Seahawks Survive vs. Vikings In Historically Cold Wild-Card Game

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The playoff gods were kinder to the Seattle Seahawks in their first playoff game since the Malcolm Butler Super Bowl disaster. They were far less forgiving, in turn, to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings were about to take the lead in the waning seconds of a defensive grinder in the bitter cold over the Seahawks, lining up for a 27-yard field goal — shorter than an extra point — that almost certainly would have delivered a home win. But kicker Blair Walsh, who had made all three of his field-goal tries in the game to that point, botched the kick. TV replays showed that for the second try of the game, the ball’s laces were facing toward the kicker, held by Jeff Locke, which is a no-no.

The first one earlier in the game didn’t hurt. This one did, and the Seahawks escaped with an improbable 10-9 victory. Walsh had been 33 of 34 in his career on tries shorter than 30 yards prior to this kick.

The game turned in a little less than two minutes in the fourth quarter after the Vikings had dominated most of the game and were sitting on a 9-0 lead. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who had played relatively poorly to that point, made a heroic recovery of a bad snap and hit receiver Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard gain that set up the only touchdown of the game.

On the ensuing possession, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson fumbled, giving the ball back to the Seahawks, who took the lead midway through the fourth quarter on a Steven Hauschka field goal that would provide the winning margin.

That didn’t look to be the case when the Vikings took over in the final 102 seconds, driving from their own 19-yard line to the Seahawks’ 9. But then Walsh badly missed to the left on the poorly held kick, and the Seahawks advanced. They’ll face the Carolina Panthers, a team they lost to earlier this season in the final minute, in the divisional round of the playoffs next Sunday.

It was the Seahawks’ third bizarre and thrilling playoff game in a row. The Seahawks rallied from 16 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Green Bay Packers in overtime in the NFC title game last season. They blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl loss as Butler picked off Wilson at the goal line in the final minute. And now this.

Yes, the game was cold — historically cold even — and it did appear to have an effect on the contest. At minus-6 degrees and 25-below for the wind chill, it registered as the coldest game in Vikings history — a record that might stand a long time in Minnesota, anyway — and the third-coldest in NFL history behind the Ice Bowl in 1967 and the Freezer Bowl in 1982.

On the Seahawks’ first drive, punter Jon Ryan couldn’t handle a low snap and was forced to run, gaining only 4 yards on 4th and 7 well into Seattle territory. So the Vikings got the ball in business on the 29-yard line but bogged down inside the 10-yard line and settled for a Walsh field goal to open the scoring with a 3-0 Vikings lead.

The kicking game was flawed early, with punts not hanging in the air long and the ball not traveling far. The Seahawks had a fruitless series midway through the second quarter, driving to the Minnesota 25-yard line but not coming away with points. A loss of three on the ground and a delay of game convinced Pete Carroll to go for it on 4th and 13, and Wilson’s throw to Fred Jackson — eight yards short of the sticks — didn’t get it done, resulting in a turnover on downs.

On their final possession of the first half, the Seahawks started a promising drive spurred by a 41-yard pass-interference call against Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. But they stalled at the Minnesota 38, after three Wilson incompletions. This time, the Seahawks opted to punt instead of going for it, and the first half ended with a 3-0 Vikings edge.

On the Seahawks’ opening drive of the second half, they once more moved into Minnesota territory just outside field-goal range and once more went for it on fourth down. Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and threw back against his body to little-used tight end Chase Coffman. The throw was off-target and it tipped into the hands of Vikings rookie corner Trae Waynes, who returned it to midfield.

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SOURCE: Yahoo Sports – Eric Edholm