MINNEAPOLIS - As Vikings kicker Blair Walsh lined up a 27-yard field goal that would have given his team a two-point lead with just over 20 seconds to play, Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka had his sights set the opposite direction.
"I wasn't watching it," Hauschka said from his locker postgame at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. "I was actually in the kicking net trying to get ready for mine. I thought I was going to have a shot to win it at the other end."
As it turned out, Hauschka's shot never came. Walsh's kick sailed wide left and the Seahawks took possession. Quarterback Russell Wilson took a knee on the very next play to run out the clock for a 10-9 victory that sent Seattle into next weekend's divisional round against the Carolina Panthers.
"Every kicker, if they play long enough, has something like that, and it sucks," Hauschka said of Walsh, who hit from 22, 43, and 47 yards out before his miss. "I can't imagine what it's like for the season to end like that, so I mean some of it was out of his control and I'll have to watch the play to see what actually happened, but I mean he was one of their best players out there today and it's tough, tough. I feel for him a lot.
"I'm excited we won as a team, but it's kind of a sick feeling too that you have when you see something like that happen."
Walsh's field goal miss capped what was an irregular day of kicking, punting, throwing, catching, and carrying the football thanks large in part to the minus-6 degree temperature that was recorded just prior to game-time.
The climate represented the third-coldest playoff game in NFL history and one that Hauschka said made it feel like he was "kicking a flat ball all day," noting how in zero-degree weather the air pressure in a football can drop from the standard 12.5 pounds per square inch (PSI) to "8.5-9 PSI."
"They're not allowed to heat the footballs or anything," Hauschka said. "It's just NFL rules, so those footballs basically are flat. So when you're kicking a flat football it's on your foot for a long time. It doesn't go very far. That was the adjustment for me."
That meant that the cold weather decreased Hauschka's striking distance during Sunday's contest, as evidenced by Seattle's choice to pass up a 48-yard field goal in the first half. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the kick "wasn't in our range yet," a decision that came because of the team's pregame assessment and, as Hauschka added, the way the wind was blowing.
"We just decided our range that one way wasn't as far because it was into the wind a little bit," Hauschka said.
Hauschka finished with one field goal attempt Sunday, connecting on a 46-yard shot with roughly eight minutes to play in regulation. The kick gave Seattle its first lead of the day, 10–9, and with Walsh's miss, proved to be the game-winner.
"That's at the end of what we thought our range was anyway for the day," Carroll said of Hauschka's three-pointer. "He came through in great fashion."
The Seahawks kicker credited a week's worth of preparation that saw him stash kicking footballs inside the cafeteria freezer at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
"It did help, because the footballs felt like that," Hauschka said. "I'm glad we did that."
As of this writing, next week's temperature at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium calls for a high of 46 degrees and a low of 35, conditions Hauschka said he'll appreciate more than Sunday's record-low readings in Minnesota.
"Very thankful," he said.
The Seahawks hit the road and traveled to Minnesota for the second time this season for the NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup at TCF Bank Stadium and escape with a 10-9 victory to advance to next Sunday's NFC Divisional round.