Drip. Drip. Gush.
That’s how Shaun Alexander used to describe his glide-and-slide running style.
“I’m like a leaky faucet,” the Seahawks’ all-time leading rusher would say, punctuating the explanation with one of his trademark grins. “If you turn it on right away, it just floods the whole house. If you let it drip, drip, drip, it annoys you a little bit. Then all of a sudden it explodes, and the house gets flooded anyway.”
In a Sunday night matchup against the Minnesota Vikings in 2002, Alexander was full-gush with gusto as he scored three of the Seahawks’ four touchdowns in a 1-minute, 47-second blur at the end of the first half and finished the half with a league-record five in what would be a big-play-filled 48-23 victory at Seahawks Stadium.
Alexander’s gush-ful performance on Sept. 29, 2002, checks in at No. 7 in the Top 10 moments at Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field/CenturyLink Field as the club celebrates its first 10 seasons at the state-of-the-art facility which opened that same season.
“I called the players all together (at halftime), and they were waiting for these pearls of wisdom, and all I said was, ‘Hey, I’ve never been involved in anything like this before,’ ” then-coach Mike Holmgren said two days after the fact as everyone still was searching for the right words to describe just what had happened.
“I hadn’t, and it was startling.”
Alexander ran his way into NFL history with more than just a little big-play help from his teammates on specials teams and defense, as well as some big blocks from the boys up front – Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray and Floyd Womack – and the receivers.
Here’s a drip-by-drip account of that fateful less-than-two-minute drilling at the end of the half:
TD No. 1 – Alexander caught a screen pass from Trent Dilfer and took it 80 yards for a score with 2:53 left in the half.
TD No. 2 – After linebacker Tim Terry forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by safety Reggie Tongue, Alexander scored three plays later on a 3-yard run with 1:57 to play.
TD No. 3 – Another kickoff. Another Terry-forced fumble. This time, Alex Bannister recovered the ball and Alexander then scored on a 14-yard run – on the Seahawks’ first play – with 1:48 to play.
TD No. 4 – The Vikings actually retained possession on the next kickoff, but Tongue intercepted Daunte Culpepper’s second-down pass and returned it 46 yards for a score with 1:06 to play.
From a 17-10 bout to a 45-10 rout, in a couple of blinks.
“I have seen it happen where you get a turnover and the offense takes a few plays to get it in,” Dilfer said. “But this was three plays, touchdown. One play, touchdown. Then to get back-to-back turnovers was just ridiculous. But it happened.”
Alexander also had touchdown runs of 2 and 20 yards in the first quarter, as he rushed for 139 yards on 24 carries and added 92 on three receptions.
What got into Alexander? “I think it’s national television. I like playing in front of a lot of people,” said the player who set a franchise record with his 266-yard rushing performance against the Oakland Raiders on a Sunday night in 2001. “I usually get excited and everybody gets excited to play, and good things happen.”
Like on the screen pass, a play designed to produce 10, maybe 12, yards – if everything goes right. On this night, it went for 80 as Alexander serpentined his way through the Vikings’ defense after taking the pass from Dilfer behind the line of scrimmage.
“It was just one of those wonderful plays that you’ll put on a training reel as, ‘This play right here, this is how you do this,’ ” said Holmgren, who picked up his 100th NFL regular-season coaching victory that night.
It definitely was something to see. And replay. And relive. The Vikings helped the situation by blitzing two linebackers, vacating the area that Alexander would exploit. Hutchinson eliminated the fast-closing free safety, while wide receiver Koren Robinson blocked one Viking into another.
Alexander cut behind the pile of bodies that Robinson created and was on his way, getting downfield blocks from – in order – wide receiver Darrell Jackson, tight end Jerramy Stevens and wide receiver Bobby Engram.
“I think I would have gotten 10 yards,” Alexander said when asked about the play the next day. “But when two guys went down right away, it allowed me to get up the sideline and turn it over to my receivers blocking on DBs. That usually doesn’t work out good for the other team.”
But on that Sunday night in 2002, everything worked out very well for Alexander and the Seahawks.