Everyone watching Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh line up for what would have been the game-winning chip-shot field goal thought the Seattle Seahawks were about to be frozen out of the playoffs—everyone, that is, except the Seahawks.
"I didn't think he was going to make it," Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor told NBC Sports after the game. "I didn't think he was going to make it."
Chancellor extolled the virtues of his team, its chemistry, its togetherness. Somehow, it seems the collective mojo was enough to pull the ball off course and save the Seahawks' season.
Fellow Legion of Boom member Richard Sherman told reporters after the game that the "right hand of God" swept the ball wide of the upright, per the New York Post's Bart Hubbuch:
Or maybe it was just luck.
It wouldn't be the first time Wilson's Seahawks were the beneficiaries of a last-second break in their favor. It wouldn't be the first time they advanced in the playoffs despite being soundly outplayed for most of the game.
It wouldn't even be the first time they caught a lucky break this season. But whatever supernatural forces assisted the Seahawks on that game-deciding kick paled in comparison to the magic that quarterback Russell Wilson pulled out of his hat.
What Wilson had accomplished going into the game was historic. His numbers in the final seven regular-season games were the best any quarterback has ever posted, per Pro Football Reference. Coming back to Minnesota, where the Seahawks laid a 38-7 beatdown on the Vikings just a month prior, there was every reason to believe it would just be more of the same.
But a healthier Vikings defense made every down a struggle for Wilson and the Seahawks. Minnesota sacked Wilson twice and hassled him constantly, forcing him into desperate scrambles and last-second throwaways. Downfield coverage was outstanding, with embattled rookie corner Trae Waynes blanketing hot rookie receiver Tyler Lockett.
With a banged-up offensive line giving Everson Griffen and Co. little resistance and a running game still lacking Marshawn Lynch, it was up to Wilson and his receivers to create offense. Seattle's wideouts often failed to live up to their end of that bargain, however.
With the bitter, subzero temperatures making it even more difficult for the Seahawks receivers to catch than it was for the barehanded Wilson to throw, he went 13-of-26 for an average of just 5.5 yards per attempt. The Seahawks were 5-of-14 on third downs and 0-of-3 on fourth downs, including an unfortunate interception when one of Wilson's pressure-forced throws bounced off tight end Chase Coffman's hand into the waiting mitts of Waynes.
In fact, the Seahawks didn't score a single point through the first three quarters of the game. But the Seahawks defense, which had held the Vikings to three field goals in that time, kept the game close enough for Wilson to work his fourth-quarter magic.
It wasn't long into the fourth quarter when it finally happened. A too-early shotgun snap forced Wilson to improvise, Lockett found open space in the middle of the field, and abracadabra:
Only Russell Wilson could take a botched snap and sure-fire 20-yard loss.. And turn it into a 35-yard pass. WOW. https://t.co/Xqlty0CGqp2016-1-10 20:29:33
Two plays later, Doug Baldwin caught his 12th touchdown since Week 12, and the Seahawks were finally getting warmed up. On the second play of Minnesota's ensuing drive, Chancellor relieved Vikings All-Pro tailback Adrian Peterson of the ball, completely changing the tenor of the game.
The Vikings had been in control of the proceedings since the jump, but scoring only nine points in three quarters of superior play suddenly seemed enormous. Sure enough, the Seahawks capitalized on the gift of Peterson's cough-up to take a 10-9 lead.
With the next score all but certain to seal the game, neither team could muster any offense. Both defenses (and the cold) forced four consecutive punts. Until Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater set out on a 52-yard drive to set up that fateful kick, it seemed as though Wilson and the Seahawks had earned their trip to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
Now whether they earned it or not, the Seahawks are going.
As one of the hottest teams in the NFL—and on this half of the bracket, the wearer of the Team-Nobody-Wants-to-Play tiara—it's no surprise Wilson and the Seahawks still have the chance to defend their NFC title. They certainly aren't surprised; they seem to believe fate is on their side.
It seems like fate agrees.