‘Hawks and Awe: Conference Championship Recap

NFL Recap Header

A wild and crazy Championship weekend has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks’ win over the Packers, and … that’s pretty much it.


 

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Will: Holy crap what a weekend. We have a lot to cover, most of which will make our resident Seahawk fan very happy. So without further ado: What do you think about these Patriots ball-deflating allegations?!

I kid, I kid. That game was as compelling as Shark v. Minnow. Today’s discussion will be dominated by the Seahawks’ improbable, ridiculous, bonkers comeback win over the Packers at CenturyLink Field. The ‘Hawks overcame five turnovers—including four Russell Wilson interceptions—and a 16-point deficit to triumph in overtime.

Seattle scored its first points on a fake field goal wherein the punter threw a touchdown to a rookie offensive lineman. Russell found his mojo in the fourth quarter and scored on a one-yard run to complete a 69-yard touchdown drive. They recovered the following onside kick when Packers tight end Brandon Bostick saw the ball bounce off of his helmet and into the hands of Seattle receiver Chris Matthews.

The Seahawks—who scored one touchdown in the game’s first 58 minutes—took just 44 seconds to complete their third scoring drive, which culminated in Marshawn Lynch rumbling to paydirt from 24 yards out. They completed the two-point conversion when a pressured, scrambling Russell lobbed hopefully across the field to Luke Willson. Packers safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, who had intercepted two passes already, was unable to make a play on the pass that seemed to stay in the air for minutes, and Seattle was three points clear.

Alas! They left nearly a minute and a half on the clock, and Aaron Rodgers guided the Packers into field goal range. Mason Crosby did well to hit from 48 yards with 14 seconds remaining, and the game went to overtime, which immediately brought Matt Hasselbeck’s infamous coin toss call and ensuing pick-six to mind.

The Seahawks, captained by Tarvaris Jackson (???), won the toss, and scored in little more than three minutes when Russell floated a perfect ball down the seam for Doug Baldwin, who reeled it in despite Tramon Williams’ blanket coverage.

Holy hell. Let’s start with the basics: How you feelin’?

Derek: I’m glad this didn’t run until Tuesday, because I was truly speechless. Here’s a string of my text messages from the beginning of overtime until the final touchdown:

katalk1

Note the time stamp, as the game started at 5 a.m. here in Korea. I’m not saying the fact that I barely slept definitely contributed, but it’s likely. It was so surreal. After every big Seahawks win or loss, I could have said something. Instead, I sent incomprehensible text messages and crafted tweets so insightful I should charge for them.

I’m aware that people are down on Seahawks fans at the moment. People have told me, more than once, to my face, “I’d like the Seahawks more if it weren’t for their fans.” I get it, as bandwagon fans will ruin anything. People joke that Seahawks fans call themselves “12’s” because they started cheering for the team in 2012. Well, I own a Rick Mirer jersey, I used to worship Chris Warren, and I once thought Cortez Kennedy could be president because of hist last name. Maybe some of those 2012 Seahawks fans (WHO DESERVE EVERYTHING THEY GET) were able to maintain their standing as functional human beings but I, in some sort of football-life-before-my-eyes flashback, thought back on every relevant Seahawks game of my lifetime. Some of it gave me hope. Most of it made me behave as though I was bracing for an oncoming train. The following games—

January 7, 2000 — Dolphins 20, Seahawks 17: My introduction to playoff heartbreak. The final game at the Kingdome, which imploded much like my will to live threatened to do.

January 4, 2004 — Packers 33, Seahawks 27 (OT): My true introduction to playoff heartbreak. Thanks for showing that game-ending interception again, FOX. That’s what I needed to see right before overtime. Pricks.

December 6, 2004 — Cowboys 43, Seahawks 39: I vividly remember this game because it was Jerry Rice’s final great game. It was on Monday Night Football, and John Madden was glowing about Rice, naming him player of the game, which was definitely decided because the Seahawks held a 10 point lead with less than two minutes to go. Whoops. That’s probably more of the reason why I remember it.

January 8, 2005 — Rams 27, Seahawks 20: The only playoff game the Seahawks lost at CenturyLink Field (then Qwest Field). Bobby Engram dropped the tying touchdown pass as time expired. It was so close that I started celebrating for a few seconds before I realized it was incomplete.

February 5, 2006 — Super Bowl XL: Did you know Bill Leavy was one of the four referees up to call the Super Bowl this year? My fists and windows are glad that didn’t come to pass.

January 6, 2007 — Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20: Woo, a good one! Remember when Tony Romo fumbled that snap? Maybe the Packers will do something atrocious too! But …

January 14, 2007 — Bears 27, Seahawks 24 (OT): … the Seahawks lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the eventual NFC Champion Bears the next week.

January 12, 2008 — Packers 42, Seahawks 20: The Seahawks were up 14-0 just four minutes into this game, and proceeded to get their asses kicked for the next 56 minutes! Maybe this game is Bizarro 2008 Packers-Seahawks!

January 6, 2013 — Seahawks 24, Redskins 14: We were getting killed, then came back! We’ll do it again!

