Seahawks pull off improbable win against the Vikings

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

It is 6:11 p.m. on Jan. 10, five hours and nine minutes after a missed chip shot field goal attempt from Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh sent the Seattle Seahawks to the divisional round of the National Football Conference playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Five hours and nine minutes later, and I still can’t wrap my head around how the Seahawks came through in the postseason again, when hope was all but lost.

But this team found a way, improving to 8-3 in playoff games under Pete Carroll and 3-0 in the wild-card round. The Seahawks clung to a 10-9 lead with 26 seconds left in the game, and their fate appeared to be sealed as Walsh — who was 3-3 on field goals for the day, including two from 40-plus yards — made his way onto the field to attempt a 27-yard field goal that was, for all intents and purposes, a gimme. It wasn’t even close.

For the second time in four attempts, place-holder Jeff Locke failed to leave the laces out for Walsh — the only thing the holder has to do after securing the ball. Walsh said postgame there was nothing wrong with Locke’s hold. “I just didn’t put a swing on it that’s acceptable by anybody’s standards,” he said. It remains to be seen just how much the laces hurt Walsh, physically or psychologically.

What is known is Walsh’s miss is the latest in dramatic last-minute playoff games for the Seahawks, with memories both sweet and sour alike. The last three Seahawks playoff games have now been decided in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, which includes the team’s highly improbable overtime win against the Green Bay Packers in last year’s NFC Championship game and last year’s excruciating loss to the New England Patriots in the 2015 Super Bowl.

“This was really a survival game for both teams,” Carroll said of the game, which was played in minus six degree weather — minus 25 degrees when factoring in wind chill. “I don’t think it’s a measure of anything as far as your football. It was guts and stick-to-it and grit and the whole thing for both sides.”

The game was the third-coldest in NFL postseason history, and boy did it look the part. Steven Hauschka’s kickoffs barely reached the end zone, quarterback Russell Wilson’s deep throws seemingly died in the middle of the air and passes ricocheted off receivers’ and defenders’ hands all game long.

Neither team came close to playing its best football, and you’re insane if you were expecting a shootout. It was sloppy, infuriating and sometimes downright embarrassing football, bringing back nostalgic memories of the 60s and 70s for some viewers, when getting a first down was an accomplishment in and of itself.

But when it mattered most, Wilson’s magic returned. A snap that sailed behind an unprepared Wilson should’ve resulted in a 20-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Instead, Wilson slid, scooped up the ball, popped back up on his feet and casually delivered a pass to Tyler Lockett, who took the ball inside Minnesota’s 5-yard line. The Seahawks cashed in two plays later on a Wilson touchdown pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

Hauschka added a 46-yard field goal on the next drive, capitalizing on running back Adrian Peterson’s fumble, and that was somehow all the scoring the Seahawks would need to leave the frozen tundra of Minneapolis with a playoff victory.

Al Michaels, who called the game on NBC, said it best during the 1980 Winter Olympics: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes.” And for one play on a freezing Sunday afternoon, a miracle there was.