Matt Calkins: A missed field goal was the difference, but the Seahawks made plays on both sides of the ball, turning a cold, ugly game into a hard-fought victory for Seattle.
MINNEAPOLIS — Let’s start by explaining what happened on that final play: The Seahawks got lucky.
It wasn’t destiny. It wasn’t divine intervention. It was Mother Nature briefly making way for Lady Luck.
Still, you can’t ignore how Seattle put itself in position for that stroke of good fortune to matter. What’s that Thomas Jefferson quote again? “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
There is no doubt that the Seahawks put in the work in their 10-9 NFC wild-card playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. They endured subzero temperatures, overcame a three-quarter scoring drought, and silenced more than 50,000 purple-clad fans.
Aesthetically-speaking, the game had all the appeal of an ’85 Yugo. But as far as resilience goes, this was one of the team’s finer hours.
Consider that, two days before kickoff, running back Marshawn Lynch was ruled out, thus putting the offensive onus on Russell Wilson. Also consider that the game-time temperature of minus 6 degrees put the passing attack in handcuffs.
So when Minnesota was up 9-0 early in the fourth quarter, it appeared that January 10 was going to be the final day of the Seahawks’ season. Instead, it was a day none of them may ever forget.
“Any other team would have wavered or started to get down on each other, but we never did,” Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “We kept believing.”
That said, it’s a tad easier to believe when your quarterback finished the season with the best passer rating in the NFL. Wilson has been the game’s most effective signal-caller for the past two months and, as Cowboys and Steelers fans will tell you, has shown a flair for delivering in the clutch. Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said that, early in the fourth quarter, he and cornerback Jeremy Lane were saying, “Come on, Russ, take over.”
Take over he did. Even though he almost had to take cover.
In a sequence no other quarterback in the league could have replicated, Wilson tracked down a bad snap that flew 10 yards past him, eluded a herd of Vikings, and completed a 35-yard pass to Tyler Lockett — who was stopped at the 4. Two plays later, Seattle scored.
If the Seahawks make another Super Bowl run, that bit of wizardry will be a hallmark moment in the Legend of Russell. But the fourth-quarter heroics weren’t limited to the offense.
Even though Seattle didn’t allow a touchdown Sunday, it looked like the Vikings’ trio of field goals would be damaging enough. But two plays after Wilson’s TD pass, Chancellor stripped Adrian Peterson and watched defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin recover the fumble for the Seahawks at the Vikings’ 40.
It was a signature play for a team that realized simply waiting to get the ball back wasn’t going to fly at that point in the game. They had to take it. And seven plays later, they took the lead as well.
“That was a prime example of guys just giving it all up for each other until the last whistle,” said safety Earl Thomas, adding that his hands and feet were numb the entire game. “We never gave up and fought until the end.”
Of course, what happened after Steven Hauschka’s go-ahead field goal wasn’t an epic Seahawks moment so much as it was an epic Vikings fail.
Minnesota drove to Seattle’s 9, then watched kicker Blair Walsh miss his 27-yard field-goal attempt wide left with 26 seconds to go.
As the moment registered, the Seahawks might have set a team record for simultaneous looks to the heavens. Said receiver Doug Baldwin: “I don’t believe in luck, but I don’t know what else to call that.”
You can’t call it anything but that. The kick was shorter than an extra point. But the Seahawks still forced the Vikings to make a play in the final minute.
An oft-used cliché among coaches and athletes is “We just want to give ourselves a chance.” Sounds boring, but there’s validity to that.
The Seahawks might have gotten some good fortune at the end of the game Sunday, but they didn’t steal the win. They earned it.
|How cold was it?|
|Sunday’s game was the third coldest in NFL history:|
|-13||Dec. 31, 1967||Dallas at Green Bay||NFL championship|
|-9||Jan. 10, 1982||San Diego at Cincinnati||AFC championship|
|-6||Jan. 10, 2016||Seattle at Minnesota||NFC wild-card|
|-6||Jan. 7, 1996||Indianapolis at K.C.||AFC divisional|
|-5||Jan. 4, 1981||Oakland at Cleveland||AFC divisional|
|Note: With the wind chill, it was minus-25 Sunday|
|Russell Wilson is 7-2 in the postseason, but had his second lowest playoff passer rating:|
|Jan. 10, 2016||at Vikings||Win||142||1||1||63.3|
|Feb. 1, 2015||Patriots||Loss||247||2||1||110.6|
|Jan. 18, 2015||Packers||Win||209||1||4||44.3|
|Jan. 10, 2015||Panthers||Win||268||3||0||149.2|
|Feb. 2, 2014||Broncos||Win||206||2||0||123.1|
|Jan. 19. 2014||49ers||Win||215||1||0||104.6|
|Jan. 11, 2014||Saints||Win||103||0||0||67.6|
|Jan. 13, 2013||at Falcons||Loss||385||2||1||109.1|
|Jan. 6, 2013||at Wash.||Win||187||1||0||92.9|