Seahawks notebook: Fake field goal inserted into game plan just days ago
Seattle coaches saw tendencies among Packers that would make a fake field goal work, and it did, to charge up Seahawks’ comeback
Seattle Times staff reporter
It wasn’t a desperate grasp for hope in a game that was slipping away. No, this was planned and practiced precision. In the end, it might have been a season-saving play that breathed some life into a team headed for defeat.
Who would have thought the Seahawks’ first touchdown in their 28-22 overtime victory would come on a pass from the punter to a reserve lineman on a fake field goal.
Down 16-0 late in the third quarter with the offense looking like a disjointed mess, the Seahawks lined up for a 38-yard field-goal attempt from Steven Hauschka.
Clint Gresham fired a hard snap to the kneeling Jon Ryan, who placed the nose of the ball on the turf. Hauschka approached the ball and swung his leg, but it came nowhere near contact. Instead, Ryan grabbed the ball and sprinted left.
The Packers’ defense seemed stunned. Davon House was three steps behind Ryan and chasing, while A.J. Hawk sprinted toward him ready to deliver a hit that might send Ryan into the sideline.
The Seahawks’ punter didn’t flinch in the unfamiliar situation. On the run, he coolly lofted a soft pass toward the end zone where reserve offensive lineman Garry Gilliam — a one-time tight end at Penn State — stood alone.
“It was a run-first play,” Ryan said. “A.J. Hawk kind of bit a little bit. I had the option one way or the other.”
Gilliam waited for the looping pass to come down and caught it with ease, giving the Seahawks their first touchdown.
“I’m sure it wasn’t that long, but to me it felt like it took forever,” Gilliam said of the pass.
“I don’t remember,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I blacked out.”
The decision to install the play came midweek from special-teams coordinator Brian Schneider after seeing tendencies from the Packers’ field-goal cover unit. The Seahawks worked on it for the first time Thursday.
Ryan did plenty of lobbying for the play.
“I didn’t get within five feet of Pete (Carroll) or Brian without mentioning it to them,” he said. “Coach Carroll came up to me several times this week and said, ‘You know we are going to run this play, so be ready,’ ” Gilliam said.
Why such confidence?
“I really believed in this fake,” said Carroll. “I thought we had a great shot at it because I believe in Jon Ryan’s ability to come out of there, exploding like he did. I couldn’t wait to get that thing called.”
A punter exploding? That’s not usually a descriptor of their athletic ability.
“I’m so sick of people saying punters aren’t athletes,” Ryan said with a smile.
Richard Sherman stood in the locker room with his left arm close to his ribs and his elbow aching. It was the same posture in which he finished the game.
While trying to bring down James Starks following a 30-yard run, Sherman took the brunt of a huge hit from teammate Kam Chancellor as the three players tumbled out of bounds.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that,” Sherman said. “But the first time I felt it with my arm extended and felt it.”
Sherman hyperextended his elbow on the play.
“I think there’s some sprained ligaments, but I will leave it up to the doctors,” he said.
Sherman stayed on the ground for few moments, then forced himself to his feet and back to his cornerback position. He wasn’t coming out of the game.
“I’m not coming out of a NFC championship game,” he said. “If I come out of there, I’m letting my teammates my down. And I’m not letting my teammates down.”
Even after he went to the sideline and met with trainers and team doctor Edward Khalfayan, Sherman stayed in the game.
“He kept telling me it could get worse,” Sherman said. “But it is what it is. You play through it.”
So he played the fourth quarter with his left arm tethered to his midsection.
“I couldn’t really extend my arm,” he said. “I had to do most of my press coverage with one hand.”
And yet, the Packers never threw his way.
“I was surprised,” Sherman said. “I thought I would get tested, but I had pretty tight coverage on my guy
Any questions of him not playing the Super Bowl were squashed quickly.
“I will be out there,” he said. “I will promise you that.”
Earl Thomas injured his shoulder making a tackle on bruising Packers running back Eddie Lacy in the second quarter. Thomas left the game, but returned to play the second half.