down and just walked into the end zone? What if Lockette had fought a little harder for the ball? What if it was an ever-so-slightly more accurate pass? It's so easy to tumble into that bottomless rabbit hole. 

I did. I'm still kinda there. Aren't you, too? The Jimmy Graham trade helped, and my mental state will improve greatly once the games start again in September. However, we all know the only cure for this malady will be another Super Bowl victory. Even then, it will be incredibly hard to avoid the nagging notion that we were ONE YARD AWAY from back-to-back World Championships.

Two out of three won't be bad, though... :)

What do you think, sirs? Any big omissions on my part?


it's all in D Hans said...

100% in agreement with your top three. Realized how much I have missed reading your blog during this offseason.

Am truly looking forward to this next season. I am hoping that Pete and John aggressively draft some athletic offensive linemen who Tom Cable can coach to consistently "paving the road" through defenses this year. I am excited to see many implementations of two TE sets, and believe that this will be the key to turning our offense into the juggernaut that we believe it can be. Want to see the Wilson-to-Willson connection emerge just as much as I want to see Wilson-to-Graham unleash nuclear bombs on defensive schemes. I would love to see the Beast setting career marks and securing the league MVP in a dominant fashion, but I would also like to see Turbin and Michael chalk up some yardage so that defenses have to stay honest in every offensive formation. And I want to the see our defense firmly establish their dominance in the annals of the league history.

Yes, this is an epic time to be a Seahawk fan. On a side note, my 5-year-old son has been trying to establish some autonomy by liking some other NFL teams (Dolphins & Cheifs.) When I asked him why, he told me "I'm just used to seeing the Seahawks win all of the time, Dad." My, oh my - hasn't our fandom changed since Pete came back to the NFL.

Gilbertsen said...

Bosworth getting run over by Bo makes my top 10. Oh, and pretty much any play that ended with Ken Behring shown on the sidelines.