SEATTLE — Because they won, they could laugh about it, but at halftime Sunday it seemed entirely possible that the Seattle Seahawks might lose an NFL game because their kicker got hurt trying to make a tackle.
They came back to beat Tennessee 20-13 at CenturyLink Field, so the Life and Times of Steven Hauschka and Chris Maragos will be remembered as a comedy, not a tragedy.
Not only that, Hauschka picked up some street cred with teammates who hit and get hit on every play.
“Hauschka’s a (expletive) beast!” came the shout from across the locker room as Hauschka was mobbed by the media after the game.
Hauschka, Seattle’s placekicker, was shaken up in the second quarter after “tackling” Tennessee return man Darius Reynaud by getting in his way and getting knocked halfway to Chehalis. Reynaud stumbled over Hauschka’s crumpled body and was brought down a few steps later after a return of 40 yards.
“I saw Hauschka fall back and I was like, ‘He might be dead right now,’” Maragos said. “I’m going to have to give him a hard time now, because he might have to get in the cold tub today for the first time ever. He might feel what the rest of us go through every week.”
Hauschka went to the locker room to be inspected for a concussion and missing parts, and moments later it was Maragos’ turn to be in the spotlight.
With Hauschka in the locker room, punter Jon Ryan became the placekicker. But Ryan is the holder for placekicks, and Maragos, a safety by trade and a holder in college, is the backup holder.
On the last play of the first half, with Seattle leading 7-3, the Seahawks lined up for a 22-yard field goal attempt. The snap from long snapper Clint Gresham was perfect, but Maragos dropped it as he put it on the ground.
Maragos picked up the ball and tried to flip a pass to a teammate. He was hit in the process, the ball squirted out, and Tennessee’s Jason McCourty scooped it up and ran 77 yards for a touchdown.
Instead of Seattle leading 10-3 or at least 7-3, the Titans led 10-7 going into halftime.
“It was just kind of a fluke thing,” Maragos said. “I caught it and when I was bringing it down, it just squirted out of my hand. It wasn’t like I caught it weird or bobbled the snap. It just slipped right out when I was putting it down.”
Had that been the end of it, that would have been tolerable. But the attempted pass took things from bad to so much worse.
“I should have done a better job of just controlling the situation,” Maragos said. “When the snap got mishandled I should have just gone down with it. Our defense was playing well right before the first half, really all game. So I should have just knelt it.
“But things move fast and you’re just trying to make something happen with it.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said that he made the wrong call in trying to kick a field goal in that situation. The ball was on the 4-yard line, and he said the team would be better off trying to score a touchdown with the offense instead of trying to kick a field goal with a backup holder and kicker.
“We should have just gone for it and not worried about those guys,” Carroll said. “We thought those guys would handle it well. They had plenty of time. They practice enough, we thought, but it didn’t look like it. I would take that back in a heartbeat.”
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson also was a holder in college. In fact, he held for Hauschka at North Carolina State, and Carroll said Wilson might be promoted to backup holder.
“That’s under question right now, don’t you think?” Carroll said. “I think the next time out, Russell’s going to handle that.”
Ryan, a placekicker in high school and college, wasn’t at all concerned about his ability to make a 22-yard field goal, and he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to strike the ball and help his team.
“That would have been my first career field goal,” Ryan said. “I’ve been playing all these years and never scored a point, so I would have given that ball to Mom, I guess.”
Ryan said he practices placekicking about one day a month, and his last placekick in a game was in a Canadian Football League preseason game in 2004.
He came out of the locker room very early at halftime and, working around an extensive cheerleader routine, made several practice kicks, including one from 45 yards.
Ryan said that although he would welcome another opportunity to make a kick in a game, he was relieved to see Hauschka come back for the second half after clearing his concussion test.
“It’s fun to kind of have an opportunity to do something like that, but Steve is really good at his job,” Ryan said. “He’s a great asset to this team, so for him to come back in the second half was big-time for us.”
Hauschka made two field goals in the second half and has made 14 of 15 attempts this season.
He said he’ll have to rethink his tackling technique should a similar situation arise in the future — but not his commitment to make a tackle if needed.
“You never know when it’s going to be a game-breaking play,” Hauschka said. “Who knows? He could have broken through, so I was just trying to help out our coverage team.”
Hauschka has good size for a kicker at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds — he is heavier than Seattle defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas — but he said he’d never been hit on a football field like Reynaud hit him.
“I’m a bigger guy, and that’s the first time that I’ve been popped like that. Usually I come out OK. That’s the first time that I’ve taken it pretty bad,” Hauschka said. “I felt out of it for a couple minutes, but we did the concussion protocol and I aced that, so they let me get back out there.”
He knows he’ll probably hear about it from his teammates for some time to come.
“I’ll close my eyes (when we watch the film),” Hauschka said. “I’m sure it’s not going to look good.”
The teasing started already in the minutes after Sunday’s game.
“I admire tough players in this league,” Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate said. “But I told him, ‘Look, man, there’s only one of you around here. So be careful.
“And get your tail in the weight room.’”