Maybe Bobby Wagner didn’t grace as many Sports Illustrated covers as Richard Sherman.
And it was pretty impossible for anyone to outquote Michael Bennett.
But if the national spotlight on the famed Legion of Boom defense might at times have fallen more directly more often on others, Wagner was the key to it all.
He was the man in the middle making all the play calls whose arrival in 2012 proved the final piece to a defense that will forever be remembered as one of the best in NFL history, allowing the fewest points in the league from 2012-15 — his first four years with the Seahawks.
And in some ways Wagner’s greatness was his steadiness as much as his flashiness — 10 consecutive 100-tackle seasons, missing only 10 games in 10 years at one of the most punishing positions in football.
But when Wagner flashed, boy did he flash.
Here’s a review of 10 of Wagner’s greatest moments as a Seahawk:
1. 98-yard interception return against 49ers in 2018
Among records Wagner leaves with is the longest interception return in team history, accomplished in a 43-16 win over the 49ers when he stepped in front of a Nick Mullens pass near the goal line, then put the skills he displayed as a tight end at Colony High School in Ontario, California, racing down the sideline to complete a 98-yard return for the final score of the game and the only pick-six of his career. The play helped Wagner earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors
2. Interception in Super Bowl against New England
Seattle seemed well on its way to a second consecutive Super Bowl victory when Wagner picked off a Tom Brady pass intended for Rob Gronkowski on New England’s first possession of the second half. Seattle then drove 49 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead. Alas, the lead didn’t last. If it had, Wagner might have gone down as the defensive player of the game — he led all players with 12 tackles along with the pick.
3. Leaping blocked field-goal attempts against Vikings in 2018, Cardinals 2016
Among the athletic traits that drew Seattle to Wagner in the draft in 2012 was a 39.5-inch vertical leap — that would have tied for the fifth-best of all players at the NFL combine had he done workouts (he missed the event due to illness). Wagner showed he still had it six years later when he leapt over the line from a down position to block a Dan Bailey field-goal attempt in an eventual 21-7 Monday night win over the Vikings. Some debated whether Wagner pushed off on two teammates to gain some leverage — a report from the NFL Network later intimated the league felt a penalty should have been called. Regardless, it was a sight to behold. Wagner also leapt over the line to block a kick against Arizona in 2016, the infamous 6-6 tie. That one, though, came with a running start, which the league then outlawed the following offseason. Not that it made it any less impressive.
4. 15 tackles against 49ers in 2013 NFC title game
Seattle’s 23-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC title game has been billed by many as being as physically punishing as any in NFL history. And Wagner dealt out as much punishment as anyone with a game-high 15 tackles, including a stop of Colin Kaepernick on a third-down run at the Seattle 11-yard line on the first 49ers series of the game following a Russell Wilson fumble to hold San Francisco to a field goal on a day when every point and every yard mattered.
5. 20 tackles against Tennessee in 2021
Wagner set yet another team record in his final year with the Seahawks when he notched a career-high 20 tackles against the Titans in the second game of the season (Jordyn Brooks then tied the record in the season finale against Arizona). Wagner first broke the record with 19 against the Saints in 2019.
6. Winning NFC Defensive Player of Month award in December 2014, earning MVP vote
The Legion of Boom era defense may never have been better than in the second half of the 2014 season when the Seahawks overcame a 3-3 start to go 9-1 down the stretch and earn the No. 1 seed for a second consecutive season. Wagner missed five games that season due to injury, with the Seahawks allowing an average of 20.2 points in that stretch. But when he returned in Week 11 the Seahawks didn’t lose again, allowing just 39 points in the last six games, holding five teams to seven or fewer. Wagner had at least seven tackles in every game and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors as a result. He also got an MVP vote that year from Tony Dungy, who cited the difference in the Seattle defense that season when Wagner played and when he didn’t.
7. Bats pass into hands of Bruce Irvin for a TD against Rams in 2014
Maybe Wagner’s biggest play during that critical 2014 stretch came in the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against the Rams, a game Seattle had to win to clinch the No. 1 NFC playoff seed. Seattle led 13-6 early in the fourth quarter, but the Rams were still in it, with a first and 10 at their 43-yard line when Shaun Hill tried to hit tight end Lance Kendricks over the middle. Wagner closed quickly and jostled the ball out of Kendricks’ hands and right to teammate Bruce Irvin, who returned it 49 yards for a TD to seal a 20-6 victory. Wagner simply lifted his right arm in triumph as Irvin raced down the sideline.
8. Two interceptions against Arizona in 58-0 win in 2012
Wagner finished his Seattle career with 11 interceptions. Two came during the most dominant win in franchise history, 58-0 against Arizona late in the 2012 season. It was a stretch that made it apparent the Seahawks might just have the NFL’s best defense. Both set up scores — the first on the first possession of the game — on a day it seemed the Seahawks could do no wrong.
9. Player of the week performance in win over 49ers at home in 2020
Wagner’s second and final NFC Defensive Player of the Week award as a Seahawk came in a 37-27 Week 8 win in 2020 against the 49ers — yep, he did seem to like playing against them — when he had 11 tackles, a career-high four quarterback hits, two sacks (tying a career high) and three tackles for loss, which tied a career high.
10. Stop of Todd Gurley on fourth down to key win over Rams in 2016 at home
Four days after one of the biggest losses Wagner and the Seahawks endured in his 10 years — 38-10 at Green Bay — Seattle returned home for a Thursday-night game against the Rams desperately needing a win. And it was Wagner who set the tone, breaking through to stop Todd Gurley on a fourth-and-one from the Seattle 7 — fittingly his linebacker running mate and good friend K.J. Wright was credited with an assist on the play — in what was still a scoreless game late in the first quarter. Seattle went on to win 24-3 en route to winning the division.