Seahawks’ best plays ranged from tipped passes to touchdowns

Posted Feb 13, 2014

From their regular-season opener against the Panthers to their domination of the Broncos in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks made a season’s worth of big plays. But which one was the best of the bunch?

Was it one of the Seahawks’ big plays in the Super Bowl, or the play that got them to the Super Bowl?

Was it one of the many acrobatic catches turned in by the Seahawks’ underrated group of good-hands guys, or one of the many momentum-shifting moments produced by the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense?

Was it one of Russell Wilson’s elusive scrambles, or one of Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Mode rambles?

How do you select one play from all the plays that comprised the most successful season in Seahawks’ history as the play of the year? Especially this season, when they won 13 games to capture the NFC West title and then tacked on a NFC Championship before dismantling the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII?

We can’t, so we’re turning the task over to you.

But here’s a closer look at our 12 finalists – in reverse order of when they happened – to help you make an informed selection, unless your emotions already have made the tough choice for you:

The play: Jermaine Kearse’s scintillating run after taking a short pass from Russell Wilson for a 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Super Bowl.
The situation: The Seahawks already had a 29-0 lead, but Kearse pushed it to 36-0 by taking the pass from Wilson at the Broncos’ 18-yard line and spinning away from pairs of Denver defenders twice on his way to the end zone. We’re not sure that Kearse didn’t make even more impressive catches at even more opportune times during the regular season, but this one happened in the Super Bowl and was included in ESPN’s Top 10 plays for the entire league for the entire season.
The word: “The feeling is surreal right now. It’s an amazing feeling, especially being from the state of Washington, to bring this championship home to Seattle for the fans. It’s an amazing feeling.” – Kearse, who played at Lakes High School and the University of Washington

The play: Percy Harvin’s 87-yard return of the second-half kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The situation: The Seahawks had taken a 22-0 halftime lead while totally outplaying the Broncos at MetLife Stadium. But with the way the Denver offense scored points during the regular season, you had to wonder if any lead was safe. Harvin dashed those qualms quicker than Chris Berman could utter, “He. Might. Go. All. The. Way.” The side story to this story, of course, is that Harvin was playing in only his third game all season after having hip surgery Aug. 1 and getting a concussion in the divisional playoff game against the Saints.
The word: “It was a counter to the right, and those guys (his blockers) pretty much wiped the whole right side of the field off. There were only two guys out there. I just picked the hole and there was only the kicker left.” – Harvin

The play: Malcolm Smith’s 69-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The situation: The talk all week leading up to the game was how the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense would deal with Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who had set NFL single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55) while directing the highest-scoring offense in league history. The conversation should have centered on how Manning would handle the Seahawks’ defense, and this play was the best example of why. Rush-end Cliff Avril slammed into Manning just as he was releasing the pass. That forced the fluttering ball that Smith reacted to far better than intended receiver Knowshon Moreno, and the pick-six return that led to Smith being the pick for Super Bowl MVP.  
The word: “It just shows that with the way our defense plays, there’s always going to be opportunities for plays to be made. It’s guys playing with such great effort out there. I’m just proud to be a part of this.” – Smith

The play: Richard Sherman’s deflection of Colin Kaepernick’s pass to Michael Crabtree in the end zone that was intercepted by Smith on the 49ers’ final play in the NFC Championship game.
The situation: The play by the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback already has been dubbed the “Immaculate Deflection,” and it’s tough to argue with that label. The Seahawks had a six-point lead, so if Sherman mistimed his jump or whiffed on the tip, well, it’s the 49ers who are off the Super Bowl. The ball seemed to hover for just short of an eternity, leaving mouths agape and thoughts of Crabtree still somehow getting to the deflection dancing in the minds of many. That’s when Smith stepped in to make the interception with 22 seconds left in the Seahawks’ 23-17 victory.  
The word: “It was fitting that we finish it there with another turnover and a great play by Richard and Malcolm to end the game.” – coach Pete Carroll

The play: Russell Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the NFC Championship game.
The situation: This one was special, squared, because of when it came and what it did. The pass came on a fourth-and-7 play, and a “free play” because the 49ers’ Aldon Smith had jumped offside on Wilson’s double-count cadence. The touchdown came because the receivers ran the right routes and Wilson made the right throw to the right receiver. The score also gave the Seahawks their first lead, 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
The word: “We waited it out, and we had an incredible play by Russell and the protection that set it up. And Kearse comes up with a heroic touchdown pass to put us ahead.” – Carroll

The play: Marshawn Lynch’s 31-yard touchdown run in the divisional playoff game against the Saints.
The situation: We couldn’t go 12 deep without at least one play by the Seahawks’ Skittles-munching, Beast Mode back. After all, he did carry the ball 301 times during the regular season and another 65 times for a postseason-high 288 yards in the playoffs. And this run against the Saints comes with a nickname – Beast Quake II – so why not? Especially because Lynch broke his scoring run after the Saints had cut the Seahawks’ lead to 16-8 early in the fourth quarter. Just as he did in the 2010 wild-card playoff game against the Saints, when Lynch broke a 67-yard TD run – Beast Quake – that set off seismic activity near the stadium, he iced the outcome again with a scoring run that included style points and set off another raucous celebration. The effort also gave Lynch 140 yards for the game, breaking a six-game drought where he had not hit triple digits.
The word: “His vision, his footwork, his patience right there, that’s what you have to have – especially on that particular play. To get the first down and then accelerate to the end zone, that’s what makes him one of the best running backs, if not the best running back, in the National Football League.” – QB Russell Wilson

