By John Boyle, David Krueger, Rich Myhre and Todd Fredrickson Herald Writers
SEATTLE — Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham had to be separated during a shouting match in pregame warmups before the game.
Irvin said Graham started it by catching passes on Seattle’s side of the field while players from both teams were warming up informally.
But Irvin admitted that he might have inflamed the situation by knocking a ball out of Graham’s hands and kicking it.
“I asked him to leave. I asked him politely. I said we’re trying to warm up. He’s like, ‘I’m Jimmy.’ I go, ‘Who is Jimmy?’” Irvin said. “That’s when I hit the ball out of his hands and kicked it off the field. That’s when we really got into it, a lot of cuss words and all that. But that’s football, man. It is what it is.”
Graham was a little more cryptic when asked about it after the game.
“He tried to disrespect me, and I’m not going to let anyone disrespect me,” Graham said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
For a few seconds, it looked as if Drew Brees had thrown his first interception of the afternoon. Trying to drive a long pass into the wind to wide receiver Robert Meachem, Brees came up short, and Seattle free safety Earl Thomas was in position to make the interception. The only problem was cornerback Byron Maxwell was there and ready to make a play too. Thomas jumped for the ball, but the collision with Maxwell was just hard enough to keep either from catching it. Instead the ball bounced right to Meachem, who caught it and took off running for a 52-yard gain before he was tackled by strong safety Kam Chancellor.
It was a rare bad moment in an otherwise brilliant game for Thomas, who had 11 tackles and two pass breakups, including one on a key third-down on a pass intended for Graham.
“I was like, God D …” Thomas said before catching himself. “I was close to a complete game, because I felt it, I was in the zone. I was waiting for that post (route) the whole game. In the regular season you don’t really see that ball, I knew in the playoffs they don’t have anything to lose, we don’t have anything to lose, and I knew I was going to get a post ball, and that was my money ball right there. I wish I could have brought it in, but you know, that’ll just keep me hungry for next week.”
In the end, the Seahawks got away with that miscue, because Shayne Graham missed a 48-yard field goal.
While Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Percy Harvin’s concussion was the only injury of significance for the Seahawks, the receiver wasn’t the only player in pain Saturday. After a collision with Chancellor in the end zone, Thomas went down in a heap. Chancellor, it turned out, had hit Thomas in, um, a very bad place for a man to get hit.
“He can’t be messing with my jewels like that,” Thomas said.
Tate fumbles onside kick
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate was really worried after a bobbled onside kick gave the ball back to the New Orleans Saints late in the game.
Fortunately for Tate and Seattle, there were no drastic repercussions.
“That could have been bad. That could have been real bad,” Tate said. “I have to practice my baseball skills again and start practicing some ground balls.”
“He kicked it soft,” Tate said. “Usually I would let that go to the back guy … it bounced and it should have been a very easy, basic catch but it got away from me. Thankfully, there wasn’t any consequences.”
Hawks at home in playoffs
Saturday was the sixth straight home playoff win for the Seahawks, who are 6-1 in the postseason at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle’s only home loss since 2002 came on Jan. 8, 2005 when the Seahawks lost a 27-20 contest to the St. Louis Rams.
The players say a big part of their home-field advantage, considered one of the best in the league, is the fans that support them.
“Their energy was amazing,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. “The 12th Man’s energy was outstanding. They did a fantastic job staying involved the whole game, even in the rain. Sometimes the rain deters the fans. They were not deterred at all. They kept their heads in it, they kept going and we appreciate that.”
Bring on the Panthers
Most of the Seahawks said they had no preference about an opponent in next week’s NFC championship game. The exception was wide receiver Golden Tate, who initially said “it doesn’t matter,” but then cast his vote for the Carolina Panthers. “Statistically, you don’t want to play a team three times, and especially a divisional opponent,” Tate said, referring to the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. “(The 49ers) know what it’s like to be here. Carolina, they don’t know what it’s like to be at CenturyLink, so that’s a whole other game plan that they have to worry about. “So if I had to choose, it’d be Carolina,” he said. “But we will welcome whoever with open arms.”
No pain for Willson
Tight end Luke Willson was carted off the field in Seattle’s regular-season finale against St. Louis two weeks ago, having suffered a high ankle sprain. It is an injury that can sometimes take weeks to heal.
Instead, Willson was back on the field against New Orleans, and afterward he said his ankle felt “great.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if it was the adrenalin of the game or what, but I didn’t feel it one time today,” he said. “I expected it to be a little sore and maybe even roll it lightly a few times, but until someone asked me about it after the game I hadn’t even thought about it.”