BY ED GUZMAN
To be fair, I did hedge it.
But, yes, I really did send an email to my bosses and our sports desk editors with the subject line “Barring any great heist by the Seahawks …” that started to spell out our coverage plan if the Seahawks lost the NFC Championship Game to the Packers on Sunday. That email was sent at 2:55 p.m., about the time the Seahawks were still down 19-7 with about four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
If it wasn’t over (and, obviously, it turned out it wasn’t), it certainly looked that way. And having worked as our on-site coordinator for Seahawks games the past two seasons, I’ve learned to plan ahead quickly and constantly, always thinking on my feet and keeping informed all of our reporters and editors working to bring you our top-notch Seahawks coverage.
But I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what happened Sunday, when one of the most incredible and unforgettable finishes in Seattle sports history unfolded.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to have been on hand for some memorable endings. I was a rookie reporter at The Oregonian helping with Blazers coverage when the Lakers roared back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter at home in a Game 7 in 2000. I was also at last season’s NFC title game, when Richard Sherman tipped the ball to Malcolm Smith to seal the game late for the Seahawks.
All week long before the Packers game, I thought that Seahawks-49ers game would never be topped for sheer drama. I considered myself lucky to have seen that one in person. Surely, Sunday’s game against the Packers will be relatively tame in comparison.
But that’s the beauty of sports, and why those of us who follow it or work around it for a living love it so much: You never know. It’s the truest, most pure reality show there ever will be.
And though the Packers were winning in a surprisingly easy manner, the game was not shaping up to be anything stylistically memorable. Green Bay missed chances to blow that game wide open, and we all know how poorly the Seahawks were playing.
One of the things I remember before the chaotic final minutes and overtime was columnist Jerry Brewer, sitting two seats over from me, remarking how the Seahawks were down 20 going into the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs two years ago, or how the Seahawks were down 23-10 to the Patriots at home with seven minutes to go during the 2012 season. Wishful thinking? No, just pointing out that the Seahawks were perfectly capable of coming back.
But it was looking highly unlikely Sunday. Even after igniting the crowd with a touchdown pass by Jon Ryan off a fake field goal, the Seahawks punted the ball away with about seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter and then Russell Wilson was intercepted for a fourth time with about five minutes to go.
I felt comfortable sending that email.
And even after the Seahawks scored to make it 19-14 with 2:09 to go, there was lots of other steps to go before we could even contemplate a victory by the Seahawks. An onside kick needed to be recovered, which it was. That was the first time all game the press box shook for several seconds from all the noise at CenturyLink Field.
But it turned out that was just a prelude.
The Seahawks moved the ball down the field, and when Marshawn Lynch broke free for his 24-yard run with 1:25 to go, it was absolute bedlam and the press box seemed to shake even harder. Even in our enclosed area, the noise was palpable. And when the Seahawks converted an absurd Wilson-to-Willson two-point conversion, the floor under our feet felt like it was rolling and it stayed that way through the commercial break. Just a relentless, sustained shake that had a couple of my colleagues making comparisons to the old Husky Stadium press box.
Incredibly enough, it still wasn’t over. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers drove through the din to get in position for a long field goal, which they made with 14 seconds left to force overtime. It quieted down some, but I think the fans were so happy to still be playing that they weren’t dampened by the Packers’ clutch answer.
During the drive that resulted in the Lynch touchdown, reporter Jayson Jenks jokingly said that it would be Jermaine Kearse who would come up with the winning touchdown catch (Kearse had zero catches and all four interceptions by Wilson came on passes intended for him) because that would be the only thing that made sense in this madness.
It turned out, he was off a little bit.
The Seahawks only needed six plays to win the game after winning the coin toss before overtime. And it was Kearse, of course, who caught the 35-yard bomb from Wilson.
Cue the bedlam, and the press box shaking, one more time.
“You called it,” I told Jenks.
My eyes wandered over to Pete Carroll in the instant after the touchdown, and he did not disappoint. He ran onto the field, arms raised, his headset flying off and left in his wake. It felt reminiscent of Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug after the 1983 NCAA men’s basketball title game.
After a few moments of absorbing what just happened, it was time to get back to work. I sent a new email explaining what everyone was writing about from the game.
“OK, never in doubt…” it began.
Ed Guzman is an assistant sports editor for The Seattle Times. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons.
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