#10for10 Game #2: Championship Comeback (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2014 NFC Championship Game)

17 Dec

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

10for10 kearse catch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After overtaking the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West lead and eventual division championship late in the 2014 season the Seahawks earned the number one seed in the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive season. All it would take was a win in the divisional round and the Seahawks would host the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year. We did just that, and on January 18th, 2015 the Seahawks hosted the Green Bay Packers with the winner earning a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.

The day started a little different than any other Seahawks home game in my 10 years as a season ticket holder simply because of what time the game was scheduled to start. The AFC and NFC alternate kickoff times for championship weekend each year; one game starts at 12:00pm while the other kicks off at 3:30pm. In 2014 the NFC title game was a noon kickoff Pacific Time which meant the game would start one hour earlier than an afternoon regular season Seahawks home game. After a 5:30am wake up call, I got myself ready to go and I was out of the house by 6:30. I met my friend Jake at a Pioneer Square Starbucks shortly before 7am and we grabbed a cup of coffee before walking over to our pregame destination, the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill. The bar usually opens at 8am for Seahawks home games and they did not open earlier to accommodate the earlier start time. Because of this there was a line about 75 people long waiting to get in at 7:30. We met a couple of Jake’s brother’s friends and when the doors opened at 8 o’clock we headed straight for the L-shaped mini-bar-looking spot in the back of the building.

For the next two and a half hours we watched the various NFL pregame shows on the televisions surrounding our spot while eating and drinking merrily with all the Seahawks fans sitting and standing around us. Over this time I was paid visits by my Dad and uncle who were attending the game together, as well as my friend James and his little brother Lane who had also won tickets through the Seahawks.

10for10 packers pregame

James (left), Jake (right), and I at the Hawks Nest before the game

After a few beers Jake and I left the bar at around 10:30 and headed into the stadium. We got our rally towels at the gate and headed straight up to my seats. We were met with a stadium getting fuller by the minute and by the time the Seahawks headed into their locker room after pregame warmups CenturyLink Field was nearly completely full. The Seahawks defense was introduced to a raucous ovation and after Paul Allen raised the 12 Flag for the third time ever with a sea of white towels waving all around, Steven Hauschka kicked off to the Packers to get the game underway.

That first drive could not have been any better. After letting the Packers drive into Seahawks territory, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a third down pass into the endzone which was picked off by Richard Sherman. All the momentum shifted in the Seahawks favor. If we could take our first possession and turn it into a touchdown, it may be an easy day en route to the Super Bowl. Those dreams ended real fast. On the third play of our first drive Russell Wilson was intercepted by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. For some reason everything that followed for the next three quarters fell out of sync. That interception led to a field goal and a 3-0 Green Bay lead. Doug Baldwin fumbled the ball back to the Packers on our next offensive play and that turnover turned into another Packers field goal. Then a three and out gave the ball back to the Packers and they in turn scored a touchdown. After the first quarter the Packers had over 4 times as many points as the Seahawks had yards. Packers 13, Seahawks 0.

The Seahawks started the second quarter with another three and out. The Packers turned their next drive into another field goal and a 16-0 lead. By this point all the fans were silent and discouraged beyond belief. We could not believe that a team so good playing at home on a stage so big could come out so flat. Our next drive did not make matters any better. Another Wilson interception to Clinton-Dix gave Green Bay the ball back but we were able to take the ball back from the Packers when Byron Maxwell intercepted Rodgers. We needed to go down the field and score a touchdown to have any confidence moving forward. We got the ball all the way down to the Packers 18-yard line. Unfortunately we could not capitalize. Wilson targeted Jermaine Kearse on the left side of the endzone but was intercepted by Sam Shields. Packers ball 1st and 10 up 16-0 with 1:55 left in the half. I was in a state of such shock and disbelief I needed to decompose and catch my breath. I abandoned an equally-shocked Jake at my seats for a short period of time and I decided to take a walk down the concourse and use the restroom at the halftime break.

I sit in section 340 at CenturyLink Field which is in the northwest corner of the stadium. I walked all the way down to the 12 Flagpole in the south end of the stadium and waited in a bathroom line that stretched about 100 feet down the concourse. I did not even care about the Alice in Chains halftime performance going on right next to me. I just stared into space, thinking about the 30 minutes of atrocious football I had just witnessed. I was not physically sick but just thinking about how poorly we played made me want to puke once I got in there. I walked back to my seats with a renewed hope that the Seahawks could come back and make this game competitive. Luckily I made it back just in time for the start of the second half.

