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Top Moment from CenturyLink Field: Seahawks' Championship Sunday
There is one picture from the Seahawks’ first 37 seasons that is worth far more than even a thousand words. In fact, the photo of Paul Allen lifted the NFC Championship trophy above his head at Qwest Field on Jan. 22, 2006, pretty much says it all.
The Seahawks were conference champions for the first time in franchise history, and heading to their first Super Bowl, after a 34-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The scene at the stadium on that Sunday afternoon was surreal – before, during and especially after the game. The Seahawks, who had started the 2005 season 2-2, had secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by ripping off a franchise-record 11-game winning streak to finish with a 13-3 record – also the best ever posted by a Seahawks team.
And the team used that to their advantage, starting with getting a first-round bye in the postseason; then by beating a Washington Redskins team that had won its final five regular-season games and knocked off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round in the divisional round; and, finally, by dispatching the Panthers in the title game.
“I don’t want to say I’m surprised,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said at the time, “but it’s quite an accomplishment.”
Said Allen, “My God, it’s the Super Bowl.”
Because of the significance of the victory, and the magnitude of its meaning, the 2005 NFC Championship Game has been selected as the top moment at Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field/CenturyLink Field as the club celebrates its first 10 seasons at the state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2002.
|A FIRST 10 TOP 10|
The Top 10 moments in the first 10 seasons at Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field/CenturyLink Field:
No. 1 – The 2005 NFC Championship game, which began with owner Paul Allen raising the 12th Man flag and ended with him hoisting the NFC Championship trophy.
No. 2 – Marshawn Lynch’s electrifying 67-yard touchdown run in the 2010 wild-card playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, which set off seismic activity near the stadium.
No. 3 – The 2006 wild-card playoff game against Dallas, when Cowboys QB Tony Romo muffed the snap on what would have been a game-winning field goal and Jordan Babineaux pulled him down short of the first down and the goal line to preserve a 21-20 victory.
No. 4 – The 2005 divisional playoff game against the Redskins, when league MVP Shaun Alexander went out in the first half with a concussion but Matt Hasselbeck passed for one TD and ran for another. It was the Seahawks’ first playoff victory since 1984.
No. 5 – The 24-21 overtime victory against Giants in 2005, when the visitors were penalized 16 times – including 11 false starts. Josh Brown finally ended the marathon with a 36-yard field goal with 2:45 left in OT.
No. 6 – The 28-13 victory over the Colts on Dec. 24, 2005, which capped a franchise-record 11-game winning streak and gave the Seahawks an 8-0 record at home for only the second time in franchise history.
No. 7 – Shaun Alexander scoring an NFL-record five touchdowns in the first half during a 48-23 victory over the Vikings in a Sunday night game in 2002. Three of Alexander’s scores came in the final three minutes of the half.
No. 8 – Shaun Alexander dashing through the snow for 201 yards on 40 carries in a 2006 game against the Packers that looked like “Lambeau West” as the 34-24 victory was played out in a snowstorm.
No. 9 – Leon Washington returning kickoffs 101 and 99 yards for touchdowns in a 2010 upset of the Chargers. They were the fifth and sixth of what has become Washington’s NFL record-tying eight kickoff returns for TDs.
No. 10 – The 34-0 victory over the 49ers on Sept. 26, 2004. It marked the first time the 49ers had been shutout since Oct. 9, 1777, and snapped their NFL-record span that had reached 420 regular-season games.
And there couldn’t have been more significance to Allen being involved in the day from much-anticipated start to much-appreciated finish. The team owner raised the 12th Man flag above the south end zone prior to kickoff and then raised the championship trophy after all was said and done.
Without Allen, who bought the franchise in 1997, who knows where the Seahawks would have been playing on that day; or if they would have even been playing on that day. Certainly not in Seattle, as former owner Ken Behring had tried to move the team to Southern California. Definitely not at Qwest Field, as the voter-approved funding for the stadium was a prerequisite for Allen’s purchase.
Allen wore his emotions not only on his sleeve, but on his smiling face and in his heart on this special occasion – especially when the scoreboard screen above the south end zone and taped intro included how Allen used to attend University of Washington game with his late father.
“When they mentioned my father, going to games with him at Husky Stadium … I wished he could have been here,” Allen told reporters in the locker room after the game. “To think back to that, and to even be playing in the NFC Championship Game today, I was really touched.
“Then there were a lot of people around me (at the flag pole) saying, ‘Thank you.’ It kind of got to me.”
Almost six years later, it’s worth saying again: Thank you, Paul.
But without the efforts of the players on the field that day, the one uplifting effort by Allen would not have led to the other. And on this most special day in Seahawks history, they also provided plenty to be thankful for.
After being knocked out of the win over the Redskins the week before with a concussion, league MVP Shaun Alexander returned to rush for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.
Hasselbeck completed 20 of 28 passes for 219 yards, including touchdown passes to Darrell Jackson and Jerramy Stevens.
Marquand Manuel, Lofa Tatupu and Michael Boulware intercepted Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who entered the game as the highest-rated passer in NFL playoff history but left with a 34.9 rating in this game.
Rocky Bernard sacked Delhomme twice and the Seahawks got their hands on nine of his passes, including three breakups by Marcus Trufant.
But the overlooked wrinkle that helped crumple Carolina’s Super Bowl aspirations was the plan defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes devised to defend wide receiver Steve Smith, who had caught 103 passes for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season and was coming off a 12-catch, 218-yard, two-TD performance in the Panthers’ playoff win over the Chicago Bears the week before.
Linebacker Kevin Bentley and Trufant bracketed Smith, with Bentley working Smith over as he came off the line before Trufant took over in coverage.
“Honestly, I was supposed to line up on him and just beat him up for 5 yards, and then drop back underneath in zone coverage,” Bentley explained after the game. “It was great. I knew Marcus was over the top, so my whole job was to beat him up.”
What was great for the Seahawks quickly became grating for Smith, who caught five passes for 33 yards and became so irritated that it proved to be disruptive for the entire offense.
“You could tell he was getting frustrated,” Bentley said. “He was quitting on some of his routes. Some of his routes, he wasn’t even coming off the line. Especially in the second half, you could really tell he shut it down.”
As Panthers linebacker Will Witherspoon put it, “They dominated the day.”
From one uplifting effort by Paul Allen to the other.