Marcus Lucas wasn't on the field when the Seahawks came up with one final stop to secure a thrilling 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots. In fact, the tight end wasn't even in uniform for Sunday night's game because he is a member of Seattle's practice squad, not the active roster.
But make no mistake about it, Lucas played a big part in Seattle's win, and in particular the final fourth-down stop on which safety Kam Chancellor provided coverage on an incomplete pass to All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. Throughout the week leading up to the game, Lucas wore a No. 87 in practice, playing the role of Gronkowski on the scout-team offense. And as Chancellor and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted after Sunday's game, the practice week ended Friday with the "same exact play" as the one the Patriots ran on fourth down.
Lucas' role in practice last week became publicized because of how the game ended, but it was just one of countless examples of how the relatively anonymous members of the practice squad play a big role in the Seahawks' success.
"It's a wonderful statement how directly a young guy on a practice squad can determine the outcome of a game," Carroll said. "We travel all of our practice squad guys, bring them with us all the time—I don't know if other teams do that or not—they're such a big part of it, and I want them to know they're a big part of it."
It's not uncommon to hear about practice squad players when it comes to the Seahawks, but that's usually because the team has had so much success developing players on the practice squad who eventually go on to contribute on game day. Starting receiver Jermaine Kearse got his start on the practice squad, as did starting cornerback DeShawn Shead, and safety Steven Terrell, who is a big contributor on special teams, also started his Seahawks career on the practice squad. But while those are the practice-squad success stories the public hears about, what often goes unnoticed is the work the current members of the practice squad do every week to help the Seahawks prepare for their next opponent.
"They're very important, they're very vital to this team," safety Earl Thomas said. "They give us the best chance possible to have success based on the looks that they give us. I think they take pride in lining up correctly, giving us the correct look so we can have success."
Thomas is a former first-round pick, one of only two on Seattle's roster, and a first-team All-Pro, so he's never even had to consider life on the practice squad, yet despite any gap in fame or income, he doesn't think of players on the 53-man roster as being any different than those on the 10-man practice squad.
"It's definitely all one team," Thomas said. "Some of those guys, they keep the life around here. When I come in, I see (practice squad linebacker Kache) Palacio, he's in good spirits and that puts me in good spirits. It's one team. It's not split into practice squad and team."
Lucas, who has also spent time on practice squads in Carolina, Miami and Chicago, has noticed that with the Seahawks, he feels like a part of a team, not part of a practice squad.
"If you just look at the team, look at the guys on the team who were on practice squads here or other places, it's definitely assuring that they value the guys on the practice squad, and treat everyone like everyone is on the team," Lucas said. "We do the meetings, we do the game-planning, we do all the practicing, so when that time comes where it's like, 'Hey, we need you to come up,' you're not doing anything different. It's already in place, you don't have to worry about the travel; everything is already taken care of. It definitely says something the way they treat it here. It's comforting to know they want to pull from their pool of guys here."
Like every practice squad player, Lucas hopes to someday earn a promotion to the 53-man roster and contribute on the field on game day, but as Seattle's final stop in New England showed, he and everyone else on the practice squad are already helping the Seahawks win games.
"We're counting on them," Carroll said. "Their execution and their effort they give during the week and their attention to details really makes a difference. That's a great illustration right there."
See some of the action from Sunday Night Football, Seahawks at Patriots during Week 10 at Gillette Stadium.