BY Art Thiel 06:44PM 01/10/2016

Thiel: Coolest dude on coldest day? Wilson

On a day loaded with problems, QB Russell Wilson turned potentially the worst play into a game-breaker that sends the Seahawks on to Carolina Sunday.

Kam Chancellor’s strip of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson set up the game-winning field goal Sunday in Minnesota. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

MINNEAPOLIS — In the darkest moment of the coldest football game in Minnesota’s frosty history, Jeremy Lane was talking to Kam Chancellor on the Seahawks sideline. Down 9-0 in the fourth quarter with their Super Bowl aspirations being strangled as if by the cord connecting idiot mittens, the defenders knew what had to happen.

“Jeremy said, ‘Russell: Take over! Russell: Take over!” according to Chancellor.

So Russell Wilson did — by having to go backward. Which was not only fitting, but by this game’s standards Sunday, mandatory.

Momentarily lost trying to change the play call, Wilson, on first-and-10 at the Minnesota 39, missed the shotgun snap from center. The ball rolled halfway to St. Paul. Earlier in the game, the Seahawks botched a snap so grievously that punter Jon Ryan ended up with a bloody nose and no first down.

So expectations were nil for this moment of randomness. Particularly by the time Wilson picked up the ball, because half the Vikings defense was upon him.

“I said, ‘uh-oh,’” Wilson said. “It seemed like a whole bunch of bears chasing you.”

Yet somehow, he eluded all the bears. Instead of lying under a game-defining sack that was purely his fault, Wilson glanced up to discover WR Tyler Lockett so alone he need an orphanage.

Wilson fired at the unmissable target. Lockett grabbed the ball, turned around and ran to the 5-yard line. For the crowd of 52,090 at TCF Stadium, which partied all afternoon as hard as possible under five layers of clothes, the game’s whipsaw of fortunes left them stupefied. The absurd play set up the game’s only touchdown.

Chancellor looked at Lane.

“Yup,” he said. “Grace.”

Grace? Well, not really. Grace was when Vikings kicker Blair Walsh shanked a short,  game-winning field goal with 22 seconds left to preserve the Seahawks’ preposterous 10-9 victory. That stunner seemed to have some cosmic intervention.

Grace may have been a part of the reason Chancellor was the subject of not one, but two heartfelt hugs in the locker room from coach Pete Carroll.  After appearing to be a game-saving hero for his strip of the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, whose fumble set up the Seahawks’ drive to the deciding field goal, Chancellor screwed up twice in a row, setting up potential disaster.

On the Vikings’ final possession, he was guilty of a pass-interference call that cost 19 yards, then missed a tackle that after a pass completion that turned into a 24-yard gain. For a guy whose foolish contract holdout was a big part of the Seahawks’ 0-2 start to the regular season, he was looking at being the goat for the season-ending loss.

“The penalty shouldn’t have been called,” Chancellor said. “But on the next pass, I went for the ball instead of the tackle. That was my mistake. Every time we go for the ball, we think we’re going to get it. Sometimes we don’t.”

Just as kickers think they’re going to make every field goal. Sometimes they don’t.

In sorting out grace from grit Sunday, there was nothing lucky about about what Wilson did on his fateful play that will be embedded prominently in NFL playoff lore. Recovery from disaster is a fundamental part of Wilson’s command and leadership.

It’s why the Seahawks the past summer went to such effort and treasure to secure his services long-term, and why they remain on the path to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

“That’s why they pay him the big bucks,” said LB Bruce Irvin.  “He kept his composure. Any other quarterback would have thrown it away.  He picked it up and made something happen with it.

“I wouldn’t want to have no other quarterback lead this team than Russell Wilson.”

The day was larded with headaches and distractions, starting with the team’s hotel running out of hot water. There was the shock of finding out what Minnesotans mean when they say “cold.” Then, early in the game, the coaches’ audio to Wilson malfunctioned.

“For some reason, I couldn’t hear the plays,” he said. “I could hear bits and pieces.”

He also had a hard time talking.

“The hardest part was communicating,” he said. “Your mouth kept freezing.”

And the semi-frozen football had a diminished flight. He completed 13 of 26 passes, under-throwing many.

“He had about five plays today that were just kind of off-the-charts,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It was a hard day for Russell.

“I don’t think (the game) was a measure of anything other than it was guts.”

The Seahawks move on in the playoffs to Carolina Sunday. Grace? Maybe. Mostly, Wilson took over, because he was cooler than the day was cold.

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I thought Bridgewater showed decent poise for a young QB in his first playoff game. But once the Hawks took the lead doubt seemed to creep in the minds of the Vikings. Even when they were down 9 the Hawks showed that familiar swagger we’ve come to know the past four years. Despite the close score and the continued inconsistencies of the offensive line this team can still get to the Super Bowl. Only the Patriots, Broncos and Steelers can match their confidence and experience. Of those three the Patriots and Steelers have many injuries among key personnel. Planning my Super Bowl party already.

