If you want to know what has to happen to successfully recover an onside kick in the NFL, just listen to how Seattle Seahawks’ special teams ace Ricardo Lockette breaks it down.
“You’ve got to have dogs,” Lockette said.
“You’ve got to have somebody that can kick.
“And you’ve got to have somebody who does not fear contact — somebody who is willing to give their body up.”
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Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, the Lakes High and Univerity of Washington product, will likely be revered as the hero in the Seahawks’ 28-22 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. He caught the game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass that sent Seattle back to the Super Bowl.
None of that would have been possible if Seattle had not converted one of the NFL’s lowest-percentage crapshoots in the final minutes.
The Seahawks had just trimmed the Packers’ lead to 19-14 on Russell Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.
With one timeout, and the two-minute warning, Seattle coach Pete Carroll opted to go for the onside kick.
In the regular season this year, 56 onside kicks were attempted — and nine were recovered successfully (16-percent success rate).
Heck, the last time the Seahawks tried an onside kick, the St. Louis Rams foiled it Dec. 30, 2012. The last time they recovered an onside kick successfully was Oct. 4, 2009 at Indianapolis.
On this particular attempt, the design called for placekicker Steven Hauschka to aim it near the right sideline.
“I was happy,” Hauschka said, “to hit a clean one.”
The football popped high in the air. Green Bay tight end Brandon Bostick first attempted to catch it, but the ball bounced off his hands.
“I just got hit,” Bostick said. “And I didn’t have the ball.”
That began the biggest sequence in the career of reserve Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews, who was on the kickoff coverage team.
“I wasn’t even supposed to get the ball. It was supposed to go all the way out to Kam (Chancellor), and we were supposed to go block,” Matthews said. “It just so happened to pop up — it was a perfect kick — and (Bostick) bobbled it.”
At a springy 6-foot-5, Matthews is tied for the fourth-tallest player on the team behind Tony McDaniel (6-7), Justin Britt (6-6), and Garry Gilliam (6-6). And he certainly had a height advantage over Bostick (6-3).
“Went up,” Matthews said, “and capitalized on it.”
Four plays later, running back Marshawn Lynch rumbled in from 24 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Matthews has an interesting career path in professional football: The Cleveland Brown signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky in 2011. He was released immediately, and signed on with Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League where he played two seasons.
Last season, he was signed by Seattle — but was twice released this season before being signed one final time to the team’s practice squad again in the middle of November.
On Sunday, he played in his fifth NFL game — and helped save the Seahawks’ season.
“I am thankful for these hands,” Matthews said.
So are his teammates.
“Chris gave his body up for the team — and for the whole state of Washington, really,” Lockette said.