After winning in the most improbable way, many of the Seahawks sprinted off the field.
To find relief from the frigid sub-zero wind chill, likely, but maybe to hurry and buy tickets for that billion-dollar lottery.
Yes, they conceded, they were feeling lucky.
As they packed up their rabbits’ feet and horseshoes and four-leafed clovers, the Seahawks granted that the 10-9 win over the Vikings in the wild card round on Sunday was unquestionably a matter of good fortune.
The Vikings missing a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining was an extraordinary turn of events.
But the Seahawks were quick to note that they also put themselves in position to be lucky with some equally extraordinary displays of athleticism, determination and stubborn will.
Down 9-0 with the offense in a cryogenic coma, the Hawks rallied with 10 points in the fourth quarter. But the Vikings drove to the Seattle 9 for the presumptive game-winning field goal. Kicker Blair Walsh, who made more field goals than any kicker in the NFL this season (34) and scored all of Minnesota’s points, yanked it wide left.
With a divisional-round meeting with Carolina on the docket this upcoming Sunday, the Seahawks focused on their dramatic comeback rather than the rocky start and fortunate escape.
Cornerback Richard Sherman, who said his eyelashes froze during warmups in the minus-25 wind chill, claimed that doubts never entered the Seahawks’ minds.
“Here’s 53 guys willing to fight until the last second,” Sherman said. “A lot of people would have folded it up and said ‘that’s it,’ but we’ve got a team full of fighters.”
Fighters? Oh yeah, quite a few of them, actually.
Fighters like quarterback Russell Wilson, who turned a botched fourth-quarter play into a 35-yard completion to Tyler Lockett. The ball was snapped before Wilson was ready, and as defenders closed in on him for what was about to be a 15-yard sack, Wilson recovered the ball, regained his feet and had the presence of mind to find Lockett open downfield.
Coach Pete Carroll had a word to describe some of Wilson’s episodes of inspired improvisation like this: “Magic.”
Fighters like Doug Baldwin, who gave the Seahawks offense its first spark of life in the third period when he leaped up into the jet stream to pull down a 17-yard gain to convert a third-and-long. It didn’t lead to a score, but it triggered a pulse.
Fighters like free safety Earl Thomas, who was such an effective center fielder all day, and strong safety Kam Chancellor, who ripped the ball away from Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to create the turnover that set up the Hawks’ go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.
Fighters like punter Jon Ryan. What? Oh, yeah, Ryan had to try to run the ball after a low snap in the first quarter. He got flipped in the air and came down on his face, getting his nose “busted,” according to Carroll.
Ryan came back, though, as both punter and holder for Steven Hauschka place kicks. Think that’s not important? Let’s remember that it looked like the Vikings holder didn’t spin the laces on the football away, as is generally expected, from Walsh on his missed chip shot that decided the game.
Fighters like Christine Michael, who spent the week taking reserve reps behind starter Marshawn Lynch only to get the start on Sunday because Lynch decided he was unable to play after practice on Friday.
Michael rushed for 70 yards on 21 carries, which was far more productive than his All-Pro counterpart on the other side, Adrian Peterson (23 carries for 45 yards).
Don’t think 70 yards isn’t much to tout? The most important stat is that Michael held onto the ball on each of those 21 carries, whereas Peterson’s fumble helped the Hawks back into the game.
And fighters, finally, like defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, a 325-pound defensive tackle whose hustle downfield put him in position to recover Peterson’s fumble.
“It’s his first playoff game,” Sherman said of Rubin. “It was a phenomenal play by Kam and great effort, but to have a D-lineman 10 or 15 yards down the field recovering the fumble … his hustle got him there. He deserves a lot of credit and respect for that.”
These were plays of physical effort, but also examples of the kind of mental toughness needed in historically dreadful weather conditions, when every instinct is telling rational human beings to forget football and find shelter.
This group of Seahawks, like the previous few editions, is best when it is tasked, challenged, facing impediments. It’s possible on Sunday that they viewed Mother Nature as just another of the many haters they love to defy.
That mental toughness, Sherman said, was a huge factor.
“It takes men to play this game,” Sherman said. “It takes men to play four quarters in this game.”
And maybe a little luck is the reward for it.