It was some time in the third quarter, when the Seahawks were down 17-10, when it finally started to hit me what needed to happen for Seattle to win. I'm not talking about strategy and I'm not talking about what player needs to do what, and I'm not talking about points. I'm talking about the magical mystery known as 'narrative.' I'm talking about gut feelings.
The Seahawks were the number one seed and in the NFC Championship game in large part due to Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, but their potential of hitting legendary status right now is strictly about defense. If Seattle wins one more game, and does so in convincing fashion against the number one offense, people will have to start wondering where they rank on the "Best Ever" list. And it could be very, very high.
So if the Seahawks were going to win this game, down 17-10 in the third quarter and with an offense that left you in want all day long, they were going to have to do it with their defense. Our defense is our offense. It became evident late in the fourth quarter that our version of "The Drive" was going to have be going the opposite way.
"Go out there and win us this game, defense."
It was because of that narrative that I turned to my friend when they were down 17-13 and said that I knew we would get the lead in this game at some point, but I didn't know that we'd hold it. We'd need to put the defense in a position to go out on "the drive" and prove to be the best in the NFL. While one could argue that on that final drive, Seattle actually allowed Frank Gore to gain a 17-yard catch on 4th-and-2, and that Colin Kaepernick helped lead the 49ers to the 19-yard line with a shot to win it, the end story is this:
The Seahawks needed to make one play to win the game, and they did it.
Sure, the 4th-and-7 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse that gave the Seahawks the lead was both masterful, perhaps the most important completion in franchise history, and changed the way I'm going to live and treat other people, but it seemed right that actual final play was a tipped ball by Richard Sherman that led to a game-sealing interception by Malcolm Smith.
It had to be a game against either the Ravens, Eagles or Rams when I first noticed him. I don't remember which, because they all carried significance or because I just have a terrible memory, but I'll never forget the feeling I had when I was watching it. It was that feeling that things are going to be different now and it happened before tonight.
Actually, it happened before the playoffs.
In reality, it happened before this season.
Okay, to be perfectly honest with you, it happened before last season, too.
This was a game that occurred in 2011, when Tarvaris Jackson was the quarterback and before the Seahawks were actually good. I only know that it was at home, that it was a win, and that something really good happened. Because it was a game I was actually able to watch live, I want to say it was Thursday Night Football against Philly, and I'm sure someone can back me up on this.
Seattle won that game easily, 31-14, and Vince Young started for the Eagles and threw four interceptions.
Yep, it had to be this game.
I didn't remember any of these details though. I didn't remember having this feeling because we so brutally beat Philadelphia, or because we had won three of the last four games, or because I had any confidence that we'd fix the quarterback position. I just remember noticing this guy in the end zone and he's going absolutely nuts. But it's not just for show, it's not just to be a dick, this is just a guy that's incredibly pumped up about what's happening and he's getting his teammates and the crowd riled up about this team.
This is a Dick.
At the time of the 2011 NFL Draft, I wasn't writing for Field Gulls yet. I hadn't paid that much attention to the draft for Seattle, let alone players taken in the fifth round, so you'll have to excuse me if I didn't do my homework on Richard Sherman. Yet Sherman was clearly doing his homework on opposing teams and receivers.
By the second half of the year, Sherman was now starting as a rookie and beginning to make a name for himself. Barely. At this point I only really remember paying attention to him because you "had to" because he was a starter now, but what could we really expect of him? It actually didn't take him long to make headlines either -- trash-talking players like A.J. Green very early in his rookie season, but who is this guy? What right does Sherman have?
Then people started to say really crazy and ridiculous things, like that Sherman was grading out as one of the best corners in the NFL as a rookie? And that he wasn't allowing top NFL receivers to get very many catches or yards or perhaps any touchdowns at all? But surely he would prove to be a flash-in-the-pan like most fifth round rookie sensations, right?
Don't call me Butt Shirley. That's my stage name, only.
Except that Sherman didn't turn out to be a flash in the pan. At all. He burnt down the kitchen and he's spreading like a wildfire.
An All-Pro in 2012 and 2013, on Sunday, Sherman proclaimed himself as the best cornerback in the NFL.
Oh, and he also said it after the game, too.
It wasn't the way he played that night against the Eagles over two years ago that really made me start believing we had a special player and a special team, it was the way he acted. I saw a glimmer in Earl Thomas's eyes that night unlike anything I had seen from Earl up to that point in his career. He believed in Sherman, he trusted Sherman, and because Sherman believed, so did everyone else.
That 2011 team finished 7-9, but won 5 of 6 games during the second half of the year and nearly flipped their record to 9-7. The Seahawks are 32-14 in his 45 career starts, including playoffs. (They were 17-28 in the 45 previous games, by comparison.)
