SEATTLE — No one likes to play football in a driving rain with steady and sometimes gusting wind.
But among all football players, no one hates it more than punters and place-kickers.
On Saturday, the weather at CenturyLink Field for the divisional playoff game between Seattle and New Orleans “was the worst I’ve seen here,” said Seahawks place-kicker Steven Hauschka. “I don’t think it could get much worse than that unless it was snowing or something.”
One reason the Seahawks pulled out a 23-15 victory over the Saints was because their kickers handled the foul weather better than their counterparts from New Orleans.
Hauschka had field goals of 38 and 49 yards with the wind, and a 26-yarder against the wind. New Orleans place-kicker Shayne Graham missed field-goal attempts of 45 and 48 yards into the wind, both times wide left.
Both punters had sub-par outings, mostly because punting into the wind was an obvious challenge. But Saints punter Thomas Morstead had the most woeful punt of the day in the first quarter, booting the ball just 16 yards into the wind after mishandling the center snap. Seattle got the ball at the New Orleans 40-yard line and Hauschka’s kicked the first of his three field goals minutes later.
Seahawks punter Jon Ryan also mishandled a snap in the third quarter and it resulted in his shortest kick of the day, 26 yards.
“The ball was completely saturated (with water),” Ryan explained. “It went right through my hands.
“That was probably the worst weather we’ve had in the six years I’ve been here,” he added. “It was tough. The wind was one was thing — I don’t know what it was, probably 20-25 mph — but the tough thing was the gusts.
“A couple of times right before the snap it started gusting pretty bad and that’s when it was really difficult. And then you add the rain to that and it was really tough.”
According to Hauschka, place-kickers have an advantage in windy weather because they kick a stationary ball. Punters have to drop the ball, and sometimes a burst of wind can move the ball in the air right before impact, he said.
Even kicking with the wind at his back was a bit of a challenge, Hauschka said. His first attempt was from 38 yards “and I started it kind of right center. But it got blown pretty far left. It went through, but if that had been from 10 yards farther back I think it would’ve gone (wide) left.”
On a 49-yard try later in the first quarter, “that one didn’t get affected by the wind much,” he said. “But I’m fortunate to have kicked here for a few years and I know how the wind (can be).”
Other Seahawks, meanwhile, said the weather was challenging, but also manageable.
“Before the game, we talked about how no matter what the weather was, we couldn’t let it affect us,” said Seattle tight end Luke Willson. “And for the most part I thought we did a pretty good job. But it was weird how much it changed (during the game). We had light rain, heavy rain, no rain and rain with wind. We pretty much saw all of it.”
“We live in Seattle,” said fullback Michael Robinson with a grin. “Rain is like normal weather for us.”