Debate if you wish, but Sunday’s preposterous overtime win over Green Bay makes this version of the Seattle Seahawks – this season’s team and last – the most competitive team in NFL history.
Getting back to a second straight Super Bowl is a convincing argument in itself.
But it’s more about the way they have pulled this off, sometimes winning when they shouldn’t, sometimes scoring in bizarre ways, and never, never believing they’re out of it.
Maybe it’s fueled by audacity and arrogance, and often it’s about absurd athleticism. Sunday, it was their capacity to ignore what seemed painfully obvious – for 57 minutes, Green Bay was the superior team.
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Last season’s dramatic masterpiece win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship game now seems tame compared to the 28-22 decision Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks had played themselves out of it with turnovers and penalties and dropped passes. They trailed 16-0 at half and 19-7 with barely more than two minutes left in the game.
Russell Wilson, who had thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception in his post-season career, had four interceptions. Jermaine Kearse, who had been clutch in big moments, was the target on all those interceptions – two of which clanked off his hands.
The biggest play, in fact, had been a fake field goal when punter/holder Jon Ryan fired a touchdown pass to eligible tackle Garry Gilliam on a play that is called, according to Ryan, “The Charlie Brown Play.”
The problem was they continued to play like Charlie Browns most of the way.
When the Packers went up by 12 in the fourth quarter, the seismic sensors around CenturyLink could detect the expectations of the Seahawks fans crashing to the earth.
A Grief Quake.
But between that point and when the confetti flew, the Seahawks scored 21 points.
Russell Wilson became himself again. In that final seven minutes or so, he connected on six of seven passes for 134 yards for one passing TD, one rushing TD and a blind-faith two-point conversion to Luke Willson.
There was only one way that was appropriate for this group to win the game in overtime, only one set of circumstances that could capture the true ethos of this Seahawks team: The determining score was a deep pass to Kearse, a 35-yard route to sweet redemption.
The Packers contributed to this turning into an NFL classic. They rushed for 135 yards against Seattle’s top-rated rush defense. They picked off and pressured Wilson. And quarterback Aaron Rodgers, slowed by a calf injury, guided them to a lead.
And as they struggled to the finish, Rodgers was limping on one side while Hawk defenders Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were playing with arm/shoulder injuries.
It made for terrific drama. And I don’t think Hawks coach Pete Carroll was overstating it when he called it “one for the ages.”
Wilson and Kearse and Marshawn Lynch will get deserved credit on offense, as will so many defenders. But I think one play early in third quarter, by guard J.R. Sweezy, was a very subtle turning point. And if not that, at least an indicator of how this most competitive of Seahawks teams operates.
It was 16-0 at that point, and Wilson was not only sacked for a 15-yard loss, he was driven to the turf by Packer linebacker Clay Matthews with extreme prejudice.
Like much of the rest of the Hawks’ offensive line, Sweezy was not exactly distinguishing himself against the tough Green Bay front seven.
But Sweezy was not going to stand for Matthews driving his quarterback into the turf. He sprinted back and dove into Matthews to get him off Wilson. It was primitive and punitive and he was penalized.
But it was beautifully vindictive.
“It was probably a little late and a little unnecessary,” Sweezy said. “But that’s our quarterback and we’re going to defend him. That’s who we are.”
Some fans will remember a Seahawks game at Arizona a few seasons back when Darnell Dockett not only took down quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but also ground his elbow into Hasselbeck’s throat. The stunning part of the episode was that none of the linemen came to the quarterback’s aid.
That’s not going to happen with these Seahawks.
“That boy was protecting his brother,” linebacker K.J. Wright said of Sweezy’s response. “That’s what we’re all about.”
And that’s what makes them different.