SOMEWHERE OVER THE ROCKIES Flying back from the Seahawks latest mind-boggler, Sunday’s rally then escape past Minnesota 10-9 in the NFC wild-card playoffs.
The team got back to SeaTac Airport Sunday evening. And many happy people were there to greet them.
What struck me in the locker room Sunday in Minneapolis: There wasn’t the raucous, roaring scenes of previous, huge road wins. The players were simply too cold and too exhausted from battling the minus-5-degree temperature plus the Vikings, who were far more stout and determined in the third-coldest game in NFL history than they were in the first meeting Dec. 6.
I also felt the Seahawks’ belief they Jimmy Valvano-ed Sunday; they survived and advanced. They got through the miserable conditions that rendered the offense largely inert for most of the game to advance to this Sunday’s divisional-round game at top-seeded Carolina. Though the Panthers are 15-1 and will be at home, the Seahawks feel they will be back to their recently prolific selves on offense in temperatures forecast to be 55 degrees warmer than it was in Minnesota. Sunday’s expected high in Charlotte, North Carolina, is 53 degrees. To those of us who were in Minneapolis yesterday, Charlotte will feel like Qatar.
The Seahawks also believe if not for the communication breakdown and missed pass coverage on the decisive touchdown in the final seconds of Carolina’s win over them in Seattle in October, they would have beaten the Panthers. The Seahawks led that game 23-14 with 5 minutes left. And that was when the defense wasn’t stopping the run like it is now and the offense wasn’t pass protecting or playing like it has been the last six weeks -- at least until it entered that Minnesota freezer.
This will be the sixth meeting between the Seahawks and Panthers in the last four seasons. It is a rematch of last January’s divisional playoff game the Seahawks won in Seattle.
“The Panthers are a great team and that will be a special game,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said.
“We have had great battles with this team. And we always come back when it’s time to play championship football.”