After trading drives resulting in punts the Seahawks got the ball back and drove down to the Green Bay 19-yard line. Steven Hauschka lined up for a 38-yard field goal but the ball was picked up by holder Jon Ryan who scrambled left and lobbed up a rainbow to eligible receiver Garry Gilliam for a touchdown. The fake fooled everyone in the stadium and when the pass fell complete the stands went nuts. The gutsy play call put us back in the game. We knew we had a long way to go but we thought this score could spark a comeback. Packers 16, Seahawks 7.

After exchanging punts once more the Packers drove down the field to kick a field goal which extended their lead to 19-7 with 10:53 left in regulation. The Seahawks got the ball back with just over 5 minutes left to go needing a touchdown. On the first play of the drive Wilson was picked off for the fourth time, once again intended for Jermaine Kearse. Many fans gave up on our chances and decided to head for the exits including Marc and Mike, the two guys who sit in front of me. After forcing the Packers to punt the Seahawks got the ball back with 3:52 left in regulation. The following 7 minutes and 11 seconds earned this game the number two spot on my countdown.

The Seahawks drove 69-yards down the field culminating in a 1-yard read-option keeper by Russell Wilson. The score cut the Green Bay lead to 19-14. It was a huge score but we still needed to recover an onside kick to have any shot at taking the lead. Steven Hauschka kicked the ensuing onside kick which bounced off the helmet of the Packers Brandon Bostick. Chris Matthews jumped to snare the ball out of mid-air and the remainder of the crowd went insane. I bear hugged Jake and the guys sitting next to us. I immediately turned to my left to look down at all the fans who decided to leave stop in their tracks. Instead of walking away from the building they stood frozen, hearing the distant cheers inside the stadium; honestly one of the most satisfying sights I have ever seen at a Seahawks game. After an 8-yard pass to Luke Willson, Marshawn Lynch took a handoff 24 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden with 1:25 left in regulation the Seahawks had their first lead of the game 20-19. We could not believe it. After screaming in celebration I bent over to catch my breath, not before letting out one last yelp. The Seahawks had to go for two to try to extend the lead to 3. Wilson rolled to his right and when the play did not develop he was chased backwards and after spinning around he chucked up a prayer of a pass across his body where it was somehow hauled in by Willson. The Seahawks miraculously had a 22-19 lead but the game was not yet over. The Packers were successfully able to drive into field goal range and kicked a game-tying 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. After 60 minutes: Seahawks 22, Packers 22.

The Seahawks won the toss to start overtime and I immediately wanted to yell “WE WANT THE BALL AND WE’RE GONNA SCORE!” in reference to the infamous Seahawks/Packers Wild-Card playoff game in 2003. Jake could tell by the look on my face and before I even had the chance to open my mouth he looked at me and with a dead straight face said “don’t you even dare say it.” Facing a third down Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 35-yard gain and the Seahawks were a mere 35 yards away from a second straight NFC championship. On the next play Wilson saw the Packers were lined up with a single high safety so he audibled. He dropped back and floated a beautiful pass right into the arms of Jermaine Kearse as he crossed the goal line. When the pass left Wilson’s hand I screamed “FOR THE WIN….” And sure enough when the pass dropped into Kearse’s bread basket I jumped into the air. Jake jumped into my arms and the guys surrounding me in turn jumped onto us World Series style, as if we were the ones who had just won the game. The Seahawks players and coaches stormed the field and pig-piled Kearse in the south endzone. We were the NFC Champions and if felt so good. Daft Punk’s “One More Time” blared over the sound system as the trophy presentation stage was being set up in the middle of the field.

10for10 packers postgame

Jake and I with the championship celebration ongoing on the field in the background

Steve Largent presented Paul Allen the George Halas trophy and after speeches by Allen, Pete Carroll, and Russell Wilson it really started to sink in that we were going back to the Super Bowl. Jake and I left the stadium and walked up 1st avenue on our way to dinner where traffic was at a standstill. We high fived everyone we walked past on the sidewalk while also watching various fans run through the streets in celebration. This was the greatest comeback in the history of Seahawks football and not only were we fortunate to see it live, we were also smart enough not to leave when our chances to win seemed grave with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. This game will always be one of my favorites and it has rightfully earned the number two spot on my #10for10 countdown.

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