SEATTLE – And you think the BCS is a cockamamie way to decide a football champion?
It has to be a playoff, right? Gotta have a playoff. A playoff is the only way.
OK, ladies and gentlemen, presenting your playoff-bound Seattle Seahawks. Your precedent-setting, D-minus, no-way, 7-9, playoff-bound Seattle Seahawks.
Don’t you just love them?
Why wouldn’t you?
Sure, they just cost themselves a dozen spots in the next National Football League draft. Sure, they’ve already been garroted by their opening-round opponent, the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Sure, they’ll be stewing all week whether Matt Hasselbeck should be allowed to Favre his way back into the game and send Charlie Whitehurst back to being Clipboard Jesus instead of the real savior he was Sunday night.
Never mind all that.
When presented with the choice of slinking away as a forgettable mediocrity or standing up and seizing the day as America’s Punchline, they chose Punchline.
There may be no greater test of true character.
Go ahead and laugh at them. They’ll laugh with you.
“It’s all new to me,” said fullback Michael Robinson. “All I can say is, ‘San Francisco, Arizona, St. Louis … see y’all next year.’”
Those are the three stooges the Seahawks outlasted to become – cough – champions of the NFC West, the Rams the last to be dispatched in a 16-6 Seattle victory in the final game of the NFL’s regular season in a game dominated by the 30th-ranked defense in the league and a backup quarterback who looks like a refugee from the cover of a Candlelight Ecstasy Romance novel.
Those were the teams that stood aside so a team with a losing record could make the playoffs for the first time.
Now, this sort of thing happens in juice-box soccer, North Idaho prep basketball and “The Sing-Off.” It’s not supposed to happen in the NFL.
At least in college football, a .500 record is required to qualify for even the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Still, all you can do in the end is win the ones they tell you that you have to win, and that’s precisely what the Seahawks did on Sunday.
On the very first series, they quite spectacularly drove 87 yards in just six plays for a 7-0 lead, the big play a 61-yarder that the implausible Whitehurst underthrew to Ruvell Martin. The Rams couldn’t have looked more helpless on that one, or when Mike Williams peeled away from the flow on the 4-yard touchdown pass a few snaps later.
For Whitehurst, whose previous opportunities in relief of Hasselbeck have prompted reactions that range from a shrug to cover-your-eyes, it couldn’t have been a bigger lift.
“You can only score seven on the first drive, right?” he grinned.
At that point, the Seahawks more or less turned it over to their defense – and to the Rams’ play-callers. Between them, they managed to hector quarterback Sam Bradford into a quivering blob.
St. Louis has a 1,200-yard running back in Steven Jackson, but apparently decided to rest him for the playoffs. They don’t have much in the way of home-run receivers, but didn’t take even one shot downfield until their last play of the third quarter. When the Rams did, they couldn’t hang on to anything.
And the Seattle defense? Backed up by a Marshawn Lynch fumble in the third quarter, it dug in and held the Rams to a field goal to preserve a one-point lead. And in the game’s defining moment – the Rams at midfield down a touchdown – linebacker Will Herring stepped in front of Brandon Gibson to intercept Bradford’s most regrettable pass.
“The thing that’s most important for us right now is to be OK about where we are,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, “and not think that this is something that we can’t deal with or handle and get all caught up in all this stuff that’s written and talked about.”
You mean stuff like a 7-9 team making the playoffs is booking passage on the Titanic?
Or scoring tickets for “Carrie, the Musical”?
Or being the first man to buy a leisure suit off the rack?
Or that it’s the best argument ever made for NFL contraction?
“Listen, there’s no apologies for making it in the playoffs,” safety Lawyer Milloy insisted. “The easiest way to get in the playoffs is to win your division. Period, point blank. And we did that.”
And, hey, they weren’t in charge of making up the divisions.
Still … 7-9 … NFC West champions … it’s a hard concept to grasp.
“It’s kind of sunk in already,” said return specialist Leon Washington, holding back a wink. “If we win the Super Bowl, it’ll take a little while for that to sink in.”
Don’t you just love them?