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Originally published October 4, 2014 at 6:51 PM | Page modified October 5, 2014 at 5:27 PM

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Seahawks always thrive in prime time

It all began with Efren Herrera. It’s a philosophy the Seahawks have embodied ever since. In good times, bad times, and times in between, one thing has remained constant: The Seahawks have brought out their best in prime time.


Seattle Times columnist

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It all began with Efren Herrera.

The date was Oct. 29, 1979, and the 4-year-old Seahawks were appearing in a prime-time game for the first time. Much to the delight of Howard Cosell and the rest of the “Monday Night Football” crew, coach Jack Patera tried a whacky fake field goal at a critical juncture.

The result — a 20-yard completion from Jim Zorn to the kicker Herrera that set up a touchdown in Seattle’s eventual 31-28 win — sent Cosell into raptures of delight.

“I want to tell you, folks, this is the kind of play pro football needs,” he exuded. “Not parity, but enterprise, inventiveness. Jack Patera is giving the nation a lesson in creative football.”

Asked what prompted the gamble, Patera would say afterward: “We were on national television. Why save it for just a regional audience?”

It’s a philosophy the Seahawks have embodied ever since. In good times, bad times, and times in between, one thing has remained constant: The Seahawks have brought out their best in prime time.

Heading into their latest “Monday Night Football” excursion against Washington, the Seahawks have the best record in the NFL on MNF at 20-8 (.714). The next best is San Francisco at 45-25 (.643).

That distinction used to belong to the Raiders, who at one point were 22-2-1 on Monday night — with one of the losses coming to Seattle in 1984. The Seahawks have won eight in a row on Monday, their last defeat coming Dec. 6, 2004, against Dallas.

Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have responded to the spotlight with even more pizzazz. They are 10-1 in prime time (which now has expanded to Thursday and Sunday nights), with the lone loss coming on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, a 13-6 defeat to the 49ers.

In that span, they have outscored opponents 286-128, racking up such lopsided victories in home prime-time games that the television networks actively shunned such matchups this season. Blowouts are not good for ratings. Except for the season opener against Green Bay, Seattle has to go on the road for its three other prime-time exposures this year, starting in D.C.

It should not be surprising that Carroll twists conventional strategy to explain the Seahawks’ success under the lights. They thrive in big games not by getting extra hyped, as is customary around the league, with the knowledge that all your peers are likely watching. Rather, Carroll traces their success to the fact that they downplay the hoopla.

“We don’t have a special philosophy,’’ he said. “We really count our regular philosophy to take care of business, so that we don’t treat those as something different than what they are. If that’s special, I don’t know.

“It’s real important that we recognize there’s a bunch of hype about Monday night football, the Thursday night games and all of that. We want to make sure that we’re able to play like we’re capable and not get involved in that buildup and that hype, and it usually works for us.”

It’s easy to scoff at the Seahawks’ mantra that “every game is a championship opportunity,” and write it off as clichéd corporate-speak.

But it’s the right approach for a team as accomplished as these Seahawks; for less-talented incarnations of the ballclub, it made sense to psyche themselves to the hilt for their rare forays into prime time. But that won’t work when you have four such appearances, not even counting the postseason.

“When you treat all the games the same, and you respect all of your opponents, it doesn’t matter if you play in prime time, preseason, whether you’re in the playoffs, Super Bowl — the mentality doesn’t change,’’ cornerback Richard Sherman said. “You don’t get tight or you don’t get too loose for any of those types of games.”

On Monday night, in particular, the Seahawks have a rich legacy, including the Russell Wilson-to-Golden Tate “Fail Mary” in 2012 that not only beat Green Bay but hastened the end of the officials’ strike.

There was the Seahawks beating Denver in overtime in the midst of a 2-14 season in 1992, rising up on the emotional night longtime broadcaster Pete Gross was inducted into the Ring of Honor. He died of cancer two days later.

And on the downside, there was the 37-14 blowout loss to the Raiders in 1987, most noted for Bo Jackson’s 91-yard run in which he decelerated by bursting into a Kingdome tunnel.

“He might not stop until Tacoma,’’ MNF broadcaster Frank Gifford cracked.

That game was also noted for Jackson blowing up Seattle linebacker Brian Bosworth on a 2-yard run for his third touchdown of the night. The legend of The Boz was never quite the same.

It was an outcome rich in schadenfreude, considering Bosworth’s self-promoting persona. There are no doubt many (outside the sphere of 12-hood, of course) who would like to see the Seahawks knocked down a notch, because that’s human nature. Washington will be the latest in a long line of teams fired up for an upset, and especially for the opportunity to do it with the world watching. Well, at least that portion of the world watching MNF, which isn’t quite the must-see-TV it was in the Cosell era.

The Seahawks believe they have a foolproof method for weathering such assaults over the long haul. It’s called unwavering consistency.

“We’re computerized to treat every game the same way,’’ safety Kam Chancellor said.

Including — or especially — those in prime time. After all, why save it for a regional audience?

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com



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About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.
lstone@seattletimes.com

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