Seahawks’ Jermaine Kearse turns from goat to hero on final TD catch
Jermaine Kearse, who had two passes glance off his hands for interceptions, caught a 35-yard pass from Russell Wilson as the Seahawks rallied to beat the Green Bay Packers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
What: Super Bowl XLIX
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Who: Seahawks vs. New England Patriots
When: Sunday, Feb. 1, 3:30 p.m.
TV: KING-5 (NBC, Channel 5) and Univision.
National anthem: Idina Menzel
Halftime entertainment: Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz
The calmness Jermaine Kearse is known for among his Seahawks teammates and coaches, no matter how big the play or game, finally broke.
The tipping point didn’t come Sunday after any of the three interceptions on passes thrown his way in the first half of the NFC Championship Game against the Packers.
It didn’t come after yet a fourth interception thrown his way in the fourth quarter, on a pass that glanced off his hands with 5:04 left and appeared to seal Seattle’s doom.
Instead, it came as Kearse lined up at the 35-yard line just over three minutes into overtime of Seattle’s 28-22 overtime victory that sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX. The normally placid third-year receiver struggled to contain his excitement.
Kearse saw the same thing quarterback Russell Wilson did — Green Bay playing man-to-man coverage with safety Sean Richardson creeping up to the line, leaving the middle of the field wide open.
“I’m on the sideline watching the coverage and I look at my man, Jermaine, and I see that he’s dancing at the opportunity that just presented itself,’’ said fellow receiver Doug Baldwin, who had just caught a 35-yard pass on third-and-seven to put the Seahawks at the Green Bay 35.
Lined up right, Kearse’s gloved fingers wiggled back and forth as he heard what he wanted to hear — Wilson changing the play to a Kearse post route.
“I knew it was going to come down to beating him,’’ Kearse said of Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. “I knew the ball was going to come my way.’’
And for the first time in six passes thrown his way Sunday, Kearse caught it. One over-the-shoulder catch turned his afternoon of disappointment into one of the most memorable moments in Seattle sports history.
Kearse caught it as he was wrapped up by Williams. Then after picking himself up off the artificial turf, he flung the ball toward the CenturyLink Field bleachers and was quickly enveloped by teammates.
Kearse nearly was moved to tears while the celebration erupted around him. The reality of how his day had turned began to sink in.
“He was very emotional after the game because he knew he was in the midst of a lot of things that didn’t go right for us today,’’ said coach Pete Carroll. “He was totally emotional about it because he felt like he had not been able to come through in some other situations.’’
The same was true for most of the Seahawks on a day they had to score 21 points in 5 minutes, 28 seconds to turn a deflating defeat into one of the most amazing comebacks in NFL history.
Seattle’s third offensive play was a pass from Wilson that glanced off Kearse’s hands and to Green Bay’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. It set up the Packers’ first field goal.
In the second quarter, two more Wilson passes for Kearse were picked off, one coming in the end zone to kill the only good drive of the first half for Seattle, which trailed 16-0 at halftime.
“There’s some plays I felt like I could have made,’’ Kearse said. “I could have stopped some plays from happening on interceptions. I could have just turned the defender and tried to knock the ball down.’’
On the sideline, Kearse’s teammates offered encouragement.
“You’re going to get more chances,” safety Jeron Johnson told him.
But with just more than five minutes left, another pass from Wilson ricocheted off Kearse’s hands to Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett. The Packers seemed to think the game was over, motioning Burnett to go down rather than trying to return it.
Kearse felt deflated.
“What is going on?’’ was his first thought.
The feeling didn’t last, as the Seahawks embarked on a comeback that led to overtime.
During the break after regulation, Wilson told offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell exactly what would happen: “I’m going to hit Kearse for a touchdown on a check.’’
Why did he think Kearse would be the hero?
“Because I’ve seen him make so many plays before,” Wilson said.
One came a year ago in the NFC Championship Game in eerily similar fashion.
Against the 49ers, Seattle also stood at the 35-yard-line when Wilson changed a play. The 49ers jumped offsides, and Wilson threw a deep pass to Kearse on fourth down for what proved to be the winning points.
Sunday, Wilson never gave up on Kearse.
“Hey, we’re going to win this game,’’ Wilson told his teammates.
As the ball again came his way in overtime, Kearse said he just wanted it to come down. He was so focused on the ball he didn’t realize Williams was draped all over him.
“I wish every ball in the game felt as easy as that one,’’ Kearse said. “I mean, I just had no doubt in my mind I was going to come down with that play.’’
|Anatomy of a comeback|
|Russell Wilson had just thrown his fourth interception of the game with the Seahawks trailing, 19-7, with 5:04 left in the fourth quarter. How the rest of the game unfolded:|
|4:00 left in the fourth||Packers punt ball away to the Seattle 31|
|2:09 left in the fourth||Wilson scores on 1-yard run. PAT makes it 19-14|
|2:07 left in the fourth||Chris Matthews recovers onside kick for Seahawks|
|1:25 left in the fourth||Marshawn Lynch scores on 24-yard run.|
|1:25 left in the fourth||Wilson lobs desperation two-point conversion pass to Luke Willson to give Hawks 22-19 lead|
|0:14 left in the fourth||Mason Crosby kicks fifth field goal for the Packers, a 48-yarder to make it 22-22|
|12:36 left in OT||Wilson completes 35-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on third-and-seven from the GB 30|
|11:41 left in OT||Wilson throws 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to give Seahawks 28-22 victory|