    • art thiel

      Bridgewater stayed on script enough to win the game. Smart plan by Zimmer.

  • DJ

    I like Caroll’s “it was guts” for describing this game. Seems like a bit of scratching and clawing as well because there could be no finesse – it was all about survival. The championship pedigree helped the Hawks gut it out all game until they could score and gain the lead. Thankfully Russ was able to rise above for a couple plays and really shine. Too bad Baldwin’s great one-hander wasn’t part of a scoring sequence.
    Christmas wish #1 granted – a chance to redeem the loss to the Panthers and put them in their place!
    This year might just be one of those that will be really fun to look back on……Enjoyed your excellent coverage as always, Art! GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Don’t worry about looking back yet. Wilson always says, stay in the now.

  • 1coolguy

    Guts is right and where it showed in a sequence the most was stopping the Vikings inches short of the first down at the end, requiring them to attempt a field goal. At that yard line, how many teams would have fought tooth and nail to stop the Vikings on that first down, second down, third down? They fought and fought and fought believing something good would happen, even though to everyone else, the game was over once the Vikings were inside the 30.
    Pete has assembled a remarkable group of men that are a real pleasure to watch and that series said it all.

    • AS350

      You just described what every team in the NFL would do. Nothing all that special about trying to keep a team out of the end zone. Ho hum.

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      • art thiel

        It’s true that that is the standard aspiration. In two games against the Seattle defense, the Vikings have yet to score an offensive touchdown. That’s the big deal.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said he was proudest of that defensive sequence. Forcing the FG attempt was everything.

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  • Jamo57

    As they say during March Madness: Survive and advance. Survive and advance.

    • art thiel

      Premium on Sunday for surviving.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Good, gutsy win for the Hawks. Aided by Wilson and, of course, #24 of the vikings, who blew the contain on the errant snap. Woah. And the field goal kicker who went brain dead at the wrong moment. And the Vikings QB who micro-focused on the check down and often failed to even look down the field. It’s funny about the teams that always seem to lose – the bungles, the vikes, etc. They manage to find a way to do it. Well, the sophomoric quarterbacks are gone from the playoffs, the Bridgewaters and Hoyers and McCarons and the Washington QB, all the home field QB’s, all down the drain. They somehow failed to find a reason for gaining the end zone and the TD. Play to ‘not lose’ and you play to fail. The veteran QB’s come through in the end.

    • art thiel

      It is remarkable how the Packers and Seahawks are more adept at the critical maneuver because of their QBs.

  • David Haikin

    You’re in rare form, Art: “(S)o alone he needed an orphanage.” Love it.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • Warchild_70

    I squealed like a school girl watching Elvis the Pelvis for the first time when the poor SOB shanked it worse than Tiger on a bad day in an evil wind. My composure was out the window with the dying ducks being thrown. And I was thinking maybe the advertising guru Mr. Manning had better take note on how to recover from a snap that flies past your ears! All in all it was a game to remember just like the GB/DALL ice bowl. BTW Art that alone remark was awesome. GO HAWKS!!!

    • art thiel

      It was privilege to watch it in person. The cold will be even colder upon the recollection.

  • John M

    Good take, Art. I agree with Chandler on the holding call, on the replay I sure didn’t see a hold. The kick missed because the holder didn’t spin the laces away and the kicker’s foot hit square on the laces. He did this earlier and you saw on the replay the kicker’s foot hit just under the laces and the ball went true for a field goal. It was the holder that gave up the game. Plenty of weird stuff happened in this game, but Russ was, thankfully, his usual self.

    And why weren’t the Vikings penalized for cutting off the Seahawks hot water?

    • art thiel

      No penalty for helping them prepare for cold conditions.

  • Bayview Herb

    Usually, the holder spins the ball so the laces are facing away from the kicker. They had the laces facing the kicker twice during the game. Could that have been the reason for the the
    shank?

    • DJ

      Herb – from everything that I’ve learned about place kicking, hitting the laces is more reactionary – can cause the ball to spin violently one way or the other, thus a hook to the left which it did, so the laces were a factor. The other thing that makes a difference is the location of the plant foot, which can cause the ball to be pulled to the left or pushed to the right. On the replay I see Walsh’s leg swing to the left, and the ball started off in that same direction; it never had a chance regardless of hook or not. As close as the kick was, I’m saying more happened than just the laces to cause the total miss. I like the nerves take on this as well – how often can you practice a sudden death game winner or 3′ putt to win the US Open?

      • art thiel

        I believe a shank is to the right, a hook is to left. The ball did neither. It went where it was aimed,

      • Green Caribou

        I read elsewhere that a former kicker said he approached too fast and swung too hard. He said the laces can affect a kick, but usually not a lot at that distance, and it was not even close. According to that article, Walsh choked and mishit it. Minnesotans should remember however, that they never scored a touchdown, so you can blame the kicker for not winning it, but you can’t really blame him for losing.

