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The improbable 8 minutes and 30 seconds that brought the Seahawks to the Super Bowl

So many things needed to go right for Seattle to pull off the greatest playoff comeback in franchise history. Here is a list of those things.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I remember the first time I watched the movie "Flight" starring Denzel Washington. If you've never seen it, it happens to be one of my personal favorites, but the reviews are quite mixed so don't get mad at me if you don't relate to Denzel's alcoholism like I do I mean no, I don't have a problem, what are you talking about?

In the first 20 minutes of the movie, there's a scene that had my heart pounding unlike any other scene I've seen in a movie scene. Aaaaaaand /scene. It's something that has naturally played out in the mind of anyone who has ever flown before, "What would happen if this plane started to go down?"

No movie that I've seen had ever really captured that feeling before. "Alive" focused on what happens after you crash. Other films, like "Non-Stop," "Passenger 57," and "Executive Decision" focus on what happens when you're hijacked, but are nothing more than cheesy action films. The most realistic depiction of an actual plane going down was obviously "Snakes on a Plane" but could we do better?

Then I saw "Flight" and finally knew that a plane crash might be kind of terrifying.

I stopped the movie and I watched the scene again. And again. And again. The scene lasts 9:09, depending on where you start and finish, but I probably watched it for over two hours. I couldn't help it. I truly felt like I was witnessing a real plane crash, feeling like I was really in the cockpit with Denzel. Just as everyone else was panicking, he maintained the only thing that would save everyone's life on the plane:

His cool.

He delivered one of my favorite lines in a movie, "We're gonna roll it." I would have to say that 50% of what makes that line so great is that it's Denzel fucking Washington, but it's just so perfect that at a time when everything is falling apart, rather than try and stay upright, the pilot insists they are going to turn the plane upside down in order to save their lives.

"We're gonna roll it."

In Sunday's NFC Championship, the Seattle Seahawks needed Denzel's stoic demeanor to show up in the form of Russell Wilson, and as you already know, Russell could sell Slurpee's from the ice in his veins. For 55 minutes, it was the worst game of his life, and I personally have little desire to re-visit everything that went wrong for 3.66/4 quarters of this game. Instead, just like that scene in "Flight," it's much easier and pleasant to re-watch one scene over and over again.

At 5:04, Wilson threw an interception to Morgan Burnett that for all intents and purposes should have been the end of the game. I've seen different win probability projections, but Pro-Football-Reference's 99.9% in favor of Green Bay sounds like the most likely reality to me. How does that .1% happen?

It's not easy. A whole hell of a lot has to go right. Here's everything that happened that turned this improbable into the win-possible:

Morgan Burnett's interception return that wasn't

5:13, Seattle ball at their own 46

The Seahawks got the ball back, down 19-7, and only 54 yards away from a touchdown that very well could have given them the opportunity to kick away, play defense, get the ball back, and win the game. It was hardly over at the time that they had the ball, even though their offense had done absolutely nothing for the first 55 minutes of the game.

But the one-play drive pretty much killed all hope when Wilson threw a pass to Jermaine Kearse that bounced off of his hands and into the waiting arms of Burnett.

In most situations, a player should get as many yards on the return as possible unless that player believes possession alone is enough to win the game. Burnett, and possibly a nearby Julius Peppers who could be motioning for him to "Get down!" believes that possession with five minutes left is enough for the Packers to win the game. Because if he had decided not to get down, there's a good chance Burnett would have housed it and taken a 26-7 lead.

This is just a half-second before he gives himself up:

Pivot right, and nobody's going to stop him. At the very least, it's extremely close field goal range.

Instead Burnett slides and gives himself up at the Green Bay 43. There is 5:04 left on the clock as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense takes over. Except that Rodgers wasn't really given an opportunity to do anything.

The MVP hands it off. And hands it off. And hands it off.

5:04-4:00, the Packers second-to-last possession

A visibly frustrated Rodgers told reporters after the game that he felt they had been more aggressive in the past with the playcalling. When asked if he could elaborate on that, Rodgers said "No." But it's clear what he was referring to, and it's this drive in which Mike McCarthy calls three straight running plays.

