January 18, 2015: Happier times for Pete Carroll, at least for a while. In the NFC Championship Game, defending Super Bowl champion Seattle falls behind Green Bay 16-0 as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is stuck in an interception-fest. As bad as it was, the Seattle defense kept making the Packers settle for Mason Crosby field goals on every scoring drive except one. Still, the Seahawks looked like they were dead in the water with five minutes left in the game, trailing 19-7 after Wilson had thrown his fourth pick.
Then came a one-yard Wilson touchdown run, a recovery of an onside kick, a 24-yard TD dash by Marshawn Lynch and a two-point conversion to put Seattle up 22-19. It took Crosby’s fifth field goal of the day with 14 seconds remaining to even get the Packers to overtime, but the train had left the station at CenturyLink Field. Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse with a 35-yard touchdown pass on the first possession of OT to give the Seahawks a 28-22 win and their second straight trip to the Super Bowl. It was the biggest comeback from a halftime deficit in NFC title game history.
The Seattle comeback was kick-started by Carroll’s decision to gamble on a fourth-and-10 from the Green Bay 19-yard line early in the third quarter. Carroll did set up for a field goal—then holder Jon Ryan took the snap, stood up and ran to his left. Offensive tackle Garry Gilliam, an eligible receiver on the play, was wide open on the other side and scored the touchdown that game the Seahawks hope.
It was the Super Bowl two weeks later that painfully sticks to Carroll’s bio. Thanks to what some say is the worst play call in the game’s history, the New England Patriots prevented a final-minute touchdown and held off the Seahawks 28-24. With a second-and-goal at the Patriots one, and with Lynch, one of the league’s best running backs, lined up behind him, Wilson threw a slant pass that was intercepted by the Pats’ Malcomb Butler with 20 seconds remaining. To this day that play triggers flu symptoms all around Puget Sound.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)