Leading up to Sunday’s NFC Championship game the city of Seattle was electric. For the first time in franchise history, the Seahawks were on the verge of going to back to back Super Bowls. They were the home team, with the frenzied “12th man.” Most reporters and annalists had all but written off the Green Bay Packers as having no hope of winning. For the first 55 minutes of the game, the Packers were making everyone eat their words. When all hope seemed lost for Seattle, the improbable happened and the Seahawks shocked the NFL world.
Through out the entire 2014 season, Russell Wilson had thrown only seven interceptions. In the biggest game of the season, he threw four. Four interceptions in the NFC Championship game, down 16-0 at half time, fans were losing hope. All four interception came on throws to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Three of the four went right off Kearse’s hands. Packers rookie safety, Haha Clinton-Dix snagged two of them in the first half.
Down 16 points and facing a fourth down, the Seahawks brought out their field goal unit to at least get some points on the board. Punter, Jon Ryan took the snap and rolled to the left side. Coach Pete Carroll had dialed up a trick play. As Ryan ran left, the first down only a few yards away, he saw a wide open blue jersey. Ryan heaved the ball down field into the arms of Garry Gilliam in the end zone. The Seahawks first points of the game belonged to the punter and a lineman.
The Packers scored yet again, making it 19-7. The crowd was stunned. Far from silent, but stunned. The thought of back to back Super Bowls now seemed out of reach. As the clock was winding down, some fans had had enough and were filing for the exits.
In the 2013 NBA Finals, one of the most iconic videos played was of the fans outside the American Airlines arena. As the Heat were down by 5 with only 27 seconds left on the in-game clock, six fans exited. Ray Allen sank one of the most clutch three-point shots in Finals history. As the Heat were coming back, the fans banged on doors to be let back in. They knew they had lost faith and were about to miss history. The Heat won game 6 and blew out the Spurs in-game 7 to win back to back NBA Finals.
The fans outside Century Link Field are more than likely going to have that same sick feeling in their stomachs when they think about what was missed. With 2:13 left on the clock Wilson scrambled across the goal line, bringing the Hawks within five points, 19-14.
With so little time left on the clock, the Seahawks needed to recover an onside kick. After Wilson’s fourth interception the odds of the Seahawks winning the game were down to .1% Less than a single percent. As the Packers lined up to secure the ball on the onside kick, the crowd was alive yet again. The ball bounced off a Packer and into the waiting arms of Chris Mathews.
With time no longer a major factor, the Seahawks were set up to take the lead for the first time in the game. Wilson scrambled for 15 yards. After a hand off to Marshawn Lynch and a short pass to tight end Luke Willson, the ground was about to shake. With 1:33 left on the clock, Lynch is handed the ball, he breaks free for a 24 yard touchdown run and the stadium erupted. Leading 20-19 with under two minutes left in the game, the fans were ecstatic.
Unfortunately for many, the memory of the 2012 Divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, seemed all too real. In that game, the Hawks came back from a huge deficit, to have Lynch score the go ahead touchdown with 32 seconds remaining. Matt Ryan then lead the Falcons down the field and they were able to kick the game winning field goal as the clock expired.
The Seahawks would not let that happen on this day. The team lined up to go for the two point conversion. As Wilson rolled out of the pocket to his right, nothing but white Packer jerseys were surrounding him. In a play that seemed to take eternity to unfold, Wilson threw the ball all the way back across the field. Standing there watching it, was Clinton-dix. Instead of batting it down, Willson came up and made the easy catch. The Seahawks had come back from 16 points, and now lead the NFC Championship 22-19.
Aaron Rodgers did what he does best. Rodgers lead the Packers down and were able to kick the tying field goal and send the game into overtime. Rodgers will likely be the MVP of the league this year for his stellar performance all season long.
The Packers called heads on the coin toss, it was tails. Even the coin seemed to be on the Seahawks side now. Still the fans outside tried to get back into the stadium, but were forced to watch on monitors outside.
On third down Wilson threw to his favorite target, Doug Baldwin. Baldwin hauled in the pass to convert the first down and pick up the 35 yard gain. On the next play Wilson went back to Kearse. Four interceptions and an incomplete pass to Kearse summed up how that had worked out on this day. With the season on the line, Wilson connected with Kearse by dropping a dime right into Kearse’s waiting arms. 35 yards later, Kearse was tackled in the endzone. The Seahawks had just finished the largest comeback in NFC Championship history.
As the confetti fell from the sky, Wilson was overcome by the emotion and could not hold back his tears. Kearse threw the game winning ball into the crowd in excitement. Baldwin had some very choice words for the media and fans who doubted this team, and Michael Bennett took a Seattle Police officer’s bike for a joyride around the stadium. The Seahawks will play in their second straight Super Bowl on February 1 against the New England Patriots.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Duncan McAlynn –Flickr License