Doug Baldwin called from across the locker room, “Steven Hauschka is a (bleeping) beast!”
Punter Jon Ryan observed the crowd of reporters around Hauschka’s locker — scrutiny usually reserved for occasions when a game-winning field goal attempt is either made or missed — and cracked, “All that attention for a little nosebleed.”
When Hauschka noticed a hole developing on the return of his kickoff late in the second quarter, he unleashed a plot twist at once heroic and horrifying.
Heroic, because his teammates were fired up to see a kicker stick his nose in the fray and attempt to tackle Tennessee returner Darius Reynaud, who had the advantage of a full head of steam.
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They didn’t think it was wise, mind you. But in the roughshod world of the NFL, there is always respect earned by fearlessness, regardless of the outcome.
“Ah, man, I don’t want him to do that,” said Earl Thomas. “He’s a great clutch kicker, and we need him. But he’s not selfish. He’s trying to put his body on the line for the team.”
And horrifying, because Hauschka’s temporary absence after the ensuing collision with Reynaud — an instant GIF classic — forced the Seahawks into sending out a makeshift field-goal unit at the end of the half.
And the results were catastrophic: a botched hold and ensuing 77-yard fumble return resulting in a 10-point swing in favor of the Titans.
“That’s a lot of pressure on those guys, and we didn’t handle it very well, obviously,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We couldn’t have handled it any worse, as a matter of fact.”
This story had a happy ending. Hauschka was fine; well, other than the bloody nose, sore jaw, and bruised chest.
“I’m glad he bounced back,’’ said Chris Maragos, the safety-turned-emergency holder. “I’ll have to give him a hard time. He might have to get into the cold tub today for the first time ever. He might feel what the rest of us go through every week.”
Hauschka passed the league-mandated concussion testing and returned in the second half to kick two key field goals. But he was still in the locker room when Carroll decided, to his later regret, to attempt that 21-yard field goal from the 4 with two seconds remaining in the half.
Hauschka, who is not puny for a kicker at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, nonetheless was thrown backward like a crash-test dummy by the impact of Reynaud’s body.
“I’m like, ‘Ah, he might be dead right now,’ ” said Maragos.
Hauschka was very much alive, but a little groggy and very sore.
“I don’t make plays like that very often,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised. He lowered his head and kind of hit my shoulder, and then my head. That’s what you get for being in that play.”
Will he make that same play again if it comes up?
“Yeah, if it’s going to save a touchdown,” he said.
Richard Sherman was asked if he felt an obligation to teach Hauschka how to tackle.
“I feel an obligation to tell Hauschka to get out of the way,” he replied.
While Hauschka tried to regain his senses, Ryan assumed the kicking role. The good news is he placekicked throughout high school, in college in Regina, and briefly in the Canadian Football League.
The footnotes: He hadn’t tried a field goal since the preseason of 2004. Oh, and in Canada they use a one-inch tee for all kicks. Oh, and one more thing:
“I was really bad at it,” he admitted of his college placekicking. “Maybe career 50 percent. Punting has always been my thing.”
Asked if he thought he would have made the kick, had the hold been made, Ryan replied without hesitation, “Absolutely. Write it down.”
But, of course, that chance never came, because Maragos — forced to take Ryan’s normal spot as the holder — wasn’t able to get the ball down. Maragos had held for four years in college at Wisconsin, and executed it flawlessly when he hastily tried to shake off the rust on the sidelines. But things changed when he got in the game.
“It was kind of a fluke thing,” he said. “I took like 25 snaps on the sideline. I was spinning it perfect, perfect tilt. It was, like, beautiful. Then I got out there, and they rub those balls super slick. I caught it, and when I was bringing it down, it squirted right out of my hands. It was weird.”
Ryan never got to attempt his kick, and the chance might never come again.
“It would have been my first career field goal,” he said. “I’ve been playing all these years and never scored a point. I would have given that ball to Mom, I guess.”
Instead, he watched in horror along with everyone else as Maragos let the ball slip away from him. Jason McCourty picked it up and sprinted 77 yards for a go-ahead score.
In the end, it was just another bad moment in a game filled with more than their share for the Seahawks. In fact, considering the ultimate victory, it was one that will provide a measure of humor — more so as time passes, I’m sure. Just like Hauschka’s attempt at playing defense will.
“I admire a tough player, especially a kicker,” Baldwin said. “I did have a word with him. I told him: ‘Hey look, man. There’s only one of you around here. We don’t have a backup kicker here, so be careful.
“If you want to get in there, get your tail in the weight room, get some neck workouts, get some tris and bis going if you want to do all that.’ ”
One other byproduct of this game: A new appreciation for the art of holding.
“I would say it looks a lot easier on TV,” Ryan said.
|Taking a turnover and running with it|
|Jason McCourty’s 77-yard fumble return at the end of the first half was the longest touchdown the Seahawks had given up this season. Some other long touchdowns given up this year:|
|Date and opponent||Play|
|Oct. 13 vs. Tennessee||77-yard fumble return by McCourty|
|Oct. 6 at Indianapolis||73-yard pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton|
|Oct. 6 at Indianapolis||61-yard return by Delano Howell off blocked field goal|
|Sept. 29 at Houston||31-yard pass from Matt Schaub to Garrett Graham|
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry