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The play of plays? The “Immaculate Deflection,” of course
The readers of Seahawks.com have spoken.
The conversation concerning the best play in the Seahawks’ best season is not officially over, and you can still vote. But it’s hardly a stretch to put some finality to the topic – even if it involves putting words in their mouths – because after two weeks the runaway leader (winner?) is the “Immaculate Deflection.”
Since we asked you to vote two weeks ago for the best play during the Seahawks’ run to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, a whopping 60.6 percent of the 6,158 voters have opted for the pass that All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman deflected in the end zone, and linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted, on the San Francisco 49ers’ final play in the NFC Championship game.
There has been a lot of discussion to go with the voting, and one of the more repetitive refrains is that the best play should come from the biggest game – Super Bowl XLVIII. And there was no shortage of candidates from the Seahawks’ 43-8 dismantling of the Denver Broncos and the highest-scoring offense in NFL history on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium.
There was Smith’s interception return for a touchdown that gave him a big push toward being voted Super Bowl MVP. There was Percy Harvin’s 87-yard scoring return with the second-half kickoff that pushed the Seahawks lead to 29-0. There was Jermaine Kearse taking a short pass from Russell Wilson and pin-balling his way into the end zone. There was Doug Baldwin taking another short pass from Wilson and ducking under a defender before diving into the end zone. There was Kam Chancellor’s tempo-setting hit on Broncos leading receiver Demaryius Thomas on Denver’s third play of the game.
But the rebuttal to each play is that these players would not have had the opportunity to make them in the Super Bowl if Colin Kaepernick’s pass had ended up in the hands of wide receiver Michael Crabtree rather than Smith because of Sherman’s athletic effort to tip the ball.
You agree, and then some, as 3,729 votes have been cast for Sherman’s big play.
The plays that have generated the second- and third-highest vote totals – and only 9.1 and 8.9 percent of the total votes – came in the NFC Championship game and the Week 4 game against the Texans in Houston.
Sitting at No. 2, with 561 votes, is Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Kearse against the 49ers that came on a fourth-and-7 play and gave the Seahawks a 20-17 lead in the conference title game. Sitting at No. 3, with 549 votes, is Sherman’s pick-six that tied the score with less than three minutes left in regulation against the Texans in a game the Seahawks then won on overtime.
As for all those worthy plays from the Super Bowl, Kearse’s sure-plays-a-mean-pinball touchdown and Harvin’s TD return are tied with 7.5 percent of the votes (459 each).
That’s 33 percent of the votes combined for the other four plays that round out the Top 5, which makes the “Immaculate Deflection” our slam-dunk winner. And rightfully so, because of when it happened, where it happened and how it happened.
Steven Hauschka had just kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the Seahawks a 23-17 lead with 3½ minutes left in the NFC Championship game. But the 49ers still could advance to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season if they scored a touchdown.
On a fourth-and-2 play from the 49ers’ 30-yard line, Kaepernick passed to Frank Gore for a 17-yard gain. On third-and-2 from the Seahawks’ 45, it was Kaepernick to Crabtree for 16 yards and then Kaepernick to tight end Vernon Davis for 11 yards to the Seahawks’ 18.
On first down, and with 30 seconds to play, Kaepernick went to Crabtree in the back right-hand corner of the south end zone at CenturyLink Field. Sherman, who was matching Crabtree stride-for-stride, stopped, turned, leaped and deflected the pass with his left hand. The ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity, but Smith was there to catch it.
The only thing better than Sherman’s play was the celebration it ignited – on the field, along the Seahawks’ sideline and in the stands at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks had defeated the defending conference champions, and two-time defending NFC West champions, and were off to the Super Bowl.
“It was fitting that we’d finish it there with another turnover and a great play by Richard and Malcolm to end the game,” said coach Pete Carroll, to the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense leading the league in turnovers and interceptions during the regular season.
Added quarterback Russell Wilson, “Our defense was lights out making plays, one after another. And then Richard Sherman tipping that ball and us picking it off to seal the game; it doesn’t get any better.”
And it didn’t, not even in the Super Bowl.