Seahawks fans were up early and ready to cheer on their team Sunday morning in its playoff game in Minnesota.
A half-hour after Sunday’s game, longtime Seahawks fan Jeff Martin was still stunned — in a good way — by what he had witnessed from his seat at Sluggers Seattle sports bar.
“A missed field goal from that close? How do you even ask for that? It’s like winning the lottery,” he said, with the TV screen reflecting Seattle’s 10-9 win over Minnesota.
“I never lost faith,” said Allison Brown, seated next to him. “We’re going back to the Super Bowl.”
A half-block away, at F.X. McRory’s, fan Danny Chandler shared Brown’s exhilaration, but not necessarily her conviction.
“Sometimes the ball just bounces your way,” Chandler said. “We needed that today and we got it. But we’re going to need to play better against Carolina.”
The Carolina Panthers, whose 15-1 record earned them the NFC’s No. 1 seed and allowed them to take wild-card weekend off, will host the Seahawks next Sunday, in another game starting at 10 a.m. PST.
The Seahawks would need to win that game, and then win the NFC Championship Game — also on the road — to earn a spot in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7.
In sports bars near the darkened CenturyLink Field Sunday, fans arrived early, but bedlam arrived late.
The full-throated roars that rattled F.X. McRory’s in the game’s final quarter seemed to reflect pent-up energy among fans who, for most of the game, had little to make noise about. Russell Wilson faced intense pressure, some of his passes falling short of their intended receivers.
So tepid was the Hawks’ start that fans watching McRory’s big screen didn’t launch into their first cheer-and-response of “Sea!” and “Hawks!” until midway through the second quarter.
“Russell’s having a hard time hitting his guys,” Grant Sutherland of Seattle said at halftime when the Hawks were down 3-0. But Sutherland added, “I think they’re going to be OK. Russell played at Wisconsin, so he’s played in the cold.”
The combination of subzero temperatures and the big screen at McRory’s made the players’ breath show in clouds of steam, making it appear the game was between two teams of dragons.
At halftime, McRory’s proprietor Mick McHugh cut the sound to the broadcast and made an announcement on the PA system. He said one person at each table should switch seats with someone else, saying that had been a proven momentum-shifter in the past.
Patrons complied, but if the football gods were appeased, they didn’t show it right away. The third quarter saw Wilson suffering continued pressure. But fans were encouraged that the Vikings never put the game out of reach, leading by six points or less for most of the game. The Seahawks were one good play away from charging back into it.
For many fans, that came in the fourth quarter, when Wilson chased down a botched snap, scooped it up and hit Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard gain.
But in the closing minutes, Hawks fans gasped and groaned when a pass-interference call against Kam Chancellor appeared to put the Vikings in position to kick a winning field goal.
Network broadcasters noted that the Seahawks had blown fourth-quarter leads in nearly every game they lost this season.
Not this time.
With seconds to play, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who had made three field goals, saw his fourth attempt go left of the uprights.
“Wowwwwwwwwww! ” hollered an exhausted Joel Tyler of Redmond at F.X. McRory’s. “I feel like I just played the game.”
“This is pure joy,” said his wife, Stephanie, who admitted to being nervous from the game’s start to its finish.
A block to the south, Jeff Gilgan of Everett, watching at The Hawks Nest Bar & Grill, was also amazed.
“I have no idea how to explain that. It’s a gift,” he said.
Gilgan, who lives in Everett, got up at 6:30 a.m. Sunday to be at The Hawks Nest when it opened at 8. And he expects to do the same next Sunday for the Carolina game.
Hawks Nest owner Joe Piano said he was a bit worried during the game, but his patrons were not. “Everybody had a lot of hope,” he said. “That’s what makes it exciting.”