That's Russell Wilson, before he said when I asked him where this miraculous comeback in the final 2:09 and regulation to beat Green Bay 28-22 in overtime to win another NFC championship: "That's the best game I've ever been in. I think it might be the best game in NFL history."
I've covered Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the World Series football national-championship games, NCAA basketball tournaments and the Olympics in the last 17 years. This Seahawks win ranks up there with being rinkside writing Canada's amazing overtime win over the United States in the gold-medal hockey match in zany Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Games as the two best games I've ever covered.
And it even had personal heroism through pain.
Richard Sherman spoke standing in the middle of a wowed Seahawks locker room. A new, white, oversized “NFC champions” T-shirt draped over his still-immobile left arm.
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He intercepted Aaron Rodgers to end Green Bay’s first drive Sunday. Then he played the entire fourth quarter of Seattle’s astounding win with one good arm. Sherman held the injured one into his chest between plays. That was after thumping teammate Kam Chancellor accidentally hit him harder than Green Bay ball carrier James Starks at the sideline to end the first play of the final period.
Often, Sherman bent at the waist in pain
“I couldn’t put my hand up,” he said. “It didn’t feel great, I’m not going to lie.”
He never missed a play.
A few feet behind him fellow All-Pro defensive back Earl Thomas sat far back in his locker. The safety’s left shoulder was heavily wrapped. He had it pop out of its socket and back into place during the second half. He missed just three plays.
After he came back wearing a brace, Thomas hit bullish Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy so hard Lacy went from running directly north to directly west, out of bounds to end a play.
“There was no way I wasn’t going to be out there with my guys,” Thomas said.
Lost amid one of the greatest comebacks in Seattle sports history -- given the stakes, maybe THE greatest: How the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense kept the team in the game early, almost blew it late -- and just gritted out the rest.
“He hurt his elbow. I don’t know how he could have played,” coach Pete Carroll said first of Sherman. “How do you play bump and run with one arm? But he did. … It was a fantastic feat.
“Earl hurt his shoulder and he comes back and hits Lacy on the sidelines with the harnessed shoulder as hard as you could possibly hit the guy and knocked him out of bounds. That’s just total guts.
“They’re the real deal when it comes to competing.”
Sherman mentioned something about a ligament in his elbow then deferred to “letting the doctors get to it.
“I will 100 percent be able to play (in the Super Bowl),” Sherman said.
When asked if was worried about being about to play Feb. 1 against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Glendale, Arizona, Thomas said: “I’ll be fine.”
Inexplicably, Rodgers and the Packers targeted Sherman just one time in their nine passes after the cornerback got hurt. That was on their final play, third and 10 from the Seahawks 36 with 26 seconds left in regulation. By sheer will more than physicality, Sherman spun down Jordy Nelson after his short catch over the middle 4 yards short of the first down. Mason Crosby hit the 48-yard field goal on the next snap to send this crazy game into overtime.
Rodgers was just following his coaches’ play calls of running to protect the lead and shorten the game – eight of Green Bay’s 12 plays immediately following Sherman’s injury were rushes. But Sherman still expected Rodgers to test a one-armed cornerback more with the NFC title on the line.
“I was actually surprised, honestly. I thought once I went down with my elbow the rest of the game I would have a lot of action,” Sherman said.
Any thought of coming out to give two-armed backup Tharold Simon a shot?
“No, NFC championship is not the time to go out with an injury,” Sherman said. “If I can walk and I can still move my feet I’ll play.”