In a game more unpredictable than a toddler nursery, Russell Wilson found a quiet moment in the bedlam of overtime Sunday afternoon and offered up a prediction. It was the only correct prediction in a game that will win by acclamation the Oscar for Most Preposterous Outcome.
But before we get to that, we want to bring you a post-game tirade that sets up the prediction. Articulate as he is passionate, WR Doug Baldwin unleashed after leaving the field following the Seahawks’ epic 28-22 triumph over Green Bay that sends the Seattles, again, to the Super Bowl, this time against the New England Patriots Feb. 1 in Glendale, AZ. The Pats crushed Indianapolis 45-7 later Sunday to win the AFC championship.
In the Clink tunnel, he encountered local and national reporters awaiting admission to the locker room. Eyes growing wide, Baldwin saw a chance to unload the chip on his shoulder, which as most Seahawks followers know, is a Pacific Coast redwood.
Are you ready for this?” Baldwin asked, as reporters stared. “Are you?”
Resetting his feet, he leaned into it.
“How many of you mother (expletive) doubted us?” he said, voice rising. “How many of you doubted us when we were 3-3? I want you to write this down. Write this down, OK? When we were 3-3, everyone counted us out. Y’all didn’t believe in us. A whole bunch of people thought we weren’t going to make it. At 6-4 — ‘Ah, that’s OK. They have a winning record, but they aren’t going to make the playoffs.’
“At 16-0 at the half, how many of you counted us out? How many of y’all doubted us? It is indicative of our season. Y’all didn’t want to believe in us. It’s OK — we don’t need you to believe. We’re going to believe in ourselves. We ain’t worried about y’all. We are worried about ourselves.
Baldwin, who had six catches for 106 yards, including a 35-yard beauty that set up the game-winner, was on a rhetorical jihad:
“When we were down 16-0 at the half, guess what we said? ‘You don’t win the game in the first half. You win the game in the second half.’ When we do, we come out and we do what we do — we play Seahawks football. We got the opportunity to do what we love. And, we’ll see y’all at the Super Bowl.”
Angry Doug pivoted, then left. Reporters chuckled, then burst into laughter, our stories half-done once the rant was transcribed.
Beyond the humor, there was much truth in Baldwin’s explosion. The Seahawks really do believe they are capable of most anything. The faith stood in stark contrast to the game’s first 56 minutes, when they seemed capable of mostly nothing, save for a fake field goal that turned into a touchdown pass from a punter to a 300-pound lineman. Fat-guy scores are never pulled from the shelf of the main aisle.
But as the Seahawks say incessantly, it’s how you finish. Which brings us back to Wilson’s prediction.
After the Seahawks scored with 2:09 left to close to 19-14, then recovered an onside kick and scored again 44 seconds later, adding a loopy, two-point conversion pass to go up 22-19, the Packers punched back with a 48-yard drive to a tying field goal to force overtime. Whew.
The Seahawks had just overcome, from 16-0, the biggest deficit in NFC Championship history. But they hadn’t won — yet. That’s when Wilson leaned over to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell after the Seahawks won the coin toss to get the ball first in overtime.
“It’s kinda funny,” he said. “I told him on the sideline I was going to hit (Jermaine) Kearse for a touchdown, on a check (a play changed at the line of scrimmage).
“Sure enough, we did.”
Of all the unlikely elements that poured from this game like confetti, the play selection here was perhaps the most unlikely of all.
Not only did the play immediately follow a booming completion of 35 yards to Baldwin, the hot read on the decisive play was a man having a bad game in the manner of the Washington Generals, the Globetrotters’ stooges, had bad games.
Kearse, the Tacoma kid who played for the University of Washington, had been targeted by Wilson five previous times, resulting in an incompletion and all of Wilson’s career-high four interceptions. One was a bad throw by Wilson, one was a good defensive play by the Packers, but two clanged off Kearse’s hands to the defense.
“I was like, what is going on?” Kearse said. “I never really felt sorry for myself. You got to learn how to push through those type of moments. Russell kept giving me chances, and I made one.”
On a play installed just this week, Kearse and Wilson knew the receiver was one-on-one against CB Tramon Williams, an eight-year vet who had no help because the Packers chose to play the run with a cover-zero formation.
Wilson’s arc described a perfect parabola that hit Kearse in full stride at the three-yard line. He tumbled into the end zone as a record Clink crowd of 65,538 began shaking the Pioneer Square earth as if it wanted to loosen Bertha from her muddy quagmire.
Prediction fulfilled — and history repeated. A year ago on the same field in the NFC Championship against San Francisco, it was Kearse who caught a 35-yard pass on fourth-and-seven that proved to be the game-winner.
The prelude to the astonishing finish was one of the worst halves of Pete Carroll’s five-year coaching tenure in Seattle. Given the stakes, it was the worst.
“We just made mistake after mistake after mistake, and looked terrible,” Carroll said. “They jumped on us and tore us up . . . such a challenging day. It was hard.”
Fortunately for the Seahawks, they had a defense that again applied the second-half hammer, allowing three points after intermission. Given the great field position that the Packers, the NFL’s No. 1 offense, were given by three of Wilson’s interceptions, as well as Baldwin’s fumble on a kickoff return, the Seahawks defense may have played its best game of the season.
Finally, Wilson paid back the defense on the game’s final two plays to crush the Packers, who are familiar with the feeling. Two years ago in the regular season’s third game, Golden Tate stole a game from the Packers on the celebrated “Fail Mary” pass that provided a 14-12 decision.
“This one’s going to hurt for awhile,” said Aaron Rodgers, the Packers QB who was valiant but perturbed. “The close proximity . . .that feeling, the clock hits zero . . . gave it away.”
Then there’s the Seahawks fans of little faith who left the stadium early when Seattle was down 19-7. Hundreds of fans outside the Clink clamored to get back before game’s end, but were denied re-entry.
Doug Baldwin would like to have a word with them.