January 13, 2013 — Falcons 30, Seahawks 28: We were getting killed, then came back! Then blew it and it felt horrible. This is the reason why I showed no emotion when the Seahawks went ahead in the 4th quarter.

September 29, 2013 — Seahawks 23, Texans 20 (OT): We were getting killed, then came back!

—raced through my head throughout the game, as I alternated between stages of grief, fear, anger, hope, and euphoria in the span of three hours. People seem to forget this because of the Super Bowl last year, but being a Seahawks fan was not very fun for a long time. They always found some creatively horrifying way to get bounced from the playoffs. I’m not going to spend too much time complaining to a Browns fan (Will’s note: thank you), but it wasn’t fun. The only playoff loss I didn’t mention was the loss to the Bears in 2011 the week after beating the Saints in the Beast Quake game. That loss was expected and went about the way it should have gone. The other playoff exits were excruciating. I have a little mental photo of sadness for each one.

Yet, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have been a second half team all the way. I thought for sure the comeback was coming. But then, turnover after turnover, failure after failure, I kept thinking back to those other games, wondering what particular image of defeat would stick with me after this one.

Then it all changed, and I can’t explain how. So many times, in life and especially in sports, you find yourself in a situation where you look up at the sky and say, “just this once.” And it barely ever happens. The Hail Mary falls incomplete. The full-court shot misses. The 15 laterals turn into a circus. Most sports fans have had so many that they’ve forgotten them. Some have never tasted that success at all, and maybe never will. My team got several of those moments back-to-back in the same game.

confetti

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

So, how am I feeling? I feel like a kid who’s going to Disney World tomorrow. There have been times over the last couple of days when I wasn’t thinking about the Seahawks. Maybe I was working, or cooking, or feeding my dog. But at some point, I remember the game, and I grin like the Cheshire Cat. I’m doing it right now. It’s awesome. We’re going back to the Super Bowl. I wish I could understand my brain well enough to know why this makes me so happy.

Will: Did you believe? Did your conviction waver? Can you print what you were feeling at halftime without a NC-17 rating?

Derek: Fueled by the historic list of games above, it was a potent cocktail of belief and the expectation of inevitable crippling disappointment. I never gave up hope (especially not enough to LEAVE THE &#%!@?! GAME EARLY) but my expectation of victory eroded rapidly. They couldn’t get anything going. They weren’t just turning the ball over, but they were doing it in their own territory. They really had no business winning this game. I think the Seahawks are the better team regardless, but they did everything in their power to give it away. My belief only became rational after the folly of poor, poor Brandon Bostick.

Will: I feel absolutely awful for him. Few fans knew his name before yesterday, and now he is being pilloried for his role in the Packers’ defeat. It turns out that he wasn’t even supposed to go for the ball. He was a designated blocker on the play but couldn’t resist the temptation of the falling pigskin. What are your thoughts on his gaffe?

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Derek: I go back and forth on his role in the onside kick recovery. I understand his thought process, but I also understand those who get on him for not doing his job. It’s tough to say what’s correct when the ball is coming right at you like that.

It wasn’t all his fault, though I’m sure he’s going to receive Bill Buckner status in Green Bay. Like Buckner, it’s unfair to pin it all on Bostick. He didn’t settle for two field goals inside the Seahawks one-yard line. It’s not his fault the Packers couldn’t capitalize on the Seahawks playing about as poorly as I could imagine them playing. Aaron Rodgers didn’t play great (19/34, 178 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) and his stat line was better than Russell Wilson’s (14/29, 209 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT), which would have looked a lot worse were it not for the fourth quarter and overtime. The Seahawks gave them so many points, and Green Bay just wouldn’t take them. The Packers didn’t lose that game because the backup tight end (two receptions for three yards this season!) made a bad play. Sadly, that’s what he’ll be remembered for. He doesn’t deserve it.

Will: What changed for Seattle? Were they throwing too much too soon? Did the shift to the ground game help Russell settle in?

Derek: I really can’t say. The Packers just wouldn’t capitalize on the Seahawks’ assortment of mistakes. It’s tough to blame the gameplan when guys are fumbling kick returns and receivers are knocking passes straight in the air to be intercepted. The play-calling was questionable at times, but I often feel that way about Darrell Bevell. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was getting mentioned for head coaching jobs at this time last year but wasn’t brought up once this year.

He’ll call a few plays a game that make him look like a genius, then goes a full quarter where it seems like he’s calling plays while texting and driving at the same time. I blame him when he calls three straight bubble screens for six yards, but I couldn’t blame him for what happened for most of the game. The players just weren’t taking care of the ball. They had 14 turnovers all season, then had four in the first half. I can’t pinpoint one specific shift.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Maybe Mike McCarthy was brainwashed years ago, then someone whispered the code word in his ear and he began throwing the game without knowing it? That’s the only explanation. He was a tactical septic tank.

Will: Where does this rank on the all-time list of holy crap that actually happened games?

Derek: It’s certainly the number one Seahawk game of all time, and arguably number one on my list of personal favorites. That’s saying something, since I didn’t think anything would ever touch Appalachian State beating Michigan (Ed’s note: Derek is an App State grad).

