The 10-9 victory doesn’t compare with last season’s NFC title-game win over Green Bay, but when the Seahawks trailed 9-0 on Sunday, even coach Pete Carroll wondered if it would be their day.
RENTON — Improbable seems almost too tame to describe the Seahawks’ chances to win with 26 seconds left Sunday in their NFC wild-card game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, whose 33 field goals during the regular season led the NFL, lined up for a 27-yarder to put Minnesota ahead 12-10.
According to ESPN, NFL kickers made 189 of 191 field-goal attempts from 27 yards or shorter in the regular season.
Moreover, the Seahawks had no timeouts and would have had little time left to make one last mad dash to score.
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Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, though, already was preparing for that potential situation as Walsh lined up for his kick, hammering balls into a net on the Seahawks’ sideline with his head down.
“Then I heard some weird cheers from the crowd,’’ he said. “That’s when I knew something good had happened for us.’’
A day later, the NFL world still was coming to grips with Walsh simply chunking his kick wide left and allowing the Seahawks to escape with a 10-9 victory.
The Seahawks advanced and will face the Carolina Panthers in a divisional-round game Sunday in Charlotte, N.C.
According to ESPN it was the shortest missed field-goal attempt to put a team ahead in the final two minutes of a playoff game since at least 2001.
“We were fortunate to win, and on we go,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday.
Though there might have been some fortune involved, Carroll believes it was another example of the Seahawks simply finding a way to win a game when all might have appeared lost.
He has some facts to back him up. According to yet another ESPN stat, the Seahawks are 5-2 since 2010 when trailing in a playoff game by at least nine points — the rest of the NFL is 6-41 during that span.
“That’s how we’d hoped we’d be,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve pulled off some pretty exciting finishes, and we’ve been part of the other end of it, too. But for the most part we’ve done it really well. And it’s a really good thing to know about yourself when you are going into these games. I made a note to the guys that we are not out of a game. That there is no time that we are out of a game.’’
Indeed, by one measure Sunday’s game wasn’t close to the most improbable playoff win the team has had under Carroll.
The website Pro Football Reference uses a mathematical formula to assign a win percentage for a team after every play of every game.
According to PFR, Seattle was in most dire straits Sunday after Walsh made a 47-yard field-goal attempt with two seconds left in the third quarter to put the Vikings ahead 9-0. At that point, the Vikings had an 87.7 percent chance to win the game according to PFR.
Though that might seem like low odds for the Seahawks, consider they were judged to have just a 0.1 percent chance to beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game last season after a Green Bay interception with just over five minutes left. Most know what happened next: The Seahawks rallied from a 19-7 deficit and eventually won in overtime.
Carroll acknowledged Monday, though, that at 9-0 even he wondered if it would be the Seahawks’ day.
“When they went 9-zip there was a moment there were we thought, ‘Oh boy,’ ’’ Carroll said. “ ‘We haven’t scored once; how are we going to score twice?’ There was a moment there of questioning, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ ’’
But then quarterback Russell Wilson corralled an errant snap and found Tyler Lockett for 35 yards, which led to a touchdown. And then the Seahawks forced an Adrian Peterson fumble that led to a Hauschka field goal, and Seattle improbably had the lead.
The comeback seemed ready to go for naught as Walsh lined up for his kick (though PFR actually gave the Vikings just a 58.6 percent chance of winning the game at that point).
And though Walsh said again Monday that he simply blew the kick, Carroll and the Seahawks wonder if they might have put just a seed of doubt into him earlier in the game.
On Walsh’s 47-yarder, cornerback Richard Sherman rushed hard off the edge and came so close to getting the block that Carroll said Monday, “He couldn’t have been closer. We can’t figure out how he didn’t get it.’’
Sherman wondered after the game if maybe that was in the Vikings’ mind.
Carroll said that’s impossible to know but noted that, “The final kick was kicked much faster than the other kicks. I don’t need to give you the times, but it was considerably faster. So for whatever reason, they sped up their mechanism.’’
An analysis by InsidethePylon.com also concluded that Walsh had his plant foot closer to the ball than he usually does — 3-4 inches instead of the normal 6-8 — possibly throwing things off. Holder Jeff Locke also didn’t get the ball rotated correctly, so Walsh’s foot kicked the laces.
Another Carroll mantra to his team in times of stress, he noted Monday, is “whatever it takes.’’
Which is pretty much what it took Sunday.