Dave Boling

Dave Boling: Taming the road a valuable lesson for Seahawks

Seahawks players, including Richard Sherman (25) and Deshawn Shead (35), celebrate Sunday after Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a late field goal, sealing Seattle’s 10-9 victory over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Seahawks players, including Richard Sherman (25) and Deshawn Shead (35), celebrate Sunday after Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a late field goal, sealing Seattle’s 10-9 victory over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. TNS

The survive-and-advance approach to athletic playoffs is supposed to be a figurative matter.

Not a literal battle against hypothermia.

The Seattle Seahawks escaped their wild card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, amid a minus-25 wind chill, coming away only a little bit bloodied but more than a little scared.

The most obvious significance of the 10-9 squeaker — preserved when the Vikings missed a short field goal on the unimaginable level of Tony Romo’s butterfingered bobble during the 2006 postseason — is advancement to Sunday’s divisional round game against top-seeded Carolina.

That the win over Minnesota came in a venue made doubly hostile by the home crowd and polar vortex weather is among other, deeper, values.

When it was 9-0 in the fourth quarter, I was preparing to speculate that the Seahawks lost this game in September at St. Louis, or at Green Bay, or at Cincinnati, or at home in a loss or two they could have won.

Had they solved any number of problems that caused them to blow late leads in early games, they might not have had to play on the road in Iditarod-like conditions.

Yes, the Seahawks were favored going into the game against the Vikings, but it’s nonetheless a huge win in franchise history. It was only the second road playoff win since their first, in the memorable upset of Miami that pushed them to the AFC title game following the 1983 regular season.

Curt Warner rushed for 113 yards in that one, and the 27-20 win in coach Chuck Knox’s first season with Seattle announced to the NFL that the Seahawks had arrived.

But the Seahawks lost the next nine road playoff games, finally breaking through again 29 years later, at Washington, in a wild card round game against the Redskins following the 2012 season.

Sunday’s game looked more challenging than that one, pitting them against the 11-5 NFC North Division champs in a game that was the third-coldest in the history of the NFL.

The 2015 Seahawks are extremely experienced, with 32 players who have played in Super Bowls, but they haven’t always been so successful dealing with inclemency.

In 2014, the Seahawks played two road games featuring extreme weather conditions. They lost both of them. It was nearly 120 degrees on the field when they wilted at San Diego, and then roughly 100 degrees colder when they seized up at Kansas City.

But Sunday they seemed to tolerate it even better than the more acclimated Vikings. And regardless the talent level, there weren’t a lot of visiting teams that could have gone into that icebox and win a game.

How did they do it? By recognizing the futility of fighting it.

“You just had to deal with it,” defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. “I never played in anything like it in my life. You could try to put it out of your mind, you could play mind games all you wanted, but it wasn’t going anywhere.”

Safety Kam Chancellor dealt with it by looking around, at the faces of his fellow defenders.

“The more you thought about going out and competing with your teammates, and having fun with them, the less you thought about the cold,” Chancellor said. “You got guys like Earl (Thomas) who keeps you in the game, and guys on the D-line having fun out there.”

Their last road playoff loss was played in the spacious environment inside the Georgia Dome. It was the week after the win at Washington, in the divisional round against the Falcons.

The Hawks started slowly in that one, too. So slowly they were down 27-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who would finish with a career-high 385 passing yards, led them to 21 consecutive points and a 28-27 lead with 31seconds to go in the game.

Within the next 23 seconds, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan got his team in field-goal range for the game-winner. This one was good.

Wilson was asked how long it would take him to get over the disappointment in Atlanta. He said he wasn’t even off the field before he was thinking of all the things he could learn from it, and how he could make sure it didn’t happen again.

Sunday was the first chance since then to win a road playoff game.

They did. They survived the cold and now advance to Carolina.

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