His aim is to run time off of the clock or take away some of Pete Carroll's timeouts. He ends up killing over a minute of game-clock and forcing Carroll to use two of his timeouts.

He wouldn't need the third.

Eddie Lacy lost four yards on the first run but that didn't stop McCarthy from going back to Lacy on second down. While Rodgers was stonewalled in the passing game, as to be expected in a game like this, it's not as though 5-yard gains are really hard to come by against the Seattle defense. They build themselves to stop the explosive plays, but often secede nominal gains.

(I went into even more detail on this pivotal drive over at Sports on Earth, so please open that in a new tab and read it also.)

Also, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, so there's that.

Lacy lost two yards on the second carry. On 3rd-and-16, in an obvious running down, they ... ran it. Other than a turnover, the Seahawks couldn't have asked for a better outcome, and McCarthy's playcalling should be called into question much more than an onside kick recovery attempt.

Though we're getting there.

Nah, Masthay

Tim Masthay punts for 30 yards

Oh and by the way, Tim Masthay had an awful f%cking punt. I have not heard anyone talk about this punt yet, but the Packers could have pinned Seattle inside the 10 and instead they got the ball back at their own 31.

In a game that featured the first touchdown pass by a punter in playoff history, there was much more subtle, but still very important play by the other team's punter. Had it been a banger, the Seahawks would have probably called a very different set of plays to start the ensuing drive.

Instead, they were able to do "Seahawk Things."

Seahawk Things

1st-and-10 at SEA 31, Lynch runs for 14

There is not another team in the NFL that has the confidence to run in this situation, down 12 points with 3:52 left in the game and only one timeout. Most would agree that a 14-yard pass would be acceptable, but few would expect that a run could be so successful.

Darrell Bevell is underrated. Marshawn Lynch is properly rated, as long as you rate him as one of the greats.

A Russell Wilson completion

1st-and-10, SEA 45

It's hard to believe that a 20-yard pass to Doug Baldwin is hard to believe, but Russell Wilson didn't complete his first pass in this game until there was 3:58 left in the first half. He had 12 yards at halftime and was 8-of-22 for 75 yards and four interceptions before this drive.

Run, Runnie, Run

1st-and-Goal, GB 9

Following a 26-yard pass to Lynch that was initially ruled a touchdown and then overturned, the Seahawks did not let that deter them from sticking to the game plan they are comfortable with. A hand-off to Lynch, a scramble by Wilson, and a designed run to Wilson that resulted in the first offensive touchdown of the game for Seattle, took off just :44 seconds of game clock without having to use a timeout.

The Onside of the Tracks

Steven Hauschka onside kick, Chris Matthews recovery

I talked to Hauschka a little bit after the game but really everything said was pretty much as you'd expect. I asked him if he prefers to keep it simple on an onside kick attempt, straightforward, "me versus you" and none of that trickery, and he said that he did. All a kicker can do at that point is keep the ball high and in bounds. There's almost no chance that you're going to kick it in a way that doesn't require the recovery team to screw up. They're going to be the first team with a chance to recover the ball.

Me versus Jordy Nelson? No.

Me versus Brandon Bostick? Yes.

The truth is that Bostick could be a Seattle Seahawks kind of guy. He's undrafted. He went to Newberry College. He's got a smile that could light up a room. He's a guy who wasn't given half a chance to make it in the pros, and here he is on special teams in the NFC Championship.

This moment will be the focus for everyone because they see it as an obvious chance where if Bostick had done what he was assigned to do -- block for Nelson -- then Green Bay could have won the game.

But that's not even entirely true.

The Seahawks had a timeout and the two-minute warning left. They could have conceivably gotten the ball back with over a minute remaining and down five points. If that seems improbable to you, did you see how it actually ended? Even more improbable.

Also, a lot of other things happened are you even reading the article?


Bostick is just an undrafted free agent at the right place doing the wrong thing, while Matthews, who has zero career catches (nine fewer than Bostick) was at the right place at the right time. It's just the way the ball bounces sometimes, and after the first two fumbles of the game went in favor of the Packers, this ball found it's way to the Seahawks.

