BY Adam Lewis 08:16PM 01/18/2015

Fake FG, onside kick are super for Seahawks

A pair of momentum-changing special teams plays by the most unlikeliest of Seahawks helped Seattle pull off a historic comeback in the NFC title game.

Seahawks WR Chris Matthews was in the right place at the right time on Seattle’s game-changing onside kick recovery. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Score one for punters everywhere.

On an afternoon when Seahawks QB Russell Wilson posted a passer rating of 0.0 in the first half (2-for-9 for 12 yards and three interceptions), it was Seahawks P Jon Ryan who  sparked Seattle’s passing game in the third quarter of Sunday’s NFC Championship against the Packers.

Facing a fourth-and-10 at Green Bay’s 19-yard line, the Seahawks lined up in field goal formation. With Ryan serving as holder, he took the snap, and after K Steven Hauschka swung his leg and purposely whiffed, Ryan rolled to his left to escape pressure, then lobbed a perfect throw to OT Garry Gilliam, an eligible receiver on the play, in the end zone.

The touchdown was the first — passing or running — of Ryan’s NFL career. After the extra point, it cut Green Bay’s lead to 16-7 and provided the CenturyLink Field-record crowd of 68,538 a reason to believe the Seahawks weren’t going to be blown out. Seattle came back from a 16-point deficit — the largest rally in a conference title game — to win 28-22 in overtime.

It gave Ryan, a six-foot, 217-pound veteran built more like a linebacker than a punter,  an “I told you so” moment on a national stage.

“Man, I’m so sick of people saying punters aren’t athletes,” he said. “They can say whatever they want. I don’t really care. That just sounds ignorant now when they say they’re not athletes.”

Ryan admitted he wanted to take off for the end zone on the play, a run-pass option. The 33-year-old Regina, Saskatchewan native said he ran for a few first downs during his two-year stint in the CFL — he played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2004-05  — but never reached the end zone.

Regardless, crack a Molson and scarf down some poutine. All of Canada may now rejoice.

According to Sportsnet, Ryan is the first Canadian to throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game since Calgary-born QB Mark Rypien, a former star at Washington State, passed for one Jan. 2, 1993 while playing for Washington.

“They always say, act like you’ve been there before, but I hadn’t,” Ryan said. “If I got there I would have made an ass of myself. I was hoping to run it in but it didn’t work out that way.”

The Seahawks installed the fake field goal at Thursday’s practice after the coaching staff noticed a weakness in the way Green Bay defended field goals and extra points. Gilliam, a six-foot-six, 306-pound rookie who at Penn State primarily split time between tackle and tight end, hadn’t caught a pass in a game since his senior season in Happy Valley.

That didn’t deter Carroll or special teams coach Brian Schneider.

“Coach Carroll came up to me plenty of times this week, and said, ‘We’re gonna run the play. Are you ready?'” Gilliam recalled. “I said all right, I’m ready.”

After watching the Seahawks offense struggle for most the game, Carroll said he couldn’t wait to call the play.

“I really believed in this fake,” he said. “I thought we had a great shot at it, because I believe in Jon Ryan’s ability to come out of there exploding like he did. It really was the first opportunity we had. I couldn’t wait to get the thing called.”

It was the first of two game-changing special teams plays that turned momentum in the second half. The second came just before the two-minute warning after the Seahawks manufactured a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive, capped when Wilson scrambled into the end zone from one yard out.

The Seahawks trailed 19-14 and had one timeout left. Everyone in the stadium knew they needed to recover an onside kick. The plan was for the coverage team to clear the way so SS Kam Chancellor could recover.

But Hauschka’s perfect, high-bounding kick went through the hands and off the helmet of Green Bay TE Brandon Bostick. Seahawks reserve WR Chris Matthews recovered, setting up Seattle’s four-play, 50-yard touchdown drive and two-point conversion.

Matthews, a fellow former CFL-er, never thought he’d be the guy to make the recovery.

“I was trying to go block my man, he just so happened to go up and jump for the ball, and it bobbled out of his hands,” Matthews said. “I thought he caught it when he jumped up, so I was going for the tackle. It popped up and just landed on me perfectly.”


  • ll9956

    This shows Pete Carroll’s brilliant leadership. Great observation by the coaching staff during the week and great call during the game. A tip o’ the hat to PC.

  • jafabian

    Jon Ryan can claim he had a better QBR than Wilson for this game. Or even for their careers! Nothing was happening offensively for the Hawks. This gamble got them back on track and woke them up.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Jon Ryan can someday tell his grandkids that his team NEEDED that TD fling of his to get his team back to the SB.He connects and scores 6.His cohort adds on the extra point and they are still alive for their vision of a 4th Qtr comeback…without it SEA falls short in the 22~22 tie at the end of regulation.

    I was so impressed last year when they pulled off that amazing comeback in Houston in part fueled by Shermans pick 6 in which en route he lost his shoe.It defied logic in things somehow falling into place. They willed themselves to win that one.

    This is an apt description for this one to…. in going all wolf pack on the Pack in such a brief amount of time Green Bay did resemble the bloodied prey that looked strong and noble one instant and bloodied and defeated the next instant.

    Like a wolf pack that smells blood while working together the bird of prey seized the moment and snatched away a berth in the Super Bowl.As known defensive stalwarts we have a mighty team for the Patriots to deal with.

    NE has trouble with inspired defensive play (they lost to GB and Buffalo in games the D played stellar against the Pats).

    This super bowl will be entertaining with a capital E. Go Hawks!