Over the past eight seasons, fans of the Seattle Seahawks have enjoyed some unbelievable, too-absurd-for-Hollywood moments. Richard Sherman’s tip to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII. That same Super Bowl beginning, and ending, on the same play.
Or, any number of moments from the following year’s NFC Championship game: Jon Ryan throwing a touchdown on a fake field goal to a UDFA tackle; an onside kick slipping through Brandon Bostick’s hands; Russell Wilson pirouetting not once, but twice, before heaving up a prayer to Luke Willson for a two-point conversion; the entire concept of Wilson throwing four interceptions, three of which were thrown to Jermaine Kearse, only for both players to find redemption in the biggest moment possible.
The spell of dominance Seattle found themselves in made Seahawks fans believe the impossible was possible. Frankly, with good reason. And it all started in a wildcard round matchup between the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and a 7-9 Seahawks team. With Seattle clinging to a lead, Marshawn Lynch put the team on his back and rumbled his way to a 67-yard touchdown.
It was a play that will be remembered forever, not just by Seahawks and Saints fans, but by football fans everywhere. Take a walk down memory lane with some of the Field Gulls staff, as we reminisce about one of the greatest moments in NFL playoffs history:
When we were throwing out ideas for moments to talk about regarding the “Where were you when…” theme, a few came up, for better (“The Tip”) and for worse (“The Pick”). But the truth is that while I’ve got memories of those plays and where I was, they don’t stand out as anything special. Where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, and what transpired, is truly what “Beastquake” embodies. I mean, it’s right in the name.
“Beastquake” of course refers to Marshawn’s cryptozoological run against the Saints, but more than that, it is legendary because of the reaction it drew from the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium, plus millions more around the world. It wasn’t just a good play — like Richard Sherman’s tip against the 49ers — that resulted in something magical, it was a dumbfounding play that resulted in something decent: a playoff win without much hope of a Super Bowl run or anything like that. The turn of the crowd, referring to any “crowd” you were in that day, went from the literal phrase “The crowd is silent now” uttered by the announcer just before the snap to figurative reactions of “This is going nowhere” to “This is a first down” to “This is a big gain” to “Wait, what in the holy fuck of ages are we watching right now?” to “Touchdown.”
Shake and quake.
I was at the Backstage Bar and Grill in Culver City, California. I remember when I moved to Los Angeles in 2009, me and my roommate would go there every Sunday to watch the games because it was the local Seahawks bar. In the first few weeks of the season it would draw a reasonable crowd, but in 2009 and 2010, there were times when there’d be maybe 10 of us in there because Seattle was not a fun team to watch for most of those games. In Week 17 of 2010, in a win-and-in game against the St. Louis Rams, the crowd had returned, but nobody was really expecting much from the 6-9 Seahawks anyway. Many of them outwardly or secretly hoped that Seattle would lose, drawing a better draft pick. I always root to win; not because I’m so “rah rah” about it, but I just think the feeling of winning — especially gaining playoff experience — is better for a franchise than a higher draft pick.
I can’t imagine a single fan who wanted the Seahawks to lose that day doesn’t regret that decision to root against them.
The next week, Backstage was packed like I’d never seen it before. (In the ensuing years, especially from 2012 and on, I stopped going there. Not just because I moved away from Culver City but also because from what I understand, it’s too crowded to be fun and you have to wait for hours in line to get in. This has to be one of the liveliest Seahawks bars outside of the Northwest, and maybe including the Northwest, and if you’re lucky on occasion you’ll run into Sherman’s mom, a fellow local.) I went by myself. My roommate and my other friends from Seattle didn’t join me. “Too crowded and the Seahawks are going to lose to the defending Super Bowl champions,” they said. I went. I wanted the experience, either way.
I didn’t know anybody when the game began. I was hugging and picking up strangers a few hours later. It brought everybody together. What happened during the play? Luckily, I don’t have to tell you. I can show you. Someone was recording in the bar that day, at the exact moment that the play started. It was as crazy and manic and quaky as it looks on film:
You can’t make much out from the video once the madness starts. But luckily for me, I won’t soon forget where I was that day.
As a Seattle Seahawks fan, either of the casual or season-ticket-holder variety, the 2008-2010 period gave us plenty to grouse about. Mike Holmgren’s last Seahawks squad fell apart under the weight of injuries and age; the Jim Mora Jr. era ended before it became an era. Then, through most of 2010, under unknown quantity Pete Carroll, Seattle struggled to edge poor teams and did not struggle to get blown out by superior teams. That, they were good at: losing 33-3 at Oakland Week 8, followed by a 41-7 home blowout at the hands of the Giants. The Seahawks lost nine games, by a total of 189 points, or if you prefer, an average 21-point margin. Their closest loss was by 15 points, when they managed to hang for a while with the New Orleans Saints. (Spoiler alert.)
