Mon., Jan. 19, 2015
How the heck did they win that game?
A GRIP ON SPORTS • Well into the evening last night, when someone in our house would bump into someone else, they would utter these words: "How the heck did they win that game?" Except most of the time, to paraphrase a popular holiday movie, we didn't say heck. No one really expected an answer. There wasn't a good one. Read on.
• You probably all know the particulars. The Hawks played awful early. They trailed 16-0 at halftime. Their first score came on a fake field goal from the Canadian punter to a fat guy who hadn't been on the team for more than five minutes. It looked so hopeless even some of the 12s gave up and left CenturyLink, probably hoping to get some sort of rebate on their $100 parking. Yet the Seahawks are returning to the Super Bowl, courtesy of a 28-22 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers. (And quite possibly, the Buffalo Bills, but more on that later.) How the heck did they win the game? They trailed 19-7 with 4 minutes left, and Russell Wilson had thrown four interceptions, his fourth about a minute earlier. So how the heck did they win? Well, Wilson finally started completing passes to his guys, Marshawn Lynch found some seams and the Packers played, well, soft. Wilson ran it in from a yard out with 2:13 left and the Hawks had to on-side kick. That never works, does it, when the other team knows it's coming? It did yesterday, bouncing off Brandon Bostick's hands, face mask and helmet into the sticky fingers of Chris Matthews, another unsung player who made a big play. A little more than two minutes remained. The Hawks needed just one, and four plays to score, the final 24 yards covered by Lynch's feet. The first words out of my mouth when he scored? "Too soon." The first words out of my son's mouth after that? Well, I can't print them here but they expressed his disappointment with my negativity. Sorry, but leaving a minute and a half to Aaron Rodgers needing just a field goal is too much time. It didn't matter, though. Wilson's scrambling rainbow of a conversion pass found a pot of gold, Luke Willson's hands, and the Hawks led by three. Now Rodgers' magical drive, which led to a 48-yard Mason Crosby field goal, only forced overtime. An overtime that didn't include any coin-flip pronouncements about scoring and winning, only a private one between Wilson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Before he took the field, the quarterback told his coach he would find Jermaine Kearse on an audible for the game winner. That's what he did. And the Hawks had won. But how did they?
• The true answer might be contained in two post-game scenes. The first occurred in the public eye, with defensive lineman Michael Bennett "borrowing" a policeman's bicycle and riding it around CenturyLink. Still in his uniform. While smiling and waving to the celebrating crowd. If anything epitomizes the attitude of a Pete Carroll team, it's that. They are perpetually loose. They have fun. Carroll forces them to. Well, not really. He allows them to enjoy themselves as long as they compete. So they compete. Hard. And they have a chip on their shoulder. Which brings us to Doug Baldwin's post-game screed. For a guy who professes to not care what people think, he sure talks about it a lot. And probably will for the next two weeks. But his rant epitomizes something else. The us-vs.-them attitude great teams sometime need to get over the hump. The type of attitude that allows teams to rally from 3-3 starts to their season – or 16-0 halftime deficits. The Hawks did both this season. The reward? Winning a game they had no business winning and another trip to the Super Bowl.
• You think that comeback would have happened in Green Bay? Probably not. And, yes, I know the game would have played out differently on the not-so-frozen tundra. But still, being at home may have just spelled the difference for the Hawks. And, for that edge, they have to thank the Buffalo Bills. Green Bay was 10-3 heading into week 15 of the NFL regular season, needing to just win out to assure itself of home field throughout the playoffs. Then they traveled to Buffalo and lost 21-13 to a Bills team that would finish 9-7. The upset, built mainly on Rodgers' worst passing day of the season (17 of 42 for just 185 yards with two interceptions) dropped the Packers into a tie with the Hawks for the NFC's best record. The tie-breaker was the season opener, which Seattle won – in Seattle.
• After watching the New England Patriots blow out the Colts last night, I'm sure many of you are worried about them. Well, we're here to help, with an assist from my eldest son. As many of you know, Tyler works as a copy editor for the S-R sports department and, while researching NFC and AFC championship games Saturday night, came across this nugget. The two biggest blowouts in those games, the only two games in which the winning margin exceeded the Pats' last night, were executed by teams that went on to lose the Super Bowl. Yep, in 1991 the Bills defeated the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3. Of course, they lost to the Giants 20-19 when Scott Norwood's field goal went wide right, starting a streak of four consecutive Super Bowl defeats. Then, in 2001, the Giants blew out the Vikings 41-0 in the NFC title game. Two weeks later, the Giants were blasted by the Ravens 34-7. Looking through the scores, last night's 45-7 New England win was the only other time in NFC or AFC title history someone has won by more than five touchdowns. Maybe it doesn't bode well for the Pats.
• WSU: In other news yesterday, the Cougar women got back on the winning track, edging the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. ... Jacob Thorpe took a look back at the loss to Oregon State as well as writing this story and blog post on the newest member of the football coaching staff. ... Jacob also has his morning links. ... Forgot this earlier but Darryl Monroe has settled on a school.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan, who years ago used to cover Seahawk home games for us, was traveling yesterday instead. He still had time to put together a look back at the Zags' win over Loyola Marymount. ... BYU is disappointed to lose at St. Mary's.
• Boxing: John also has a preview of the upcoming U.S. championships, highlighting a local competitor.
• Seahawks: As you might expect, there is a lot to stories concerning the wild-and-crazy victory, many of which I've already linked above. ... John Blanchette was there as well and has this column in the sports section and this one on the front page. ... Lynch went for an under-the-radar 157 yards – 120 after halftime – despite not wearing the gold shoes he had planned to wear. Reportedly, the NFL wasn't going to fine him, the league was going to eject him if he wore them. ... With so many unsung heroes, there are stories and interviews all over the place about folks you might not know much about. And columns about how resilient the Seahawks are. ... At least one out-of-the-area columnist thinks the Hawks will win the Super Bowl. ... The Packers feel the reason they aren't going to be facing the Pats is on them. They blew the game. ... Finally, there was an outpouring of emotion after the game and not all of it came from the fans.
• That's our holiday report. If you have to work, sorry. If you don't have to work or go to school, enjoy the day. And take a moment to think about why and remember those who had the courage to stand up for and by their convictions. By the way, I know most of you know this, but there is a local connection to Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous speech. Until later ...