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A love letter to the fans

Posted Mar 4, 2014

The Seahawks premiered their 2013 highlight film on Monday night, and it took the screen and sound at the Cinerama and the subtle touches provided by NFL Films to create a highlight film worthy of a highlight season.

Before the screening of the Seahawks’ highlight film Monday night, NFL Films senior producer Todd Schmidt referred to it as “a love letter to the fans.”

And that it was, as indicated by the reactions of the 600 in attendance at the Cinerama in downtown Seattle who cheered and jeered, laughed and nearly lost it during the 72-minute screening that also was attended by coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider, wide receivers Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Phil Bates, All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor, long snapper Clint Gresham and coaches Chris Carlisle, Sherman Smith and Jamie Yanchar.

We’d all seen these scenes before – from the dejection, but also motivation, that came from the season-ending loss to the Falcons in Atlanta last January; to the 13-3 record during the 2013 regular season; to the playoff wins over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field; to the dismantling of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII last month. But not like this – not on a 90-foot by 30-foot screen, with the action morphing from slow-motion to real time and back; or in digital-stereo sound. Chancellor’s hit on Demaryius Thomas on the Broncos’ third play in the Super Bowl? It rattled rib cages from the front row of the main floor to the last row of the balcony.

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NFL Films also had more video and player and coach sound to choose from than with any of the other umpteen team highlights films it has produced through the years. And while the players and coaches are the stars of this love story that had the happiest of endings, the fans are afforded much more than cameo status.

And it was all by design.

“It’s fantastic,” Schmidt said before the film proved that point for him. “It’s 72 minutes of Seahawks-mania. You have this great team with this great season, but in the history of NFL Films we’ve never shot more footage of a team than we have of this team.”

The sound? That’s a behind-the-scenes, as well as on-the-field and along-the-sideline, perk from having Carroll, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and Chancellor wired for sound during select games.

“With all these guys wearing mics, you get tremendous insight into who these guys and why they’re such a great team,” Schmidt said.

“It’s a wonderful film. The fans are going to eat it up. It’s not a historical tome as much as it’s a love letter to the fans.”

Right on cue, the fans in attendance devoured every frame. They cheered the comebacks and the blowouts. They moaned as the producers skimmed over the three losses. They broke in their trademark Sea-Hawks cheer at several junctures. They jeered Jim Harbaugh every time the coach of the 49ers appeared on the screen. They applauded the myriad of applaud-provoking plays turned in by Wilson, and Marshawn Lynch, and the collection of pass-catchers that never got enough credit during the season for the magnitude of the tough catches they made look routine; as well as the fumble-forcing sacks produced by Cliff Avril and the other defensive linemen, the league-leading eight interceptions generated by Sherman and all the rest of the highlight plays turned in by the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense.

A few lingering impressions from the lingering images:

Just how many big plays Baldwin and Kearse turned in, starting with the season-opening victory against the Panthers in Carolina and culminating with each turning in a highlight-film worthy touchdown catch in the Super Bowl;

Just how much fun Carroll has on the sideline during games, especially when things are going his team’s way, but also when some chins-up motivation is needed;

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Just how good Lynch is, and it takes super-slow motion to appreciate just how hard he runs and just how difficult it is to bring him down;

Just how much Sherman talks during a game – before the snap, after the snap, during the play, on the sideline, after the game;

Just how many players made plays for the Seahawks during the most successful season in franchise history – and the guys at NFL Films include footage of rookies Luke Willson and Derrick Coleman scoring touchdowns; Robert Turbin, Lynch’s backup, breaking key runs at critical junctures; Heath Farwell’s stop during the goal-line stand that won the Monday night game against the Rams in St. Louis; and Ricardo Lockette’s big tackle on special teams in the Super Bowl.

Schmidt’s favorite moments?

“I think the number of Wilson pirouettes,” he said. “No one does it quite like him. I think if you took those out it would be less of a film.”

Not to mention less of a season.

Schmidt also touched on other obvious highlights from the highlight film.

“The verbosity of Richard Sherman,” he added. “The power of Kam Chancellor. The optimism of Pete Carroll. And the sonic boom of the guys wearing 12 is pretty extraordinary.”

Ah, the 12th Man. You can’t forget them, because Schmidt and his cohorts at NFL Films certainly didn’t.

“This is their reward,” he said. “We’ve happy for the players and we’re happy for the coaches. But they retired the No. 12 (in 1984). That’s a long time these fans have been waiting, and this is a very rabid and unique fan base.

“I hope they enough it. I hope they watch it until it wears out.”