SEATTLE – There’s no telling how differently this thing might have gone if Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka had been a little more confident.
But Hauschka told special teams coordinator Brian Schneider he didn’t feel good about attempting a 53-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter.
“I said I don’t want to kick it,” Hauschka said.
So, instead of that – or instead of punting – Seattle sent the offense back out onto the field to face fourth-and-7 from the San Francisco 35-yard line, trailing 17-13 Sunday in the NFC championship game at CenturyLink Field.
49ers linebacker Aldon Smith jumped offside, Seattle’s wide receivers broke their assigned routes and ran streaks, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson found Jermaine Kearse in the end zone for the touchdown pass that put Seatte ahead to stay in a 23-17 victory.
It proved to be the decisive offensive play in a game that wasn’t pretty as far as those things go.
Seattle had mounted what appeared to be a promising drive at the end of the third quarter until Wilson was called for intentional grounding on the final play of the period.
The Seahawks had third-and-22 at the 50-yard line to begin the fourth quarter, and Wilson hit tight end Zach Miller for 15 yards to create a list of options.
Initially, it appeared Seattle was going to try a long field, and the field goal unit ran out onto the field.
Everybody, that is, except Hauschka, who was still on the sideline while 10 teammates were all set up in field goal formation.
“I thought we were going to let the clock run out have a punt,” said Hauschka, who said he thought his range going that direction was 51 yards on Sunday.
Eventually, Hauschka joined the formation, but not before telling Schneider he thought it was a bad idea.
“We were thinking about kicking it,” said Hauska, who made field goals of 32, 40, and 47 yards, the latter going the same direction as the imagined 53-yarder. “I didn’t think it was the right call. It was into the wind from 53. I didn’t like it.”
So the Seahawks let the play clock wind down, called time out, and then sent the offense out.
Wilson also lobbied for something other than a field goal attempt.
“I was kind of begging them, ‘Hey let’s go for it if we’re going to kick a field goal,’” Wilson said.
Kearse, who lined up in the slot on the right side of the formation, said his assignment was to run a go route toward the right corner.
But when Smith jumped offside, he and all the other wideouts just took off straight down the field.
“That’s something we work on all the time,” Kearse said. “When we draw them offside it’s a free play so we’re going deep. We’re going to take a shot. I snuck behind the secondary and Russ threw a perfect pass to where I could shield the defender and make the play.”
Wilson set it all up by extending the snap count, which, he said, helped draw Smith offside.
“I went double count,” Wilson said. “They came offside. We gave Jermaine a shot and he came down with a great catch.”
The game wasn’t over by any means, of course, as the 49ers had three more possessions to try to reclaim the lead.
But the Seattle defense held the fort, allowing Kearse to savor the play of a lifetime, at least so far.
“I’m just glad I made the play, especially when we needed it. It was a good play,” he said. “We drew them off, we had our landmarks according to where we were in the formation, and Russ threw a great ball.”