BY Doug Farrar 08:36PM 01/08/2011

Seahawks misfits find redemption in ‘impossible’ win

41-36 shocker over the Saints meant a lot to many underdogs

Marshawn Lynch is one of many Seahawks showing a new strength this season (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)

For some teams, winning the ultimate championship isn’t the end goal. Occasionally, you’re trying to establish a culture of winning for the future (see: the 1995 Mariners), sometimes you’re just trying to keep a run going that you probably don’t deserve (see: the 1989 Sonics, their 39-43 record, and their trip to the Western Conference Finals), and once in a while, you’re looking to prove all the wrong people wrong and all the right people right.

Sometimes, it’s really about comebacks in life, and sports just happen to be the vehicle for that action. In the Seattle Seahawks’ completely improbable 41-36 Wild-Card playoff win over the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, it seemed that almost every new player brought in by Pete Carroll and John Schneider under less than optimal circumstances rewarded the front office’s faith with at least one crucial play.

Receiver Mike Williams, whose comeback story hit ESPN and the NFL Network Sunday morning, caught five passes for 68 yards and an over-the-shoulder touchdown that seemed to typify his value to the team – wherever you throw the ball, Williams is capable of bringing it in.

End Raheem Brock, found to be redundant by the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, was the team’s most valuable defender on the day, which typified a season that saw him amass a career-high nine sacks. All-around player Michael Robinson, whose versatility was seen by the San Francisco 49ers as a liability, drove the pile with several crucial blocks in his new and more permanent role as fullback. Receiver Brandon Stokley led the team in receiving against the Saints – last time we saw Stokley, he was an afterthought in Denver.

And halfback Marshawn Lynch, driven out of Buffalo for a host of reasons, had the NFL’s running play of the year – without question – to seal the win away. Eight different Saints defenders put at least a hand on Lynch, but he would not be bowed in a 67-yard touchdown run with 3:22 left in the game to put Seattle up, 41-30. It was the personification of the persistence that Lynch, his teammates, and his head coach had to show if any of this interesting experiment was going to work.

In the glowing after-halo of this playoff win, it’s important to remember that when Pete Carroll’s hire was announced almost a year ago, it was not met with universal excitement. Carroll had failed in New York and New England at the NFL level, and despite a decade of ridiculous success at USC, nobody really knew what Carroll had learned from his past.

Perhaps that’s why Carroll has been so conversant with players who have something to prove.

“You look at organizations around the league, and the teams that do well over a long period of time, and they treat their guys right,” Robinson said about his experience in Seattle. “You’re loyal to them, they’re loyal to you. I got told everything in San Francisco – I had my running backs coach, Tom Rathman, tell me before I was released that he didn’t think I was good enough to play in the NFL. That’s something I carry around with me all the time. There are a lot of guys on this team that at some point, somebody in the league told them something (like that). And they carry it around with them. That makes you go out and fight.

“Pete doesn’t worry about you making mistakes. He just wants you flying around and being enthusiastic about playing football. It’s refreshing – it doesn’t feel like a business, as it really is. You go out and fight for your head coach, and in San Francisco, that wasn’t the case. Guys are waiting for something bad to happen, so they can have an excuse as to why they lost. Here, it’s not like that. When we’re down, let’s just keep fighting.”

Mike Williams brings in an over-the-shoulder pass from Matt Hasselbeck (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)

For Williams, who was famously out of the league for two years after becoming one of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) draft busts in recent league history, the effect is magnified by how each player rallies around the others.

“Everyone’s going to have a different road to this team,” Williams said. “You need guys who maybe aren’t the most vocal guys, but who exhibit what this opportunity means to them. By how they work, and the people they are. Marshawn comes in every day and works, and you just try to do what you can do. It is an opportunity, and we want to make the most out of it.”

Lynch was famous for his brashness in Buffalo, but the more he accomplishes in a game, the quieter he is when it’s time to talk about it. Perhaps that’s because he finally has the stage, and the right organization, that allows him to show what he can do. “The only thing that matters is what we believe in our group,” Lynch said of the win, which came for a Seahawks team that was the single biggest home playoff underdog in documented NFL history.

General manager John Schneider knows a thing or two about coming up from the ranks – he spent almost two decades in Green Bay’s personnel office before getting his first shot at real roster management with the Seahawks in 2010. Carroll and Schneider have made too many roster moves to count at this time – we have an estimate that it’s over 280 and less than 300 – but Schneider has done his part as the face very much behind the scenes. Carroll may be the new face of the Seahawks franchise, but when Schneider met with fans at a practice last fall, one asked him point blank: “Who are you?”

But make no mistake – he’s the architect of this odd group of outliers as much as Carroll or anyone else has been, and he knows exactly the value that can come through the heart of a player who just needs another chance.

“It’s a passion to get back to where they feel they belong. Marshawn Lynch – I’m sure he feels that he’s one of the best backs in the National Football League. He’s looking for a place to prove it, and we’re trying to provide that home. Michael Robinson, same thing. He came from San Francisco … there’s younger guys, too. Kentwan Balmer worked out well for us, and Junior (Siavii) got hurt … there were a lot of guys. Raheem’s a pro. We had a specific need, and he was released, and he was able to help us out in his role.

“I think these guys have been able to rally around each other in tough time. It’s quite an interesting group of players.”

Interesting indeed, and no matter where these Seahawks go next – Chicago if the Green Bay Packers win Sunday night, and Atlanta if the Philadelphia Eagles take that game – they’re playing with the proverbial house money from a personnel (and personal) perspective.

So many men on this team have already proven vitally important things to themselves. It’s the team’s point that is still being driven home.