The Seahawks remembered a play from 2010 when they decided last week to let Bobby Wagner try to leap over the line and block a field goal.
If Bobby Wagner had his way, he’d take a flying leap over the line to try to block a field goal as he did in Monday’s 21-7 win over Minnesota every single game.
“He always asks me every week ‘do we have it? Do we have it?’’’ Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said Wednesday.
Most weeks Schneider has to tell Wagner “nah, but we are looking for it’’ down the road.
“We are always looking for an opportunity like that,’’ Schneider said. “That was just the first time we had a really good shot at it.’’
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The reason, Schneider said, was the way the right side of the Vikings line stayed low on field goal attempts.
“Their tendency, that side of the line was really low,’’ he said. “They stayed down. Their heads were down. So it was a good opportunity to try it.’’
In fact, they’ve been looking for those good opportunities since Schneider arrived with Pete Carroll in 2010.
Schneider noted that Aaron Curry also leapt over the line to block a field goal almost exactly as Wagner did Monday night in a 2010 game at San Francisco.
Maybe symbolic of Curry’s ill-fated Seahawks career, the kick somehow went through the goal posts anyway.
Since then, Wagner (against Arizona in 2016) and Kam Chancellor (in a playoff game against Carolina in 2015) pulled off running leaps over the line.
But the rules have gradually changed through the years and running and leaping has been banned. The rules were further tweaked this year to make it illegal to “place a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent in an attempt to jump through a gap to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.”
So that meant Wagner had to rise from a down position and leap over the line all on his own.
Whether he did so or not has been hotly debated since, with many who have watched the replay thinking Wagner did indeed get some leverage by placing his hands on teammates Jarran Reed and Shamar Stephen as he jumped over the line to block Dan Bailey’s 47-yard field goal with 5:46 left.
The block preserved Seattle’s 6-0 lead and the Seahawks also then got the ball at their own 37 and drove for their only offensive touchdown of the game.
Mike Pereira, former Vice President of Officiating in the National Football League and now a rules analyst for FOX Sports tweeted the rule afterward and then wrote “Case Closed. Foul.’’ Had a penalty been called, the Vikings would have had a first down at the 15.
As might be expected, Wagner disagreed. He practiced it four times last Thursday to get a feel for doing it legally and said he felt what he did Monday was within the rules.
“Personally, I didn’t feel like I used them at all,’’ Wagner said Wednesday. “I felt like in practice it was a little bit more different because we didn’t have pads on and there was a little bit more space. But during the game, it wasn’t, it was kind of tight. I was trying to make room for myself so I wouldn’t give it up that I’m down there, but I was also kind of getting ready that I was going to jump. If you watch how I did it in practice, it was the same thing- whenever I jumped, my hands were just naturally to my side. If you watch the play, when I jumped, my level of which I jumped did not move, I was at the same height. So, if I would have pushed off or used them to get over, you would’ve seen a change in where I was at, but it wasn’t. At the end of the day, it counted, I’m going to take it. I’m going to count it as a block. Maybe 10, 15 years from now, you all are going to forget it happened, so I’m good with it.”
Schneider called it “a judgment call’’ that he likened to pass interference — open to lots of different interpretations.
“But I don’t think he used leverage because I think he was over and didn’t gain any advantage by his hand placement,’’ Schneider said. “Others could argue he did. But they called what they called and I’m happy they did.’’
Some might question if the risk of giving the Vikings a first down had the penalty been called was worth the reward. But worrying about what might go wrong isn’t the Pete Carroll way — Carroll has said he enthusiastically embraced the idea when Schneider and assistant special teams coach Larry Izzo brought it up in a meeting on Wednesday.
Wagner also has said he was confident the defense would have held the Vikings out of the end zone and that it was worth it that late in the game to try to keep Minnesota still needing a touchdown to win it.
Another key to pulling it off, Schneider said, was not tipping the Vikings that something might be afoot — Wagner typically lines up in a standing position behind the line on field goal attempts.
That proved tricky when Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen was hurt on a third down pass incompletion on the play before the field goal.
That had Schneider yelling to Wagner not to get in a down position until the last second.
“I was screaming ‘don’t show it,’’’ Schneider said. “I didn’t want him to show it too early because normally you are just in the flow of the game and it’s going.’’
Just prior to the snap, Wagner and Barkevious Mingo, who had been lined up in a down position, switched spots.
“They did a great job of disguising it and holding it until they needed to and they just made a quick, little switch,’’ Schneider said.
The element of surprise, of course, is gone now. But Schneider says you never know when the Seahawks might try it again.
“Every week has something different and you just see if you can mazimize it or not,’’ Schneider said.
As for the debate about the play’s legality, Wagner offered a final parting shot.
“At the end of the day, who cares,’’ he said. “It counted, I’m taking it and I appreciate it.”