Thinking back on NFL games, the most recent example was The Rahim Moore Game, when his abysmal pass defense sparked the Ravens’ upset of the Broncos in the playoffs two years ago. But the Seahawks-Packers game had a play like that, when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix somehow allowed Luke Willson to catch what ended up being a crucial two-point conversion. And they may not have even been the craziest play of the game. Look at this paragraph from Bill Barnwell’s piece on the championship games:

When Wilson had his fourth interception of the day bounce off Jermaine Kearse’s fingertips and into Morgan Burnett’s hands with 5:04 left, the Packers were up by 12 points and had the ball near midfield. ESPN Stats & Information estimates that Seattle’s chances of winning in that exact situation were a lowly 3.9 percent. Take the team with the best point differential in NFL post-merger history, the 2007 Patriots, and have it travel back in time to take on the worst team in post-merger history, the 1976 Buccaneers, in Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ chances of winning that game per the log5 method are 4.3 percent, narrowly better than where the Seahawks stood with a little more than five minutes to go.

WHAT?! That’s mind-blowing. And let’s not discount that Richard Sherman hyperextended his elbow and Earl Thomas was playing with a dislocated shoulder. Per Peter King:

Thomas left the game with a subluxed shoulder, an injury defined by the shoulder bone slipping out of the joint, and came back in the second half with the shoulder in a harness—and then whacked Eddie Lacy with that same shoulder on a hard tackle. “I’m a man, man,” Thomas said.

No, this game has so many stories, I can’t think of any particular game topping it. We haven’t even discussed the weird role Canada played. Canadian punter Jon Ryan threw a touchdown pass. Canadian tight end Luke Willson caught the two-point conversion. Chris Matthews, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2012, recovered the onside kick. Thanks, Canada. A few more of those and I’ll forgive you for the final hockey game of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

ryan throw

How would you rank it?

Will: I might be able to come up with another answer if I really dug into the record books, but this is the most unreal game I’ve ever seen. There are other games with improbable and huge comebacks, but the Seahawks looked like such crap for the first 50 minutes. I thought they were absolutely done. They were down 16-0 at the half and 19-7 with less than four minutes left. Even if they score here, I thought as they drove for their second touchdown, no way they get the onside kick and score again.

But they did exactly that, and the remaining crowd came roaring back online. The stadium was rocking, and the Packers were rocked. The Seahawks scored the go-ahead touchdown on just four plays. It took Green Bay seven to get the tying field goal. The game was ostensibly still in doubt going into overtime, but in retrospect a Seahawk victory seemed inevitable.

The part from which I am taking the most schadenfreude is that Mike McCarthy’s pansy play-calling cost his team the game. There are no guarantees when trying to convert a fourth down, but the Packers faced fourth-and-goal from the Seattle one-yard line twice in the first quarter, and both times kicked field goals. If you believe in football gods and karmic residue, then Green Bay deserved to lose that game. I do, and they did.

I didn’t much care for the Seahawks’ postgame words, least of all the implication that God won them the game, but I’ll leave that bit of snark to the professionals.

It was just nuts. Absolutely bizarre. I’ve never seen anything like it. As a neutral observer, it was fantastic. I can’t imagine what it felt like for you. Congrats, sir.

Um, anything to say about Colts-Pats?

Derek: Nah. That one went as planned. The Super Bowl should be fun for people who aren’t psychotic fans of one of the teams like I am. Something historic will happen either way. If the Patriots win, Brady and Belichick cement their legacy as the modern day Walsh and Montana. If the Seahawks win, they become back-to-back champions in a time when that is thought to be impossible. Russell Wilson would win two Super Bowls before the end of his third season and Pete Carroll would become the first coach to win multiple titles in both college and the pros.

Also, I hope they give sufficient replays every time Chancellor is covering Gronk.

Any particular Super Bowl matchups you’re looking forward to?

Will: Gronk-Chancellor is definitely the main event. I hope one of their collisions breaks at least one of Newton’s laws of motion. The undercard is decidedly less thrilling. While both teams have standout cornerbacks, the opposing receivers don’t move the needle much; Julian Edelman and Doug Baldwin, anybody? Vince Wilfork vs. the Seattle offensive line will be important, if you’re the sort who enjoys focusing on linemen, and the same goes for the Seahawk pass rush vs. the New England o-line.

There aren’t many individual clashes I’m anticipating, but the whole game is brilliant on paper. These two teams truly look like the class of the NFL. I haven’t looked forward to a Super Bowl this much in ages, and again, I have zero rooting interest.

The gambling line movement has been fascinating. The numbers are different depending on the source, but this story says that the line opened at Seattle -2.5, was bet down to a pick ’em within an hour, and now some sports books have New England -1. God help all the gamblers out there.

It’s been a stupendous month of football. Here’s to hoping that the final game is even 10 percent as good as this one.


One Comment on “‘Hawks and Awe: Conference Championship Recap”

  1. Kimberly Norton says:

    Great look at that game. And your heart is still working properly?

    Like


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