Moments after Sebastian Janikowski booted the game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals — for the second time this season — a beaming Pete Carroll waltzed through the Seahawks locker room and congratulated his kicker.
“How ‘bout it big fella,” Carroll hollered through the room as he approached Janikowski.
Janikowski sent the 33-yard kick soaring through the uprights as time expired Sunday afternoon, giving the Seahawks their defining score as they evaded an upset in their regular-season finale with a 27-24 win over the visiting Cardinals at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s a walk-off. It’s nice. It’s going to be a fun night,” Janikowski said.
The veteran kicker, in his 19th season in the NFL, would know. This season alone, he’s walked off with three wins — twice against Arizona, and once at Carolina.
“We’re just counting on him that he’s going to make it,” Carroll said. “It’s incredible that both the Arizona games come down to him kicking the field goal to win the game with no time left on the clock, but we couldn’t be luckier.”
Carroll embraced Janikowski on the field following his game-winner, knowing a win, especially on a thrilling scoring drive in the final two minutes, gives Seattle momentum heading into Saturday’s NFC Wild Card game in Dallas.
“I love that we won at the end of the game,” Carroll said. “We needed a fourth-quarter drive to do it. ... We’re coming down to Seabass to win the game. Everybody is going to click right into this mentality that we’ve already been through this. We know what it takes.”
Arizona called a timeout in an attempt to ice Janikowski before the try with eight seconds left on the clock, but Janikowski said he treated it like any other field goal.
“When they called that timeout, just icing the kicker, it was short field goal, so I didn’t think it really mattered,” he said. “(Tyler) Ott did a great job, (Michael Dickson) put it down, the o-line protected, and it went through.”
Seattle called on Janikowski to kick for the lead twice in the fourth quarter. He first broke a 21-21 tie with 6:20 to play on a 42-yard field goal. Arizona answered less than five minutes later, with Zane Gonzalez just pushing a 55-yard try over the crossbar with 1:49 remaining.
But Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson orchestrated the ensuing eight-play drive — which included a 37-yard completion to Tyler Locket and an 11-yard run by Chris Carson — that set up Janikowski’s eventual game-winning try. Janikowski was also perfect on PAT attempts following each of Seattle’s three touchdowns.
“We’ve got the best guy we could hope for to go kick the game-winner,” Carroll said.
Janikowski, in his first season with the Seahawks after spending his first 18 in Oakland, has at times been criticized for misses — five of his 27 field goal attempts, and three of his 51 PAT attempts, have gone awry this season — but his teammates maintain confidence.
Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark says Janikowski — who is 10th on the NFL’s all-time scoring list with 1,913 points, and trails only league-leading Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri among active players — is one of the best the game has seen.
“He can keep doing whatever he (has) to do, as long as he keeps making them when they count,” Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said. “Kobe missed a lot. He made a lot when they counted, though, too. That’s all that matters.”