The rest of the Pacific Northwest was still buzzing over his catch that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
So how did Jermaine Kearse celebrate one of the greatest plays in Washington state’s sporting history?
“I went to church and had dinner at home,” Seattle’s newest hometown hero from Lakewood and Lakes High School and the University of Washington said Monday. “So it was a relaxed night and I enjoyed it with my family and friends.”
The NFC champions (14-4) feel it’s their brotherhood that has them back in the Super Bowl against New England (14-4) on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
The Seahawks know it sounds corny to outsiders — and, frankly, they don’t care — but they truly believe their trust in and love for each other is why they rallied Sunday. They were down 16-0 midway through the third quarter and 19-7 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in regulation to win an overtime game no one in the Northwest will forget.
Defensive end Cliff Avril has been in the NFL seven seasons. He’s played at least 15 years of football dating back to his days at Purdue and, before that, Clay High School in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Asked if he’d ever seen anything like what the Seahawks did Sunday, Avril shook his head.
“I’ve never been a part of it, no,” he said. “But anything is possible with this group of guys that we have. And that’s the truth.
“We all believe in each other. We have that brotherhood. We have that camaraderie where we feel like we’re never out of a game. And it showed.”
The Seahawks saw Sunday’s preposterous comeback as emblematic of their entire season. Counted out as a post-Super Bowl bust at 3-3 in mid-October and in need of unison at 6-4 in late November, they haven’t lost since.
“The first half of the game was like the first half of this season,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We found something, and that is trust. We trusted in each other. Again.
“That’s how you win championships. You’ve got to believe in each other. … There’s a difference between playing with each other and playing for each other. We play for each other. And that’s what makes us special.”
The story’s been told and retold — and will be re-retold again in the two weeks until Super Bowl XLIX — of the team meeting led by Baldwin, safety Kam Chancellor, All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch and others in the days following their Nov. 16 loss at Kansas City. The mandate was for more trust, for belief and a recommitment to each other.
Since that meeting, the Seahawks have won eight consecutive games to become the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots to make the Super Bowl the year after winning it.
These players have used multiple perceived slights to unify and strengthen trust this season: the reported locker-room rift for and against quarterback Russell Wilson that didn’t exist; the unsubstantiated and since ridiculed-as-ridiculous national story Wilson “wasn’t black enough” for some teammates; and the very-real upheaval from popular (to many teammates), $11 million wide receiver Percy Harvin being traded out of nowhere two days before a game in October.
Sure, the return of All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner after he missed five games with a foot injury and the two games off in November that healed Chancellor were huge boosts to the defense and team since November. Lost in the wild finish was that the defense excelled for most of Sunday against Green Bay, limiting Aaron Rodgers and one of the league’s top passing offenses to 178 yards and twice stopping the Packers inside the 5-yard line.
But guess what the theme of coach Pete Carroll’s message was to his players as they gathered around him on the edge of the sideline just before the kickoff of overtime in the NFC Championship Game?
“What a tremendous illustration this was,” Carroll said of the 28-22 win over the Packers. “Really, we’re standing on the sidelines there prior to overtime talking about that: ‘Look what you’ve done. Look what you’ve accomplished to get to this point. Let’s go finish this thing and believe that we can.’”
Their belief was strong enough to improbably win the NFC. In less than two weeks we’ll find if it’s enough to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the Super Bowl again.
“What happened in the middle of the year was they found the connection of what team is all about. And that’s about supporting the guys around you,” Carroll said. “They found that and embraced it. We have ridden that thought all the way to this point, even to the point where we gather them up going into OT (Sunday) and we talk to them about how powerful that belief is.
“And,” the coach who instilled the belief said, “what it can allow you to accomplish.”
SHERMAN, THOMAS GET MRIs
A day after All-Pro defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas vowed to play in the Super Bowl despite elbow and shoulder injuries, respectively, both stars got magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams.
Carroll said he didn’t have the results of those Monday afternoon; ESPN later reported Sherman has a sprained elbow.
The Seahawks expect Sherman and Thomas to play in the Super Bowl.
Sherman got whacked in the left arm extremely hard — the only way Kam Chancellor hits — when his teammate was trying to nail Packers running back James Starks near the sideline on the first play of the fourth quarter, but got Sherman instead. Sherman stayed in the game but winced and cradled his arm into his torso between and sometimes even during plays.
Thomas’s shoulder popped out of its socket and had to be popped back in. He briefly went into the locker room, missed three defensive snaps then returned to play with a brace on the shoulder.
“Both those guys were in dire straits if they could play (against Green Bay) and they didn’t flinch. Not for a second,” Carroll said Monday. “Their courage and heart couldn’t have been more evident. Their willingness to throw their body out there was so impressive. Earl had a brace on his shoulder, and Richard couldn’t straighten his arm out.”
THE MIGHTY QUINN
Three weeks ago there were seven NFL head coaching vacancies. Now there is one. And it’s becoming a foregone conclusion around the Seahawks that the reason Atlanta hasn’t hired its new head man yet is because the Falcons are waiting, per league hiring rules, for Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to finish his season.
Carroll wants that rule changed. He sees the Seahawks’ and his staff’s successes as hurting his assistants’ chances at head coaching jobs because teams don’t want to wait until after the Super Bowl to hire them.
“I would really think that would be a good idea (to change the rule),” Carroll said. “Guys should not be restricted because of their success.”
Carroll said rookie RT Justin Britt “should be fine” to play in the Super Bowl after missing the NFC title game with a knee injury, “but we will find out as we go through the practices this week.” Alvin Bailey started for him Sunday. Carroll said Britt “was really close” to playing against Green Bay.