January 11, 2016

Seahawks 10, Vikings 9

The best team won.

The team that gained more yards? They won.

The team that held the league's best running back to 45 yards on 23 carries? They won.

The team that fought back from a 9-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road not only in a hostile environment, but in one unfit for human habitation? They won.

The team with the better quarterback, whose improvisational skills turned a broken play into a season-saving masterpiece? They won.

The team with the receiver that did this? They won.                                                                                                            

The team with the future Hall-of-Fame safety who did this? They won. 

Sure, Blair Walsh should have made that kick. But that miss didn't take place on a holodeck. It happened in the most pressure-packed of situations- and not long after Richard Sherman came within nanometers of blocking an earlier kick. Snapper, holder and kicker were all likely thinking about that. The entire battery felt the weight of that moment. And they collapsed, burying Minnesota's season in frigid, jagged rubble. 

The popular imagination wants to distill the entire result down to that single moment, ignoring what the Seahawks did in order to be up by one with seconds remaining. The only Minnesota points on Sunday came after Seahawks miscues set the Vikings up with great field position. It would have been ridiculously easy for any visiting team playing in Sunday's inhumane, laughable conditions to fold after what befell the Seahawks early on. Lesser teams could have reacted to ANY ONE of a botched punt, a failed 4th-down conversion, or a 3rd-quarter drive-killing interception with slow-motion surrender. ALL THREE of those things happened to the Hawks, on top of their superstar running back (Marshawn Lynch) suddenly taking himself out of the starting line up on Friday. 

Negative six degrees. Down by nine. No Beast. No hope, right? 

There was a moment where even I thought "Shit. It's over." Early 4th quarter. The shotgun snap flies right past Russell Wilson's head and skitters 15 yards in the wrong direction. The prudent play? Fall on the ball. Even that probably would have been a drive-killer, and would have ended up burning precious minutes off the clock before Seattle got the ball back. With FIVE Vikings defenders closing, RW3 got up off the ground, scrambled right, and fired a pass downfield to Tyler Lockett an instant before getting absolutely blasted. 35-yard gain. Seattle was in position to score the games's lone touchdown. After Wilson once again found Doug Baldwin in the end zone, the Hawks were within 2. 

The Vikings decided to rely on their one true superstar to close out the win. They went to Adrian Peterson on the next two plays. Peterson is one of the best rushing talents the NFL has ever seen, but for the 2nd time in just over a month, he was absolutely embarrassed by the Legion of Boom. Kam Chancellor straight-up stole the ball out of Peterson's grip and set up Seattle for the go-ahead field goal (a 46-yarder absolutely DRILLED by Steven Hauschka- with assists from Clint Gresham and a bloodied-but unbowed Jon Ryan). 

The teams traded punts until the final two minutes. One more defensive stop would send the Seahawks to Charlotte for the NFC Divisional Playoff. Then a questionable pass interference call against Kam. Then Chancellor got beat by Kyle Rudolph to set the Vikings up well within Blair Walsh's range. I sank. I fell silent. I started composing the blogging equivalent of a concession speech in my head. The best-case scenario felt like getting the ball back with 20 seconds left and no time-outs. No chance. 

But the defense realized something I didn't: If they allowed a touchdown, defeat would be ensured. Hold them to a field goal try, and there was some tiny probability of survival. One last time, the Seattle defenders rose up, and they stopped Peterson just short of the sticks on 3rd down. Next, the formality of Walsh's winning kick. 

Here's a great article about why Walsh missed... The images will stay stamped into our brainpans forever: Sherm collapsed on the field. John Schneider kissing Pete Carroll and all but saying "Keep it. It suits you." Mike Morgan sprinting, arms splayed outward, in triumph. Michael Bennett standing in stunned silence after perhaps the best performance of his dominant career.  