The play: Michael Bennett plucking a fumble forced by Cliff Avril’s sack of Drew Brees out of the air and returning it 22 yards for a touchdown in the Week 13 victory over the Saints.
The situation: In a big “Monday Night Football” matchup at CenturyLink Field, the defense came up huge in the Seahawks’ 34-7 victory that made them the first team to clinch a playoff berth. And the biggest play was turned in by the tag-team duo of Bennett and Avril, who ended up leading the team in sacks with 8.5 and eight after being signed two days part in free agency last March. Avril got to Brees just as he was releasing the ball. It popped into the air and into the hands of Bennett, a former high school running back turned jack-of-all-positions on the Seahawks’ D-line. Bennett’s TD, the first of his NFL career, made it 10-0.
The word: “It felt so good. It was fun getting my first touchdown. So I feel real good to get out there and do my dance and stuff.” – Bennett

The play: Steven Hauschka’s 27-yard field goal to win the Week 9 game against the Buccaneers in overtime, and cap the largest comeback in franchise history.
The situation: The Bucs came into CenturyLink Field on Nov. 3 winless, as in 0-7. But it was the Seahawks who played like a winless team while falling behind 21-0. The Seahawks scored just before halftime, on Russell Wilson’s 16-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse. In the second half, Wilson ran for one score and passed for another – a 10-yarder to Doug Baldwin that tied the game with less than two minutes to play. In between, a 71-yard punt return by Golden Tate set up a 36-yard field goal by Hauschka. All of that led to Hauschka’s game-winner in OT.
The word: “I knew we were going to have a field goal no matter what. So I was getting ready. I thought we were going to have a long one. Then we got to the 6-yard line and that’s a bonus. That’s a lot easier kick.” – Hauschka

The play: Brandon Browner tipping a fourth-down pass incomplete in the end zone on the final play of the Week 8 victory over the Rams in St. Louis.
The situation: Why do the Seahawks have such a difficult time with the Rams? In the past two seasons, the Seahawks have swept the home-and-home series with their NFC rivals, but the first three wins came by six, seven and five points. This was the five-pointer in a Monday night game. An 80-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate late in the third quarter got the Seahawks to 14 points, but the Rams were driving in the fourth quarter – from their own 3-yard line to the Seahawks’ 1. That’s when Heath Farwell, who plays linebacker only in the goal-line defense, stopped Daryl Richardson for no gain on third-and-1. And that led to the 6-foot-4 Browner, who has a 6-8 wingspan, tipping way Kellen Clemens’ fourth-down pass to Brian Quick.
The word: “This is the most physical game I’ve ever played. I’m mentally tired, I’m mentally drained and I’m physically drained. But I’d rather be that way with a win than a loss.” – All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas after the narrow escape that gave the Seahawks their first 7-1 start in franchise history

The play: Russell Wilson’s 6-yard completion to tight end Zach Miller in the Week 7 victory over the Cardinals in Arizona.
The situation: Say what? A 6-yard completion from a game where Wilson passed for three touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 34-22 victory? But it was that 6-yarder to Miller that exemplified Wilson’s ability to turn what former coach Chuck Knox used to call the impromptu play. On this play, Wilson was in the grasp of Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington and heading toward what appeared to be a sack. That’s when resourceful morphed to ridiculous as Wilson made what he called a “shortstop flip” to Miller on the third-and-3 play. The heady play prolonged the drive to Wilson’s third TD pass – a 1-yarder to No. 3 tight end Kellen Davis – as well as fueling Wilson’s reputation for making something out of nothing.
The word: “That was just one of those plays. I kind of got away from the defensive player and Zach Miller made a huge play. I just tried to give him a chance to make a big play and he made a great catch and a big first down.” – Wilson

The play: Richard Sherman returning an interception 58 yards for a touchdown to send the Week 4 game against the Texans in Houston into overtime.
The situation: The Seahawks were looking for the first 4-0 start in franchise history, but accomplishing that didn’t look too promising as the Texans took a 20-3 halftime lead. But after Marshawn Lynch capped a 14-play, 98-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Sherman jumped Matt Schaub’s pass to tight end Owen Daniels on a third-and-4 play with less than three minutes to play. And Sherman got some help from his friends in the Legion of Boom secondary, as the Seahawks showed Cover 3, only to have strong safety Kam Chancellor blitz and pressure Schaub while Sherman covered the tight end. Sherman’s pick-six tied it at 20 and Steven Hauschka won it in OT with a 45-yard field goal.  
The word: “You have to go out there and take it from them, and on that play I really had to take it from the guy. He had his hands on the ball. I was able to wrestle it away.” – Sherman

The play: Earl Thomas forcing a fumble that Tony McDaniel recovered in the fourth quarter to preserve the Seahawks’ season-opening victory against the Panthers in Carolina.
The situation: The Seahawks had just taken a 12-7 lead on Russell Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers were driving. That’s when Thomas, the All-Pro free safety, stripped the ball from the grasp of Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams and McDaniel, a free-agent addition who was playing his first regular-season game with the Seahawks, recovered the fumble at the Seattle 8-yard line. At the time, the margin of victory seemed too narrow for a team with Super Bowl expectations that was playing a Panthers team that went 7-9 in 2012. But as the season progressed, that win in the opener looked better all the time as Carolina finished 12-4 to win the NFC South.
The word: “Earl got the ball out and I just dove on it. I saw the whole thing because I was chasing the play.” – the 6-foot-7, 305-pound McDaniel

See, it’s not as easy as you might think. Or is it?