Rushel Wilson

1st-and-10, 50

The NFL's best rushing QB went for 15 yards on the first play of the drive, even getting out of bounds with 2:01 on the clock which may have been beneficial until we found out that it wasn't.

His previous long on the day was four yards, which came on the previous drive. Green Bay was just as good at keeping him contained on the ground as they were at keeping him grounded from the air, until they weren't.

Beast, It's what's for dinner

1st-and-10, GB 24

Following a short run by Lynch and a first-down throw to Luke Willson, Seattle did what they know how to do and called a running play with 1:33 left. For most, you would expect this will kill some clock and allow you to retain possession, but Marshawn Lynch isn't "most" he's "mode."

Lost in the shuffle of all this madness is that Lynch finished with 157 yards on 25 carries. At one point in the second half, a stretch 7 of his 11 runs went for 10 or more yards. That does not include the 26-yard catch but it does include the 24-yard run here that gave them their first lead of the game, 20-19.

The Seahawks letting Lynch go this year? I just don't see it.

Two for Clinching

Two-point conversion, Wilson to Willson

Knowing that Rodgers is going to get the ball back with plenty of time and all three timeouts, this wasn't any kind of "ordinary" two-point conversion. They really needed this. A run would seem completely possible for this team, and they line up with three to the weakside, Lynch beside Wilson.

The play breaks down almost immediately and it's like, "uhhhh... guys?!"

And then Willson, who had been blocking, saw an opportunity to make himself an open receiver. Unfortunately Wilson is way too short to ever notice him and his puny arm is way too weak to make a throw across the field, across his body, and high enough to touch the hand of God before making it's final descent.

"We're gonna roll it."

None of this was an accident. Wilson clearly turned around, found Willson, made a decision, and made a throw. Yes, it could have been a dangerous throw, but he put faith in his big tight end and thankfully, Willson made the catch.

There are plenty of things that other quarterbacks are better at than Wilson, but I struggle to think of a single other QB in the NFL that can make that play.

And it's not as though Willson didn't throw in his usual "bobble" antics:

MV-Please God No

Packers 42 yards in three plays

If visions of Falcons weren't dancing through your heads on the final drive by Green Bay, then maybe you really are a bandwagon fan!

Rodgers hit Nelson for 15, then Randall Cobb for 15, then hobbled for 12 and went out of bounds at the SEA 48 with :35 seconds left. Everything seems to be coming up Packers, until the MVP and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year tag-team for this "play of the game":

One play later, maybe he'll have better communication with his brother Richard Rodgers:

I'm starting to doubt these guys are brothers!

On the next play, the mission then becomes "at least get closer for Mason Crosby," which they do with a six-yard pass to Nelson that is still contained by a one-armed Richard Sherman. Only seconds ago, the Packers were driving down the field like the dickens, and now they were playing for overtime. It's a credit to Byron Maxwell, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and the rest of the secondary that Rodgers didn't have a better target on that play than Nelson.

One first down and the outcome of the game could be very different. There was still plenty of time for Green Bay. Instead Crosby kicked a field goal, tying the game, which would soon go into overtime.

"We want the ball and we're going to do our best, sir."


There's a legitimate argument to be made that the previous rules of overtime, which dictated that the first team to score simply won the game, were unfair. The best the NFL has been able to come up with at this time is that if you get the ball first, you have to score a touchdown to win. If the defense can't stop you, then that's on them.

After hanging the Seattle defense out to dry for 56 minutes, this one was going to be on Russell Wilson and the offense. You can't let Rodgers onto the field again, if you can do anything to help it.

The Seahawks only need one guy to go out there for the coin toss. Tarvaris Jackson has been waiting all year for his time to shine.

Green Bay sends a whole mess of dudes out for the toss and Jackson proceeds to give them all daps except for Aaron Rodgers. (Seriously. I felt awkwardly bad for Rodgers.)

Maybe it's an NFC North Quarterback thing, but it works.

