AMERICAN FOOTBALL

Agony for Minnesota Vikings as missed field goal advances Seattle Seahawks in play-offs

Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh misses a 27-yard field-goal attempt in the dying seconds to hand the game to the Seahawks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 1:02pm

Maybe it’s because the Seahawks have played so many games the past few years in which whatever could happen, did happen.

I said, ‘I think he’s going to miss it’. I don’t know why. We played too great a football to lose like this
Michael Bennett

When all seemed lost Sunday in their NFC wild-card game against the Vikings, the Seahawks convinced themselves that the seemingly impossible might happen once again.

So as Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh lined up for a 27-yard field-goal attempt with 26 seconds left, Seahawks up and down the sideline told each other all was not lost.

Jermaine Kearse informed fellow receiver Doug Baldwin a miss was coming.

Right tackle Garry Gilliam leaned over to guard J.R. Sweezy and said the same.

So did defensive-line coach Travis Jones, telling Michael Bennett, “I think he is going to miss it.”

“I said, ‘I think he’s going to miss it, too,’ ” Bennett said later. “I don’t know why. We played too great a football to lose like this.”

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And then Walsh did indeed miss it, shanking the kick wide left – allowing the Seahawks to escape with a 10-9 victory and sending them into various forms of celebration.

Richard Sherman, who had come off the right edge hoping to block the kick, collapsed on the field.

Bennett knelt on the turf and crossed himself, saying he blurted out, “Oh (expletive). He really missed that!”

The miss sends the Seahawks to a divisional-round game next Sunday at Carolina and gave them as hard-fought and challenging – though less than artistic and at times frustrating – of a victory in their history.

The game kicked off with a temperature of minus-6 degrees, tied for the third-coldest game in NFL history. Sherman said later he thought the weather wasn’t a big deal during the pregame warmups until his eyelashes froze.

“Then you kind of realise, ‘It’s really kind of cold out here,’ ” he said.

The cold weather made the passing game difficult, largely because the heavier, harder ball didn’t travel like it usually does. It also caused coach Pete Carroll to decide that the longest field goal the team would attempt would be in the 47-yard range.

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“This was really a survival game for both teams,” Carroll said. “I don’t think it’s a measure of anything as far as your football. It was guts and stick-to-it and grit and the whole thing for both sides.”

For three quarters, it was the Vikings who appeared set to live another day, taking a 9-0 lead due in part to some Seahawks mistakes.

A bad snap on a Seahawks punt in the first quarter led to a Walsh field goal and a 3-0 half-time lead – the first time the Seahawks had been shut out in the first half all season.

Walsh then made two more field goals on consecutive possessions in the third quarter, one coming after a Russell Wilson pass was high and tipped by tight end Chase Coffman into the hands of Minnesota’s Trae Waynes.

But the Seahawks’ defence, which held the Vikings to 183 yards, kept coming up big in critical situations and bought time for the offence to finally, well, warm up.

“The defence kept hanging in there,” Wilson said.

The offence was stagnant until Wilson made his latest signature play, chasing down a snap that came when he wasn’t ready for it and turning it into a 35-yard pass to Tyler Lockett. That set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin to make it 9-7 early in the fourth quarter.

On Minnesota’s next possession, Kam Chancellor forced an Adrian Peterson fumble to set up a 46-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 8:04 left.

The Vikings got one last chance, taking over at their 39-yard line with 1:42 left. A Chancellor pass-interference penalty got the Vikings to the Seattle 42. Then quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hit tight end Kyle Rudolph on a 24-yard pass play that got the Vikings to the 18.

Three Peterson runs moved the ball to the 9, set up on the left hash.

Sherman admitted that from the outside, the situation “looked dire.”

Carroll, though, said he wasn’t assuming anything.

“They’ve still got to snap it, still got to hold it and put it on the ground and kick it,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot that has to happen there. And it (a miss) happens.”

Walsh offered no excuses other than he missed it. “It’s just ridiculous,” he said.

They’ve still got to snap it, still got to hold it and put it on the ground and kick it. There’s a lot that has to happen there. And it (a miss) happens
Pete Carroll

As the final seconds ticked off, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas walked around the field in a daze.

“I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “Stuff like that shocks me. Even with the Green Bay game (the comeback to win the NFC title last year), it feels new. It makes me appreciate the game even more. I really love it, and to see us have another chance, there’s nothing like it.”

Bennett, meanwhile, referenced a game with an even more unfathomable ending in assessing where it ranks on his list of memorable finishes.

“This is right up there, but it’s not the Super Bowl,” Bennett said. “So we lost a tight, crazy game in the Super Bowl and then to come out and win this game, it’s kind of crazy, too.”