That night over two years ago, in that game, I looked into Sherman's eyes and I started believing too. We are two weeks away now from possibly realizing that dream.
I don't know if I've ever seen a game this weird before. I'll probably want to amend that later and say, "Of course I've seen weirder games before, logically that's the only conclusion out of 1000's of football games seen, but none that held this much significance for me." But I'm just going to give you exaggerated statement and my amendment both.
The first offensive play of the game was a lost fumble. By our hero. The very first one. Our very own hero.
In fact, the ball was jumping and moving around tonight like the Christopher Lloyd and his angel buddies were out there messing with physics to help a young orphan find someone to love him. (Seriously, at one time in God's history he supposedly let angels go down to Earth and effect things physically in front of millions of people, thereby risking that everybody on Earth would realize there's a God or at least some supernatural presence, and he chose baseball and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the perfect time to starting doing it.)
Russell Wilson looked hurried, under duress, and inaccurate-on-big-opportunities for most of the night.
Marshawn Lynch and Wilson had seemingly terrible chemistry in the fourth quarter, leading to bad exchanges, broken plays, and a loss of seven points.
Both teams had exactly 308 total yards.
San Francisco actually led for most of the first three quarters, despite doing terrible on third downs.
The 49ers had four sacks but no interceptions and only one pass defensed. The Seahawks had two interceptions and six passes defensed. Both quarterbacks were constantly under pressure but the reality is that Kaepernick was incredible in those moments and Wilson was questionable. Kaepernick rushed for 130 yards, often gaining the most when it looked like he would be sacked. (Seattle finished with two sacks but probably had at least 10 near-sacks.) Wilson gained nothing on the ground and had a hard time finding a suitable "out plan" when shit hit the fan, getting an intentional grounding penalty and often running the wrong way.
The Seahawks had to stop San Francisco's running game, which they did an awesome job of if you only look at the designed running plays to running backs. Frank Gore was held to 14 yards on 11 carries and a long of nine yards. In fact, despite their starting running back doing so terribly, the 49ers averaged more yards per carries than Seattle and Marshawn Lynch, and Lynch ran for over 100 yards. By a lot. (5.8 to 4.0)
There were six fourth down attempts, three by each team.
This was just a weird, weird game all around and when you have weird games, you get weird results. Thankfully the weirdest thing of all, is that the Seattle Seahawks are going to the fucking Super Bowl.
And so it is that the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks become the 48th pair of teams to meet up and play an official Super Bowl. (I'm still hoping to one day see an underground Super Bowl.) That's barely more Super Bowls than there are presidents. There's always going to be something special about every Super Bowl team whether you win or lose, and now the Seahawks become the 97th (or 98th) team to make one. You'll always now hear something about "the '13 Hawks' just like you would the 05 Hawks, the 02 Bucs, the 96 Packers, the 98 Falcons, the 99 Titans, the 06 Bears, the 09 Saints, it doesn't matter.
You'll always be "a Super Bowl" team. It doesn't always mean you were one of the two best teams in the league that year. Hell, it rarely ever means that.
But this is one of those years where you really are getting the two best teams in football.
The Broncos are the class of the AFC. They've got perhaps the greatest quarterback -- or just plain greatest player -- to ever live, they've got four of the top skill position players in the NFL, they even had a perennial defensive player of the year candidate until he got hurt.
Denver is the top offense, the top passing offense, the top scoring offense in the NFL.
The Seahawks are the class of the NFC. They've got one of the best young quarterbacks -- if he wins a Super Bowl in year two, I don't think you could ever take him out of the top three young quarterbacks to ever play -- who has accomplished ridiculous goals in his two seasons, they've got three All-Pro players in the secondary alone, they even have a skill player on offense that some think could be the most valuable skill player in the game when healthy but that's rarely been true here.
Seattle is the top defense, the top passing defense, the top scoring defense in the NFL.
This is the dream Super Bowl matchup. Manning versus Wilson? Sure. Manning versus Sherman? Hell yes. Sherman versus Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker? Byron Maxwell versus the other, unoccupied? Walter Thurmond III versus Wes Welker? KJ Wright, the tight end stopper, on Julius Thomas?
Many will ask and should ask, whether this is the greatest offense versus the greatest defense. The Broncos broke all the records on offense, the Seahawks have one of the most elite defenses we've ever been able to track in the modern game since sacks and tackles and these sort of things were beginning to be compiled.
Maybe it's not the greatest defense. Maybe it's not the greatest offense. But I'll be damned if this isn't one of the most perfect matchups for a Super Bowl in NFL history. It's Goliath versus Goliath.
