Despite a losing record and having lost seven of nine games down the stretch, Seattle found themselves in a one-game playoff on Sunday with their division rival St. Louis Rams for the NFC West Championship.
This was a Seahawks team with losing record on the year, an offense and defense statistically ranked in the bottom six of all NFL teams, and outscored by nearly 100 points over the course of the season. Does any of that matter? Nope.
The 2010 Seattle Seahawks are NFC West Champions.
Along with that distinction comes a home playoff game and limitless possibilities on how far the team can go. In fact, the only way Seattle could even have a winning record would be to reach and win the Super Bowl.
Not only did they come away with a win against the Rams, they did it on the back of their backup quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst.
One of the big unknowns coming into the game was if Matt Hasselbeck would be ready to go for the Seahawks or if Whitehurst would make his second start for the team. All week Coach Pete Carroll was telling the media that Whitehurst was the guy, but it was tough to believe Hasselbeck would miss a game this big.
Although Matt was suited up and at midfield as the captain of the Seahawks offense for the coin toss, Carroll made true the talk of the week that it was Charlie’s game to start. If there was any doubt by fans if he could be the one to lead the team to a victory, it was all erased after the first drive of the game.
After a short pass to Justin Forsett that went for 13 yards, Whitehurst then hooked up with a wide open Ruvell Martin on a 61-yard pass. Had Martin been hit in stride, it would have made for an easy touchdown, but Mike Williams was able to cap off the drive just a few plays later with a 4-yard pass in the end zone to put Seattle up 7-0.
A strong performance by Seattle’s defense, coupled with a lot of dropped passes by Rams receivers, made the first and only touchdown the Hawks would need in coming away with a 16-6 win.
In their first three possessions St. Louis was held to three-and-out. But a lengthy drive in the second quarter allowed them to get down inside the red zone. Seattle held them to a 32-yard Josh Brown field goal and maintained 7-3 lead going in at halftime.
The defense didn’t let up in the second half as the Rams first drive was stalled at midfield, but Seattle quickly gave the ball right back with a Marshawn Lynch fumble on their first play. The turnover gave the Rams the ball at the Seahawks 21 and allowed St. Louis the perfect opportunity to jump ahead with a huge shift in momentum.
But the Rams couldn’t cash in. On a first-and-goal where Steven Jackson nearly scored, the Rams were called for offensive holding and it pushed the team back to the 16. St. Louis was held up at the 9-yard line and forced to settle for another field goal.
On the ensuing drive, two big runs by Lynch and Forsett of 24 and 21 yards set up the Hawks for a field goal and give Seattle a bit of a cushion, 10-6.
The next three drives for the Rams ended quickly with the defense coming up with big stops or St. Louis receivers failing to come up with a catch on a few deep throws by Sam Bradford. In the meantime, Olindo Mare added a 38-yard field goal to put Seattle up by a touchdown.
Linebacker Will Herring helped the team put the game away by coming up with an interception at midfield on the Rams second to last possession. With two timeouts left, the Rams were able to stop Seattle at the 21 with just less than three minutes remaining. But St. Louis was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone on the field goal attempt, and it gave the Hawks more time to run out the clock and force St. Louis to burn those last two timeouts.
A 34-yard field goal by Mare put the game out of reach and two sacks by Raheem Brock on the Rams’ final drive added the nails to the coffin.
The Seahawks win gave Coach Pete Carroll a playoff appearance in his first season back in the NFL, who now joins Chuck Knox and Mike Holmgren as three of eight Seahawks head coaches to take their Seattle team to the playoffs in their first season.
In the post-game press conference, Carroll acknowledged the challenges the team faced throughout the year, but made no apologies for the final result.
“We set our goal of winning the NFC West,” said Carroll. “To have the opportunity and then to come through and get it done is something I’m really proud of.”
Carroll also acknowledged the 12th Man.
“Our fans were incredible tonight. They just rocked the house.”
The big question for the Seahawks moving into the coming weekend is who is going to get the start at quarterback. Carroll said that Matt could have played, but thought that Whitehurst’s mobility was a key to this win. With Hasselbeck having another week to recover, you have to wonder if his days in Seattle are numbered if he doesn’t get the start this week.
What has to weigh heavily into Coach Carroll’s decision is that Hasselbeck has won more playoff experience than Whitehurst has NFL experience. Matt also had one of the best performances of his career in the Hawks week 11 loss to the Saints completing 32 of 44 passes for 366 yards and one touchdown. But fortunately for the Seahawks, Whitehurst has now proven that he can lead the team to a win.
After a regular season where the team went from being called the best team in the NFC, to now securing a distinction previously held by the division rival Arizona Cardinals as “the worst ever playoff team,” it has been quite a season for the Seahawks and their fans.
Adding fuel to the media firestorm surrounding the Seahawks is that Seattle has become the first team to ever make the postseason with a losing record, a fact that Coach Carroll seemed to revel in.
The Seahawks are in ahead of Tampa Bay (10-6) and the New York Giants (10-6), two teams that outscored the Seahawks by 23 and 34 points respectively. They also earn a home playoff game by virtue of winning their division in spite of Green Bay (10-6) and New Orleans (11-5) having a better record.
But none of it matters to Seahawks fans and you won’t be hearing team complain about it either or offering any apologies. It is now a whole new season as Seattle is one of 12 teams with sights on the Lombardi Trophy. But to make it to that point, the Hawks will first have to go through the reigning World Champion Saints on Saturday.