If the Seahawks are playing a postseason game – which they just so happen to be on Sunday (hat tip, Blair Walsh) – then you can count on routine insanity. And heart palpitations. And agony. And ecstasy.
If the Seahawks are playing a postseason game – which they just so happen to be on Sunday (hat tip, Blair Walsh) – then you can count on routine insanity.
And heart palpitations. And agony. And ecstasy. And probably a little more of each, leading to an epic finish of unbearable tension in which the game will hang in the balance until the very last, climactic, improbably ridiculous moment.
At that point will come the cathartic release either of unadulterated joy or uncontrollable sorrow. It might lead to the image of a winsome Michael Bennett wheeling around CenturyLink Field on the bicycle he borrowed from a policeman. But you win some and you lose some, so you might get the look of frozen horror on the faces of Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman as they realize that their Super Bowl dreams had just been cruelly yanked away by the Patriots.
It’s emotional investment at its most intense and most fraught, and for the Seahawks in the playoffs, it has become old hat. Their postseason way of life: Down to the wire, and then down and out, or up and shout.
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If you don’t get what I mean, drag out a replay of last Sunday’s Seattle 10-9 victory over the Vikings, in which the Seahawks seemed doomed to a heartless last-second defeat only to watch Walsh yank his 27-yard field-goal attempt to the left.
No replay will be needed to recall the emotional devastation of the Super Bowl loss to New England, in which the Seahawks were indeed doomed to a heartless last-second defeat when Russell Wilson’s pass from the 1-yard line went to Malcolm Butler instead of Ricardo Lockette.
But contrast that with the giddy jubilation of the NFC title game two weeks earlier, in which the Seahawks trailed the Packers 19-7 with about four minutes left. Wilson led a rousing comeback replete with an improbably successful onside kick, a sensational Marshawn Lynch 24-yard TD run, and a desperation pass for the two-point conversion for a 22-19 Seattle lead. Only to watch Aaron Rodgers lead a drive for a tying field goal, which merely set up an even giddier moment in overtime when Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse, despite having cornerback Tramon Williams hanging all over him, for a 35-yard TD pass to put the Seahawks back in the Super Bowl.
That’s an awful lot of angst to deal with, both for the fans and the players themselves.
“It’s been difficult emotionally just because you go through that roller-coaster effect,’’ said wide receiver Doug Baldwin. “It’s definitely draining on the body.”
Seeming to refer specifically to Sunday’s win in frigid Minneapolis, Baldwin added: “You’ve got to eat more carbs because you spend so much energy trying to stay warm in that cold, but also the energy spent on the emotional roller-coaster.
“It’s fun afterwards, but obviously, we’d like to not be in those heart-attack moments.”
The Seahawks may not have a choice Sunday when they face the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., however. Seattle’s 31-17 win over Carolina in last year’s divisional round was actually their last relatively drama-free postseason win. The Seahawks led just 17-10 early in the fourth quarter before Kam Chancellor’s 90-yard interception return made it 31-10 with 5:55 to play.
But the Seahawks don’t have the home-field advantage this time, and they don’t have their dominance over Carolina to cling to. The Panthers defeated them 27-23 on Oct. 18 at CenturyLink to break Seattle’s five-game winning streak over them.
Throw in the fact that the Panthers have the NFL’s best record at 15-1, and the league’s likely Most Valuable Player in Cam Newton, and it explains why Carolina has been installed as a three-point favorite. But factor in Seattle’s playoff experience and current momentum (seven wins in their last eight games), and it sets up for another potentially frenetic finish.
The Seahawks, at least, are battle-tested under pressure. That doesn’t mean they always come out on top, but at least they know what to expect when it comes down to crunch time and the game hangs in the balance.
“We’ve been doing this for years,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve been in tons of games that had all kinds of circumstances. These are just more of the same. For this year’s team, those are the games, as we look back, we would draw from. We’ve been kind of in this mode for some time now, and it’s kind of how we’ve come to expect it.”
You could go back to Carroll’s first playoff game with the Seahawks in 2010, when their 41-36 win over New Orleans wasn’t cemented until Marshawn Lynch’s epic “Beast Quake” 67-yard touchdown run with 3:22 to play.
You could go back to Russell Wilson’s second playoff game with the Seahawks in 2012, when, after leading a 24-14 win over Washington in which Seattle trailed 14-13 going into the fourth quarter, Wilson found himself staring at a 27-7 deficit to Atlanta with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
Wilson drove the Seahawks to 21 unanswered points for a 28-27 Seattle lead with just 31 seconds left, only to have the Falcons kick a game-winning field goal with 13 seconds remaining for the victory.
Perhaps most heart-rending (and heart-stopping) of all was the Seahawks’ 23-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC title game following the 2013 season, when Sherman tipped away Colin Kaepernick’s pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone. Malcolm Smith completed the interception with 30 seconds remaining to put Seattle in the Super Bowl, and put Sherman front-and-center in his postgame interview with Erin Andrews.
“When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get,’’ he famously ranted.
When you put the Seahawks in a playoff game, chances are that’s the kind of result you’re going to get. So prepare yourself for another round of heart-attack moments.