Victory. Once again, Pete Carroll's Seahawks found some way to win when most of America was watching. For reference, here I am before the game, compared to right after Walsh's miss: 

I've seen some crazy shit in my 32 years of Twelving. I've seen last second wins at Arrowhead. I've seen Jay Feeley miss FOUR field goals in the 4th quarter and OT. I've seen Romo drop the snap. I've seen BeastQuakes. I've seen the greatest 4th-quarter comeback in NFC Championship Game history. If these Seahawks go on to win the Super Bowl, Walsh's miss will go down as one of the most important moments in franchise history... But NEVER forget this: This was a game the Seahawks RICHLY deserved to win. 

It's off to North Carolina to play the Paper Panthers, who have seemed ripe for a beatdown for the last few weeks. Bobby Wagner and Jeremy Lane didn't play when Charlotte edged us back in October, and Seattle's offense wasn't the mutant juggernaut it evolved into over the second half of the season. 

I'm ready for this. So are the Seahawks. It will be a meat-grinder of a game, and a stomach-churning three-plus hours for all us 12s- But Seattle will survive and advance. Why? 

Because the best team is going to win. 

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Nathaniel Hester said...

Just wondering why Pete decided to go for it on 4th down in the first half..twice. One of them was 4th and 13. Not sure why they didn't just punt it away and pin Minnesota deep.
What the hell was wrong with the longsnapper? It's a good thing Ryans quick thinking allowed him to see that if he tried to kick it would have been blocked. I hope he doesn't try to leap over defenders ever again...i mean never..ever...again. what's up with marshawn? I know alot of people might not like this but I think he really fucked his team over by waiting until Friday to tell them he wasn't ready to go. I think Michael would have got more snaps during the week and been better prepared on Sunday. Just a few things about the game that I didn't like..that being said I can't wait until this weekend when we play Carolina and knock the most arrogant and obnoxious player out of the playoffs. I'm really looking forward to it.

Nathaniel Hester said...

Also want to say your writing is 100 times better than the stuff I read on msn sports.

Coop said...

You and my husband have been Hawks fans for about the same amount of years. I've only been watching them closely since I got married (5 yrs now). All I've seen is crazy shyte! But everything you've said is right on the money. This was a game they truly deserved to win. This was a game where the better team won. Not sure if you saw/heard Cowherd's response to a Minny fan, how the fan said "Seahawks got *lucky*" and yet, all the numbers supported Seahawks winning. This is SO CRAZY. Is it Sunday yet?!?? SEA!!! ...

Richard Lester said...

I have been a fan of the Hawks since 1986 when as a 5th grade boy living in the middle of rural Alaska I used to live and die by the results of the Seahawks weekly matchup. After living in both Seattle and Alaska I am back living in rural Alaska and the long winters are made a little more bearable by looking forward to watching the Seahawks every Sunday. It is a family event every Sunday as I married a girl from Seattle who is a huge Seahawks fan also and we traumatize our young daughters by screaming and yelling for 3.5 hours on Sunday. As a kid growing up TV reception was touch and go depending on weather conditions and now we have Direct TV so we get all the games in HD and we have flat screen TV's in both the living room and the kitchen and my wife and I were each watching in different areas because of course we started doing this in the 4th qtr and the Hawks were rolling so we stayed with it and the feeling of despair before the kick and the elation after was almost visible in the air as we streaked back and forth hugging and falling to the ground much like the real Seahawks on the field. I only tell this long dragged out story to illustrate how this team brings people together for a common cause and a clear cut goal if only for 3.5 hours a week and I just want as many weeks of this type of joy as possible because let me tell you when the season ends you realize IT IS the middle of January and every day until spring is like it was last Sunday in Minnesota. I truly feel confident in the Hawks being able to go in and win at Carolina on Sunday and I didn't feel that way before the Minnesota game because living in a place like Alaska you realize the cold cripples you and takes your mind to a pure survival mode and that levels any difference in talent between the two teams I think the best illustration of that was after the TD pass to Baldwin when you saw Pete Carroll hugging and smiling Russell Wilson just had a vacant fuck this is cold and miserable look on his face. I think when the Hawks step on the field every game from here on out will feel downhill after surviving the brutal conditions of Minnesota and just beating their opponents will be the easy part.