Miracle at Qwest: Seahawks Pull Off Memorable Upset Over the Champs

Chad KlassenCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2011

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08:  Running back Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs for a 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Tracy Porter #22 of the New Orleans Saints during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks continue to make history.

They earned their spot in the playoffs as the first losing team to win a division, and playing in front of the 12th Man at Qwest Field the 11-point underdogs pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the NFL history—over the defending Super Bowl champions no less.

The Seahawks won a 41-36 Wild Card classic in a game they simply weren't supposed to have a chance. New Orleans, despite being banged up in the backfield and secondary, were heavily favoured and expected to rout Seattle on the road.

But behind the enthusiasm of their first-year head coach, Pete Carroll, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the team came through to capture a great moment in the sport's history—one that Seahawks' fans will never forget.    

And maybe the most impressive part of that winning performance was their resiliency amidst some adversity early in the game.

The Saints marched down the field quite easily most of the game—and the Seahawks got down 10 points twice, 10-0 and 17-7. But facing one of the best red zone teams in the league, Seattle's defense manned up and forced New Orleans to kick three field goals on seven trips inside the 20 all day. The unit made sure the game wasn't going to get away from them.

Offensively, Hasselbeck's veteran presence was crucial early as well. There was absolutely no panic when they got down by double-digits, largely due to No. 8 who engineered some impressive drives in the first half and third quarter.

A pair of touchdown tosses to John Carlson helped the Seahawks respond to the Saints' first two scores, and at that point, there was a feeling they would keep it within reach throughout the afternoon.

Well, as it turns out, they took their game to another level. A barrage of coverage breakdowns in the New Orleans secondary—with safety Malcolm Jenkins out due to a knee injury—resulted in big plays down the field, including Brandon Stokley's 45-yard TD catch to put Seattle ahead 24-20 at the half.   

Even then, there were some doubts. After all, they still had to stop Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees for another 30 minutes.

But for the second week in a row, the NFC West champions proved everyone wrong with a stout third quarter.

Mike Williams got behind coverage for a 38-yard score, and the defense held their ground, to take a 34-20 lead into the final frame, which is where it got nerve-racking for Seattle fans—and anyone cheering for the underdog story.

But while Brees picked apart the Seahawks secondary for much of the day, especially in the fourth, Seattle clung on to the victory with one of the best runs you may ever see in a playoff game.

Marshawn Lynch, who was picked up in a trade from Buffalo in early October, made the play of the game.

With the offense sputtering with three straight punts, Lynch turned what looked like a crucial first down into an epic 67-yard touchdown burst, breaking eight tackle on his way to the end zone to essentially wrap up the shocker.

The Seahawks fittingly shocked the Saints before the kick-off of the Jets and Colts, who were part of the greatest upset of all-time. That's when the best from the American Football League, the Jets, beat the NFL-best Baltimore Colts 16-7 to win Super Bowl III.

The Patriots won their first Super Bowl in 2001, a 20-17 triumph over the St. Louis Rams who were favored by two touchdowns. New England were then on the wrong end of a Super Bowl upset when the Giants spoiled their perfect season three years ago.

But now there's Seattle, who are in the conversation as a losing team that somehow knocked off the defending champs, even with all of New Orleans' injuries. It's their turn to enjoy some well-deserved time in the NFL spotlight, while they wait for the result of Sunday's marquee matchup between the Packers and Eagles in Philadelphia.

Either way, the Seahawks will be packing their bags for a cross-country flight, but who they'll play is still in question.

Atlanta will be their destiny if Michael Vick wins his first playoff game since 2004. They'll travel to Chicago to face the second-ranked Bears if Aaron Rodgers can earn his first-ever playoff victory as the Packers' starter.

But wherever their destination, it's been an incredible run for Seattle over the last couple weeks, culminating in their upset of the Saints.