During a session with Minneapolis reporters last week, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, the former Washington State assistant, compared Russell Wilson to history’s most famous escape artist, Harry Houdini. Sunday, Zimmer watched in frigid horror as Wilson wiggled out of almost certain disaster. Trailing 9-0 with two minutes elapsed in the fourth quarter, Wilson awaited a shotgun snap from the Minnesota 39.
The ball sailed over Wilson’s left shoulder and plopped 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Wilson gave chase and slid to his knees to scoop it up. Instead of pouncing on the ball, Wilson quickly got up and rolled right, six Vikings defenders in pursuit, including CB Captain Munnerlyn, who nearly sacked him. Wilson completed a pass to rookie WR Tyler Lockett, alone in the middle of the field.
“Unbelievable,” said Baldwin. “When something bad looks like it is about to happen, Wilson works his magic and gets the ball to Tyler.”
Lockett blazed inside the Minnesota five-yard line, setting up a three-yard TD pass to Baldwin that put the Seahawks back in the game. They won improbably when Blair Walsh hooked a 27-yard field goal attempt wide left toward the Mississippi River with 22 ticks to play.
Walsh made three field goals, from 22, 43 and 47 yards. During the regular season, he had 34, most in the NFL. On attempts from inside the 30, Walsh had a career mark of 33-for-34. He was 15-for-15 on tries when the game-time temp was 20 degrees or colder.
No way would he miss from 27. Four years ago, as a rookie, he set an NFL record by going 10-for-10 from 50 or more yards. So the numbers were too stacked against a miss.
NFL kickers this year attempted 191 field goals from 27 or fewer yards. They made 189. So Walsh’s 27-yard attempt was a 98.95 percent lock. But sometimes pigs fly.
When Walsh missed, CB Richard Sherman fell to his knees and buried his face in the turf. DE Michael Bennett made the sign of the cross, muttered a prayer, and pointed an index finger toward he heavens. FS Earl Thomas jumped up and down like a Powerball winner.
Said Sherman: “Thank you Jesus.”
None knew they had advanced to the divisional round by virtue of the shortest missed field goal in the final two minutes of any playoff game in NFL history.
The Seahawks stood history on its head in two other ways. They became the fifth team to win a postseason game by scoring 10 or fewer points under the current playoff format (since 1990), and the first since the 1997 Steelers, who knocked off the Patriots 7-6 in the divisional round.
The Seahawks entered the fourth trailing 9-0. By winning 10-9, they became the first team in history to win a road playoff game in which they where shut out in the first three quarters.
Before Sunday, 40 road playoff teams were scoreless in the first three quarters. They all lost.
We’ll expand the parameters to include all regular-season games since 1990. Only 11 teams went on the road and won in regulation without scoring in the opening three periods. Those teams, listed chronologically:
|1992||Dec. 20||Vikings||Steelers||0||0||0||6||Min 6-3|
|1993||Sept. 19||Browns||Raiders||0||0||0||19||Clev 19-16|
|1993||Nov. 21||Giants||Eagles||0||0||0||7||NYG 7-3|
|1993||Dec. 12||Bills||Eagles||0||0||0||10||Buff 10-7|
|1994||Oct. 2||Falcons||Rams||0||0||0||8||Atl 8-5|
|1997||Sept. 7||Panthers||Falcons||0||0||0||9||Car 9-6|
|1999||Sept. 19||Seahawks||Bears||0||0||0||14||Sea 14-13|
|2003||Sept. 21||Browns||49ers||0||0||0||13||Clev 13-12|
|2005||Sept. 19||Redskins||Cowboys||0||0||0||14||Wash 14-13|
|2013||Sept. 29||Cardinals||Bucs||0||0||0||13||AZ 13-10|
|2016||Jan. 10||Seahawks||Vikings||0||0||0||10||Sea 10-9|
Note that the Seahawks also won Sept. 19, 1999, when they rallied from a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit and defeated the Chicago Bears 14-13 at Soldier Field. Seattle’s quarterback that day: Glenn Foley, who threw TDs of 34 and 49 yards to Derrick Mayes and Fabien Bownes, respectively.
In their 40 seasons, the Seahawks have played 656 games, regular season and playoffs. In only one other contest did the Seahawks win – home or away – when they failed to score in the first three quarters. That game was Nov. 27, 1994 in the Kingdome, when Rick Mirer rallied Seattle from a 6-0 fourth-quarter deficit to a 10-9 victory over Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs.
No wonder Sherman knelt, Bennett prayed and Thomas jumped for joy. They were part of a win unique in NFL playoff history.
Since he became Seattle’s head coach in 2010, Pete Carroll has coached the Seahawks in 11 playoff games. Sunday’s win was his eighth, and in five of those – four with Wilson at quarterback — the Seahawks had to overcome a deficit of at least eight points.
Carroll’s five comeback wins from a deficit of eight or more points is the most by any head coach in league history, breaking a tie with New England’s Bill Belichick, who has won four playoff games after the Patriots trailed by eight or more. Carroll’s rallies:
|2010||Jan. 8||Wild card||Saints||10 (17-7)||Won 41-36 at the Clink|
|2012||Jan. 6||Wild card||Redskins||14 (14-0)||Won 24-14 at FedEx Field|
|2014||Jan. 19||Conf. champ||49ers||10 (10-0)||Won 23-17 at the Clink|
|2015||Jan. 18||Conf. champ||Packers||16 (16-0)||Won 28-22 in overtime|
|2016||Jan. 10||Wild card||Vikings||9 (9-0)||Won 10-9 at Minneapolis|
You probably don’t need a reminder that Belichick’s fourth such victory came against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Seattle led by 10 before losing 28-24.
Wilson’s four, fourth-quarter comeback wins are the most in the NFL playoffs since he entered the league in 2012. Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick each have two.
Finally, the would-be tackler that Wilson dodged to avoid a sack on the 35-yard completion to Lockett was the aforementioned Captain Munnerlyn — the only one to record a pick six against Wilson (Oct. 7, 2012, for Carolina).