Let's fit in some bullet points:
- We can afford him because if you start running the numbers (per OverTheCap.com) the Seahawks could probably have about $25 million in cap space this year, but Michael Bennett has earned one hell of a raise. Bennett dominated the line of scrimmage, constantly disrupted Kaepernick, and always seemed to get in the back field.
I had an idea for a Bennett post about two games into the season because of his prowess to do this and I'm not going to spoil it now, but man if I ever write it, it'll be so funny, you guys.
Bennett either has one more game with Seattle or a lot more games. There's likely no middle ground there. But now that he's shown off in front of millions of people in the NFC title game, he's going to now be seen by over 100,000,000. That could do wonders for him, as well as the rest of the team.
- Guys, our team is going to play in front of the whole world. Holy fucking sweet Moses.
- Seattle went into this season under the belief that Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin would be the number one and number two receivers. They've had Harvin for about 1% of the season and Rice was basically getting benched when he got hurt.
Remember where we stood with Doug Baldwin as we were going into the season?
It's easy to forget that after producing very little last year with Wilson, Baldwin had less than 400 yards and had one foot out the door. With at least six feet ahead of him on the depth chart (that's obviously not a reference to Wilson, because it's 6') in Harvin, Rice and Tate. Then others thinking that maybe even Jermaine Kearse could be ahead of him or even possibly Chris Harper.
Remember Chris Harper?!
Baldwin earned himself a RFA tender with his play during the year, but on an offense that was STAGNANT, with Tate not yet showing up in the playoffs, Baldwin came up huge. He, like much of the rest of the team, now literally has a chance to become world famous.
- Harper, Christine Michael, Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, Tharold Simon, Spencer Ware, Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith, Ty Powell. We spent a lot of time in the offseason talking about our draft class of 2013, and the only two guys to play more than five games this year were Luke Willson and Michael Bowie.
Not to mention that Alvin Bailey has now played in a conference championship game and Christine Michael hasn't.
I can't wait to see some of these guys start playing in the future, but we just went to the Super Bowl with a rookie class that almost contributed nothing and our best offseason acquisition playing in probably the equivilant of one half of one game.
- The Broncos open as two-point favorites in Vegas.
This isn't the first time that Seattle has opened as Super Bowl underdogs at a time when it certainly felt like they should be strong favorites. Back in 2005, despite the Seahawks being a one seed and the Steelers being a six seed, it was Pittsburgh that ended up as four-point faves.
At the time, it seemed like ridiculous nonsense because our offense was so good and the Steelers were just running hot, but very few people were picking us to win. And we didn't.
But this team does not have the same mentality as that team. I'm not saying that team didn't have the right mentality, but it was just different. That was a team that steamrolled everyone in a weak NFC and practically walked into the Super Bowl.
This is a team that strongly feels that they have something to prove. That they've been disrespected by not only other NFL teams, but by NFL fans, the media, the Internet, outhouses, doghouses, you name it, if it has an internet connection and an opinion about football, it's probably disrespecting the Seattle Seahawks.
You hear it when Sidney Rice talks about the feeling of coming to Seattle and immediately sensing that the rest of the country forgets about us up here. Then you've got Sherman saying, "Don't worry, I'll remind them." The world didn't care about the Seahawks in 2005, or didn't know about them until they got to the Super Bowl, but people have been talking about this team for well over a year and here we are.
They know about "those dirty, nasty, cheatin', usin', no-good sons of bitches in the Pacific Northwest!" and now here we are. The villain versus Peyton Manning.
Denver and Seattle have been the two best picks for Super Bowl XLVIII since the end of last year's playoffs, despite neither of them even making it to the conference championship game. The writing was on the wall and I had confidence that these two teams would eventually make it here. And now again, here we are.
I'm glad that we're the underdog. Not just because seven of the last eight Super Bowl champions were underdogs at least once in the playoffs, thereby giving us our "once" if this two-point line holds up, but because this team requires a chip on it's shoulder.
You didn't draft Doug Baldwin.
You let Richard Sherman slide to the fifth round.
You passed on Russell Wilson. All of you.
You traded Marshawn Lynch for peanuts.
You fired Pete Carroll. Twice.
I don't know if the universe owes the Seahawks anything, almost certainly not, but I'm guessing that this team feels the need to take back what they're owed anyway. These players so excellently represent the feelings of the fans, it was just a cosmic, magical miracle that we're all in this together. I think that Seattle just beat the second-best team in the NFL already, now they just need to go out and beat the best team in the AFC. I know we are the better team, but two-point underdogs?
Yes, that is fitting as hell.
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