Leading up to the Rams game Week 17, the Seahawks were 15-32 in their previous 47 regular-season games. So the win that sent Seattle limping into the playoffs, where the defending Super Bowl champs awaited in the wild-card round — it felt more like a stay of execution than the start of something special. And on Beastquake Day, when New Orleans raced out to a 17-7 lead after one quarter, having effortlessly rung up 170 yards of offense, the guillotine was primed.
Only, not so fast, Ro-Brees-Pierre. A series of fortunate events put the Seahawks back in it, with the ball, the lead, 3:40 left — in position to actually salt the game away with a long drive.
The drive was salty, but not long. I remember because I watched it end abruptly, in cacophony. Our regular season tickets are in the southeast corner. For example, Earl’s chop happened right in front of us, but we never would have gotten an memorable view of Beastquake — except that for whatever reason, we were assigned seats for that playoff game in the south end, dead center of the end zone, high enough to see plays develop. Every drive that headed south (the wide-open Stokley catch!) felt like it landed in our laps.
Marshawn Lynch broke the initial tackles at the line of scrimmage, and the stadium roared. He got to the second level, and the anticipation grew. He flicked Tracy Porter into irrelevancy, and the faithful gasped. He got the downfield blocks from Tyler Polumbus and Matt Hasselbeck, and the earth gave way.
I wish I could have seen Lynch grab his crotch as he leaped over the line, but the truth is that by then, everyone around me was engaged in a leap of their own or hugging the stranger next to them. In a decade filled with “Did that just happen?” moments, Beastquake was the first course. Say, has anyone every mentioned the stadium shook that day?
I was 16 years old at the time, in my apartment in Lynnwood, WA. Time was of the essence... because I had cabana attendant duties straight after the game, but let’s put that aside. At 34-30 and with the offense having punted on its previous three possessions, I had that sinking feeling that the miraculous upset win for the Seahawks was slipping away.
When Marshawn Lynch got the 1st down, it was more relief than anything, and I was worried about the clock given that the Saints only had one timeout. The emphatic shove of Tracy Porter got me out of my seat, as Porter was forcefully shoved into his own locker. Once Lynch made his way towards the sideline, I was hoping like hell he wouldn’t get shoved out of bounds. It wasn’t until he broke that last tackle at around the 20-yard line that I knew for sure that he was going to score. And by then I was jumping up and down yelling “he’s gonna do it!” I didn’t really care too much that I was upstairs and possibly disturbing my downstairs neighbor.
Outside of the Super Bowl and The Tip, this is my favorite Seahawks moment ever. In the grand scheme of NFL history, there aren’t too many positive iconic Seahawks plays that get shown on a loop time and time again. This was one of those moments, and given what a relative non-factor Lynch had been for much of the season, Beastquake was what really spawned Beast Mode into a superstar and a Seahawks icon.
When I went back to school on Monday, me and a couple of other students spent the entire pre-class discussion just gushing about how awesome Beastquake was.
The 2010 team was often hideous to watch, but on that January afternoon against the defending Super Bowl champions, they pulled off the improbable, and what better way to seal a win than an improbable touchdown from Marshawn Lynch?
I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the Seahawks’ biggest moments live, at CenturyLink Field. Charlie Whitehurst’s start against the Rams, just a week before Beastquake, leading a 6-9 team to a 7-9 division title. I was in the Hawks Nest for The Tip, singing ‘New York, New York’ and refuting a gentleman’s claim next to me, who was damn sure it was Walter Thurmond who made the defining play of this era. I saw the team’s Super Bowl banner get unveiled to kickoff the 2014 season. And I got to see the best comeback in NFL history, in that year’s NFC Championship game.
My Beastquake story doesn’t quite give me goosebumps in the same manner. On Saturday, January 8, 2011, I was a wide-eyed Seahawks fan, full of belief, stuck at work. Luckily, my place of work had a TV. I mindlessly went about my day in agony as a Matt Hasselbeck pass on the team’s first drive bounced off Ben Obomanu’s hands and into Jabari Greer’s. However, as those early Carroll teams so often did, they made enough plays to keep you believing. Hasselbeck attacked deep, Brandon Stokley became a vertical threat, Chris Clemons proclaimed “Our ball!” off a Saints turnover, and the belief grew.
By the time “17 Power” was called in the huddle, I was crushed, assuming defeat was around the corner. But that’s not how this story goes. When Marshawn Lynch shook Jabari Greer off his back, I began repeating “Oh my god” to myself. When Tracy Porter got shoved into infamy, the reality of what was happening began to set in. By the time Tyler Polumbus and Hasselbeck were out in front of him some 40 odd yards down the field, I was a cussing, bumbling, unprofessional mess in a state of disbelief. Worth it.
Where were you when Marshawn Lynch dove backwards into NFL history?