This Chris Matthews really plays hardball

After spending most of the season being signed to, released from and re-signed to the Seahawks’ practice squad, CFL refugee Chris Matthews came up with a play in Sunday’s NFC title game that helped save the Seahawks’ season.

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As Steven Hauschka's onside kick was hovering above the 50-yard line, so was the Seahawks' season.

They had just scored with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to play, cutting the Green Bay Packers' lead in Sunday's NFC Championship game to 19-14. So the onside kick was inevitable. It's what followed that was inexplicable.

Brandon Bostick, the Packers' 6-foot-3 tight end who was supposed to be blocking, went up to get the ball. But he couldn't control it. And that provided the opening that the Seahawks needed, and Chris Matthews exploited.

Matthews coming down with the ball allowed the Seahawks to score again, and also tack on a two-point conversion that was needed because the Packers would kick a game-tying field goal with 14 seconds to play.

The Seahawks eventually won 28-22 in overtime. But where would the Seahawks have been without Matthews coming out of nowhere to recover the kick? Not on their way to Super Bowl XLIX, where they'll play the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Feb. 1.

"For Chris to make a humongous play like that, that might be the play of the game right there," said wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson in overtime. "For him to get that onside (kick) and have a heads-up play like that was truly incredible."

Matthews' claim to fame before Sunday's game is that he shares a name with the MSNBC talk-show personality who hosts "Hardball." He had spent the past two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, and most of this season on and off the Seahawks' practice squad. But when rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis was placed on injured reserve, Matthews was signed to the 53-man roster on Dec. 6.

And on Sunday, Matthews used every inch of his 6-5 frame and long arms to reach up and rescue the Seahawks' season.

"It definitely feels good," Matthews said. "I've always wanted to make a play and actually contribute to the team winning. I finally got that opportunity and I made the most of it."

And in a game that featured 10 Pro Bowl selections and nine players who were named first- and second-team All-Pro this season, look who made the plays down the stretch for the Seahawks.

There was rookie free agent tackle Garry Gilliam catching a touchdown pass from holder Jon Ryan on a fake field goal for the Seahawks' first touchdown. There was Matthews' good-hands recovery of the onside kick. There was Doug Baldwin, who made the team as a rookie free agent in 2011, catching a 35-yard pass from Wilson in overtime to setup Wilson's game-winning TD pass to Kearse, who made the team as a rookie free agent in 2012. And then there was Alvin Bailey, who made the team as a rookie free agent last year, stepping in to start at right tackle for an injured Justin Britt.

"It's because this team understands talent," Matthews said. "And they know we're going to be hungry and we're going to come in here and work. Not to take anything away from players who were drafted, but it's more of an edge with us because drafted guys basically have a guaranteed spot. With us, we're fighting to get a spot and to keep a spot.

"I think that's the biggest thing this team understands."

The person who was the least surprised by it was coach Pete Carroll.

"That's kind of how it's just been," Carroll said. "We're kind of numb to that right now, but it's the facts."

And that facts-finding mission always leads back to general manager John Schneider and his staff, who discover these players who are capable of making such big plays in such a big game.

"That's why, when we're talking about the work that John and those guys have done, it's illustrated so many times in so many great examples of finding guys and getting them into the system and then them playing football for us," Carroll said.

Sunday, their winning efforts came in the biggest win of the season to this point.  

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