Russell Wilson’s incredible 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse that proved to be the game-winning score in the Seattle Seahawks’ 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game never would have happened if it weren’t for kicker Steven Hauschka kind of being a wuss.
With the Seahawks facing a 4th-and-7 down 17-13 in the fourth quarter, it looked by all appearances that Seattle was going to send out Steven Hauschka for a 53-yard field goal attempt.
While it seemed to most watching that Hauschka took far too long trotting away from practicing kicking and that caused him to be late getting out on the field — a delay that forced the Seahawks to call a time out to avoid a delay of game penalty — Hauschka said afterward that it wasn’t his tardiness that prompted the time out.
Actually, Hauschka said that before heading out on to the field, he told Carroll he’d rather not take a shot at converting the field goal, which would have trimmed the 49ers’ lead to one point.
“I didn’t really want to kick it, to tell you the truth,” Hauschka told Newsday after the game. “It was into the wind . . . I didn’t think it was the right decision and I let coach Carroll know that.”
Hauschka also told Newsday that it was the first time he can recall passing up a field goal try.
“You have to be honest with yourself,” he said. “It was the wind at that moment. Sometimes you can make that, but I felt the wind at that moment was into the face enough to not want to try that kick. I grabbed him on the sideline as I ran out because I could see the flags [on top of the uprights] and I told him: ‘We shouldn’t kick this.’ “
Pete Carroll, the loosey-goosey, riverboat gambler that he is, listened to his kicker’s pleas and instead sent his offense back out on the field to try to convert the fourth-and-long.
Of course, the fact that the 49ers jumped offside on the play prompted the Seahawks wide receivers to switch their patterns to go routes, a change that led to Wilson finding Kearse in the end zone.
Carroll is quoted in MMQB explaining his thought process that led to a decision to go for it on fourth down.
“We really sent the field goal team out there to do it, and as we talked it over, it was beyond what Hauschka had down in pregame and we said, ‘Okay, let’s not force that issue in hopes of him kicking a good ball right there,’ ” Carroll said.
Wilson explained his role in the game-changing play:
“I thought it was a great call; just give us a chance,” Wilson said. “It’s potentially the last game of the year. It’s one of those things that sometimes you’ve got to go for something. You’ve got to believe in your guys and believe that you can get it.”
In the huddle, Wilson called “Patch Zebra Detroit,” but alerted the receivers to a possible free play because of the double snap count Wilson was going to use.
“We practice that stuff all the time,” Wilson said. “It’s something that you have to use, especially playing against a very, very good defense and a great defensive line. Just to make sure that the defense has slowed down a little bit so those ends aren’t getting a good jump on the center. I think that’s a huge thing.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The Seahawks punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII and the 49ers were left to wonder what would have happened had Hauschka had the guts to attempt a 53-yard field goal.