    • art thiel

      Maybe. The ball was much harder to handle. I think his plant foot landed too close to the ball.

    • jafabian

      “LACES OUT!!!”

  • Gerald Turner

    Hard to win a game with out a TD. Some fool on the radio said that any GM would trade Wilson for Rogers. I do not think so. No sir. Trade the golden child? The One?

    • art thiel

      Who wins the matchup for hottest girlfriend?

      • eYeDEF

        Ooooh. Now that’s a tight matchup.

  • notaboomer

    who’s chandler?

    • art thiel

      800 other words done right, and you find the one wrong one. Fixed.

      • notaboomer

        your commenter called him chandler too;-)

      • John M

        Someone always does, Art, you know . . .

  • Matt712

    More so than I even imagined, the weather played a perfect complement to the Vikings game plan, and in almost perfect opposition to the Seahawks.

    The Hawks looked like they were going to end their season the same way they began it: by giving away another 4th quarter lead – the offense failing to put the game away when they needed to most, and the defense failing to make one last stop when they needed to most (plus, getting beat by yet another tight end!).

    And then the football gods intervened. Some call it luck. Hard to argue. But I would say the odds were simply evened out.

    • art thiel

      As I wrote Saturday, bad weather always helps the underdog because the better team is kept from doing its best by random developments.

  • notaboomer

    god clearly felt seahawks v panthers would sell more viagra next week than vikings v panthers.

    • art thiel

      Speaking of random . . .

  • Macfunk

    Art: Surely you’re not buying into the hype that this victory was delivered up by a Christian (or even a Lutheran) God. This was the vengeance of Odin, quite beside himself that the Vikings fired their mascot Ragnar before the start of the season. Several Seahawks seem lacking in Norse mythology . . .

    • art thiel

      Not buying Kam’s idea of grace. But I’m all over Odin being pissed.

  • ll9956

    When the fg attempt was about to happen, I was sure it was over. I do feel sorry for Walsh. It’s got to be big-time agonizing for that poor guy. If Zimmer and Walsh’s teammates have any savvy at all, they will try to do everything possible to support and reassure him. After all, if any of the fg’s he made were instead TDs, the outcome would have been different. He’s young and hopefully resilient and will recover. The passage of time is a great healer.

    I’m not sure, but I seem to recall that this exact same thing happened to the Hawks earlier this season. Possibly against St. Louis or Cincinnati? In that case I think the missed fg would have tied the game, possibly in overtime. Am I in the twilight zone?

    • art thiel

      Missed FGs happen to all. but rarely at such a point.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned this. It came in on the nbc broadcast so if you were at the game you would have missed it. On one of his earlier field goals, Sherman came in from the right in an all out dive with arms outstretched. He got a sliver of a piece of the kick. With a finger tip. It still went through and was good. However, the seed was planted. In that kicker s mind the right half of the goal post opening was now off limits. I,’ve seen some golf terms here. Imagine putting the ball to the cup, but instead of said cup being 3 inches wide it is now only half as wide. That is what was playing through his mind. He blocked out the whole right side of the goal opening.

    • mirror

      Agree. It seems like to much talk about “luck” to me. Yes, maybe it wouldn’t have impacted the kicker in ordinary weather, but in making the fine adjustments to extra pressure in that cold, he increased the potential for error dramatically.

      I just don’t see it happening without Sherman and others’ dangerous pressure in the previous kicks. In this case, the ‘Hawks contributed to the “luck.”

      Aside, I think it is hilarious that Wilson’s turning that messed snap into a touchdown drive is also refered to as luck but many people. Wilson has things he doesn’t do as well as some other quarterbacks, but that kind of response to adversity is “what Wilson does!”. It is part of the package, something to be expected.

      • art thiel

        Luck is the random bounce of a two-pointed ball. Nothing was random about the miss, for reasons stated.

        • mirror

          Hey Art, football aside, I want take this opportunity to thank you for the wonderful intro you gave for Buck O’Neil’s opening of the Negro League exhibit at Chief Sealth HS in 2005. I took my 9 year old son and although he was distracted that night, he’s never stopped writing papers about the Negro Leagues (when he’s HAD to write a paper) and he’s still playing baseball in college.

          Yes, luck… when I hear luck, I think of something like a sudden 100 mph gust of wind, or a hot dog wrapper flying into the kickers face, or the ball hitting an errant sea gull or pigeon (like that infamous Randy Johnson pitch in 2001 spring training).

          • art thiel

            Wow. Good pull on Buck. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember being both impressed and charmed by him. I guess saying something nice came easily.

    • art thiel

      See my story from Monday. Carroll agrees.

  • einsteinstoe

    “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson
    Feeling good about the trip to Carolina. It is going to be a slog, but I think they pull it off.

    • art thiel

      T.J. knew his stuff.

  • Miguel Jonz

    Going off topic here but…

    Does anyone find it strange that the only Team from the West Coast is stuck with two early morning games on the East coast?

    • art thiel

      No. It’s not early on the East Coast.