The Seattle Seahawks' 10-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was the most watched early Sunday Wild Card Game on record.
NBC Sports reported the TV ratings Monday and indicated the game averaged 35.3 million viewers, with a peak of almost 44 million for a finish that featured Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missing a short-range field goal.
One of the most exciting, unusual plays that had to have brought about the spike in ratings came from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
After a fourth-quarter shotgun snap got away from him, Wilson pounced on the ball, rose from the turf and found Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard completion to set up the only touchdown of the game.
Subzero temperatures and two athletic, fast defenses made for a low-scoring affair. But after a critical Adrian Peterson fumble set up what amounted to Seattle's winning field goal, Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater staged an admirable rally, putting Walsh in position to win on a 27-yard field-goal attempt.
Unfortunately for home fans braving the cold at TCF Bank Stadium, Walsh hooked the laces-in kick wide left without even a hope it would go through the uprights.
"It's my fault," he said afterward, per ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert. "I don't care whether you give me a watermelon hold [a poor, loose hold], I should be able to put that one through. [Holder] Jeff [Locke] did his job. [Long-snapper Kevin McDermott] did his job. I'm the only one who didn't do his job. That's on me."
Walsh did bang through three field goals to keep Minnesota's hopes of winning alive. Although the postseason ended on a sour note, the Vikings are a young team and did well to hang tough with an opponent that has played in each of the past two Super Bowls.
Between Wilson's heroics, the Peterson turnover and the improbable, shocking conclusion, it's hard to say whether Sunday's ratings will be matched in the near future.
Wilson and Peterson are two of the most notable players in the NFL, and seeing a kick missed from closer range than the moved-back extra point should prove to be a rare conclusion in the coming years.
The Seahawks persevered and survived their tough road test and will move on to an even higher-stakes battle with the NFC's No. 1-seeded Carolina Panthers.
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