It’s theme week here at SB Nation, and the topic this time is ‘What if...’ We are not going to re-open the old wounds from February 1st, 2015. Besides, Pats Pulpit already did that for us. Instead, we’re going to take a look at the other heartbreaking last-second playoff defeat of the Russell Wilson era.
On January 13th, 2013, the Seattle Seahawks were 31 seconds away from completing an astonishing, epic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Seattle had clawed back from a 27-7 fourth quarter deficit to take a 28-27 lead versus the team tied with the Denver Broncos for the NFL’s best record. An historic playoff win was within Seattle’s reach.
Then this happened.
1st and 10 - ATL 28 (0:25) - Matt Ryan pass complete deep left to Harry Douglas for 22 yards (tackle by Brandon Browner)
1st and 10 - Midfield (0:19) - Matt Ryan pass complete short right to Tony Gonzalez for 19 yards (tackle by Earl Thomas)
1st and 10 - SEA 31 (0:13) - Matt Bryant 49 yard field goal good (30-28 ATL)
I’m still very bitter that on that fateful drive, Gus Bradley twice called blitzes with the seldom-used Winston Guy and they were absolutely awful. Guy ended up engaged with the right guard on the first blitz.
Not to be outdone, Guy and Marcus Trufant both blitzed on the pass that would set the Falcons up in field goal range. This might be one of the cleanest pockets you’ll ever see off of multiple blitzers from the secondary.
Pete Carroll called timeout to “ice” Matt Bryant, and whether you think it was just a practice kick or not, Bryant missed it. The next attempt split the uprights, and the rest is history.
In many ways, this was a fitting way for the 2012 Seahawks season to end. Their NFL Yearbook title was “Learning to Finish,” in obvious reference to the numerous 4th quarter leads they relinquished. It was a prelude to a Super Bowl-winning Seahawks team that won the NFC Championship with an iconic finish that represented a lesson learned.
But what if the Seahawks defense did hold on? What if Seattle didn’t have four drives reach Atlanta territory yet result in zero first-half points? What if Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary was actually a touchdown to Doug Baldwin instead of an interception by Julio Jones?
Well let’s examine some of the aspects of a world where the Seahawks had ultimately triumphed 28-27 over the Falcons against all the odds.
The NFC Championship Game
Seattle would’ve had the rubber match against the San Francisco 49ers, a month removed from the tremendous 42-13 thrashing at CenturyLink Field. This game would’ve been at Candlestick Park and sans Chris Clemons and Ryan Longwell, both of whom fell victim to the shitty-ass playing surface at FedEx Field in the wild card win over Washington.
Given the Seahawks’ lackluster run defense against the Falcons, it would’ve been very likely that a Clemons-less defensive line gets chewed up on the road by Frank Gore and the once-formidable San Francisco o-line. However, the 49ers defense was markedly worse after Justin Smith’s injury against the New England Patriots. Seattle had 136 yards rushing at Candlestick even with Smith playing, but that was also a much worse Russell Wilson at the helm.
Colin Kaepernick was magnificent that particular postseason but was thoroughly humiliated by the Legion of Boom in the lead-up to the playoffs. Would it have been any different with home field advantage? Well in the interest of this “What-if?” theme, I say no. Seattle lifts the NFC Championship trophy and Jim Harbaugh melts into his khakis.
Onward to Super Bowl 47
To this day, we’ve yet to see a rookie QB start and make the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson could’ve been the first in this alternate world. Not bad for a game-manager who’s only good because of his defense.
Advanced stats favored the Seahawks over the Baltimore Ravens, although both teams were quite prone to significant variance in performance.
Had Seattle beaten the Ravens then perhaps Joe Flacco doesn’t get an outrageous contract extension on the back of a great playoff run culminating in a Super Bowl MVP. Ed Reed, my personal favorite defensive player of all-time, likely retires ringless.
A Super Bowl loss to Baltimore would’ve stung but hardly the end of the world after a remarkable second-half surge just to snag a wild card spot. Besides, the Seahawks would have lost to the superior Harbaugh.
...But how would the offseason look?
Beware of the butterfly effect, however. A Super Bowl triumph or even appearance in 2012 may have led to a different approach to the offseason for John Schneider. For example, the lack of pass rushing depth was Seattle’s undoing against the Falcons. If they go all the way to the big game in 2012, does Schneider still sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency?
Then there’s the matter of the NFL Draft. Seattle traded its 25th overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin. The Vikings used that pick to draft Xavier Rhodes, one of the league’s best shutdown corners. Does Seattle still get Harvin by dealing pick #32? And with pick #62 — this belonged to the Baltimore Ravens, and the Seahawks traded down from #56 — do the Seahawks still draft Christine Michael?
We can indulge in the world of fantasy all we desire — that’s literally the point of this theme week — but what we do know is that the pain of 2012 was largely erased on the evening of February 2nd, 2014.
How far do you think the Seahawks make it in the 2012 playoffs if they had beaten the Falcons?
This poll is closed
NFC CG vs. 49ers
Super Bowl loss vs. Ravens
Super Bowl win vs. Ravens