Rodgers comes out there to the middle of the field thinking to himself, "Heads, man. It's always heads. Everyone knows it's always heads. Just say 'heads' and you got this. Seattle will never get the ball back. Oh look, it's Tarvaris! I haven't seen him in ages. I wonder how he's been doing. Okay, what to do, what to do, don't blow this. Is it a half-hug daps? A handshake? No, no, a handshake is far too formal. What about like a high-five? Are people doing high-fives? I'll just watch what Randall does, then do that. Yeah, nailed it. You got this. Internal discount double-check signal. There he goes, it's daps. It's daps. Cobb got daps. Jordy got daps. I just get the- oh no he isn't even making eye contact. You're on TV, Aaron, keep it cool. Keep it cool. Hey, you're Aaron Rodgers. Who is he?! He's a guy that just dissed Aaron Rodgers on national TV. Hey, don't be like that. Don't beat yourself up. You're the MVP. You. You. Not him. Can you imagine if Tarvaris Jackson has more Super Bowl wins than me in a couple weeks? What if State Farm dumps me for him? I wonder if Randall likes him more than me. I mean look at him, he's like an even more handsome Omar Epps. I just can't- wait. The ref is looking at me. Is it on me? Well, say something, stupid!"


It's heads.


Two demons exorcised as one

35 yards to Doug Baldwin

35 yards to Jermaine Kearse, touchdown

After gaining a first down and reaching their own 30, the Seahawks were facing 3rd-and-7. Wilson had thrown two of his interceptions on third down and any attempts to go deep were fruitless. The last thing you expected them to do on third-and-seven was go deep.

Do you know what I'm gonna say next? Can you feel it? Do you hear the smooth tinge of his voice in the back of your head just before I type it out?

"We're gonna roll it."

People that don't watch the Seahawks games very often and criticize Wilson for certain things, would probably think that Mr Checkdown Charlie hits Marshawn Lynch in the flat here:

That might gain a first down, but it could also be wiped out for zilch. Also, Wilson isn't really a checkdown Charlie. He's got one hell of an arm that shows up in pretty much every nationally-televised game, only to have these memories immediately erased by millions who watched it happen.

I feel like it would be fitting if another football came flying in from the left, like the best friend of this football, to softly shout, "You're so money and you don't even know ittttttttt!"

Third downs? Exorcised.

Deep pass? Exorcised.

Jermaine Kearse? Still cursed.

Now, I leave the X's and O's up to guys like Danny Kelly but I just can't help but look at this defensive formation by Green Bay and wonder what the fuck they're thinking. Maybe I'm the stupid one here, but you've basically eliminated the need for All-22 footage. That might not be a good thing?

All 11 defensive players are within six yards of the line of scrimmage. It's like playing Madden and using goal-line defense just to screw with your little brother. "Haha, you can't even beat this you little idiot!"

At this point Wilson says he called the check to Kearse. He had also been telling him he was gonna get him the ball and they were gonna score the game-winning touchdown. Kearse's first five targets were:

- Interception

- Interception

- Interception

- Interception

(Which, even Leo DiCaprio didn't go four levels deep)

- Incompletion

If Kearse doesn't make this play, he can only be the goat. Instead, he gets to be redeemer. He retains his title as Mr. January/February. Four straight playoff games with a touchdown. Game-winner in two straight NFC Championships.

Wilson had just completed his longest pass of the game. It took 63 minutes to get there. How long would he wait for his next 35-yard completion? Kearse, contested, doesn't fail.

When Baldwin made his angry rant to me and other members of the media on Sunday, he talked about how so many people doubted them. After he left a lot of people standing out there started to wonder what the heck he was talking about, because the Seahawks were favored to win (by a relatively large margin) and were the defending Super Bowl champions. But he wasn't wrong.

I doubted them at 3-3 and 6-4. And I doubted them at 19-7. How could you not? This was a miracle of football proportions. It was unfathomable and they needed a healthy dose of luck, talent, and strategical errors by the Green Bay Packers to pull it off. They also needed to do some things that would be the last thing you'd expect to work.

They needed to "roll it." Now they're gonna "Bowl it."