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Tate to the rescue
Fourth-and-10. Ball on the Green Bay Packers’ 24-yard line. Eight seconds on the clock. Seahawks down 12-7.
As rookie quarterback Russell Wilson whirled to his left and launched a pass into the end zone, where wide receiver Golden Tate was surrounded by four defenders, the 68,218 fans at CenturyLink Field held their collective breath.
Tate went up, and so did Packers safety M.D. Jennings. When the pile of humanity in the corner of the north end zone was separated, it was ruled that Tate had the ball. And the Seahawks had a most improbable victory, 14-12.
“It was a great catch, a great play,” Wilson said. “Obviously it’s a tough call, but at the same time we gave ourselves a chance.”
Tate was Wilson’s first read on the play, but he was covered so Wilson looked to his right before coming back to his left and going to Tate.
“It gives us an extraordinary win, and an extraordinary message about hanging to the very last second,” coach Pete Carroll said. “These guys understand about finishing, and they have learned how to finish really effectively.”
The exciting – and excruciating – outcome on “Monday Night Football” left the Seahawks 2-1 after their second upset victory in as many weeks at CenturyLink Field. It also extended the Seahawks’ winning streak on MNF to six in a row, and increased their already league-best winning percentage on the primetime showcase to .692 (18-8) as they prepare to play four of their next five games on the road – starting Sunday in St. Louis against the Rams.
This one did not come without controversy, as Tate’s winning TD catch was reviewed – and will be scrutinized even more by Tuesday Morning Quarterbacks across the nation. But the officials ruled Tate and Jennings had simultaneous possession, and the tie goes to the receiver.
“I was just trying to get possession of the ball,” Tate said. “The guy who was fighting me was strong. So I was trying to hold on to it until our guys pulled him off of me. I don’t know if they called touchdown, interception or incomplete. I didn’t know what was going on.
“I couldn’t hear anything. I just tried to keep fighting for the ball.”
And his teammates were going bonkers, whether on the field or on the sideline.
“It was a crazy way to play your first Monday night game,” rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin said. “I think I said about 200 prayers in two minutes, and He answered. But Russell, he executed. And Golden made a helluva catch. And we came out on top.”
Offered wide receiver Sidney Rice, “I was just over there as a spectator, looking at the play. I saw four of those guys and I saw Golden come down. And I know once you come down with the ball; the tie goes to the receiver. So they were over there fighting and I’m over here celebrating.”
The play ended what already had been a bizarre game.
The Seahawks’ defense was suffocating in the first half, getting to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers for eight sacks – a club record-tying four from Chris Clemons, all in the second quarter; two more from Irvin, both in the first quarter; and another pair from nose tackle Brandon Mebane.
“We knew tonight that Green Bay would be more man-to-man blocking,” Clemons said. “We just had to get after (Rodgers) and allow the DBs to plaster downfield and not let Aaron run the ball on us. We knew he would hold onto the ball, so our thing was to just continue to work on our rush throughout the whole entire play.”
The Wilson-to-Tate connection gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead as they hooked up on 41-yard TD pass with 6½ minutes left in the half. And there was nothing controversial about it.
“That was a very, very-well executed play,” Wilson said. “That’s how we need to play. We did a great job of blocking up right there. Golden ran a nice, nice route. He came wide open for me and I hit him in the end zone.”
Wilson used a play-action fake to rookie running back Robert Turbin to momentarily freeze safety Charles Woodson, and Tate spun cornerback Tramon Williams around on his route to get open.
But the second half was a complete reversal of fortunes for both teams.
The Packers relied more on the running of Cedric Benson and also used two backs when Rodgers was in the shotgun formation to provide better pass protection. It allowed the Packers to drive 70 and 66 yards – in 13 and 11 plays – to a pair of third-quarter field goals by Mason Crosby.
Then came the 16-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Benson’s 1-yard scoring run and gave the Packers their first lead of the game, 12-7 with 8:44 left in the game.
The Seahawks, however, were not done.
On their next possession, they drove from their 20-yard line to the Packers’ 7, only to have Tate get a hand on Wilson’s fourth-down pass that actually was intended for Rice in the same side of the end zone where Tate would work his last-play magic.
The defense responded with a three-and-out, and Wilson went to work again – but this time from the Packers’ 46-yard line.
Wilson followed an incomplete pass to tight end Evan Moore with a 22-yard completion to Rice to the Packers’ 24. Cornerback Sam Shields broke up Wilson’s first-down pass to Tate. With 18 seconds left, his second pass to Moore also was incomplete. With 12 seconds to play, so was his third-down pass to Tate.
Down to eight seconds and one last gasp of a chance, the Seahawks pulled out a magical finish.
“It was very unusual,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after his team fell to 1-2. “Yes, it was the most unusual football game that I have been a part of. I know it’s been a wild weekend in the NFL. I guess we’re a part of it now.”
Even some of the Seahawks had to pinch themselves after the way this one ended.
“I was just telling one of the coaches, ‘Is this real? Did this really just happen?’ ” fullback Michael Robinson said. “But when you get a team that just keeps believing and believing and believing. We go over these scenarios every week. You just never think they’re going to come up, and it finally did this week and we did a good job with it.” Read