Big kick in the pants

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, November 5, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Last-second FG lifts Seahawks to 17-15 victory

By SCOTT M. JOHNSON

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — The celebration was overdue, and might have gone a little overboard. What led up to it was nothing short of miraculous.

In snapping their five-game winning streak at Husky Stadium on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the Seattle Seahawks had to rely on some rather unconventional methods, a baffling statistics sheet, and a pair of unlikely heroes.

Jon Kitna’s improbable pass completion on third-and-16 and Rian Lindell’s 48-yard field goal as time expired handed the Seahawks a 17-15 win over the San Diego Chargers, the first victory for Seattle (3-7) since Sept. 24.

"Obviously we’re very happy with the win," coach Mike Holmgren said afterward. "It’s a long time coming. There were parts of the game today where I thought the guys played very well, and parts I was very disappointed in. But the over-riding fact is, we won."

Seattle had to overcome some eye-popping statistical deficits — 398-128 in total yardage, a 22-9 in first downs and 39:51-20:09 in time of possession — as well as the fact that the Seahawks squandered a 14-point first-half lead.

In the end, Seattle put together an unlikely scoring drive to end the game, going 36 yards in 16 plays before Lindell nailed the game-winner as time expired.

The highlight of Seattle’s final drive came when Kitna escaped the grasp of San Diego defensive lineman Neil Smith and heaved an 18-yard throw to rookie Darrell Jackson on third-and-16 with 1:10 remaining in the game. The play started at the Chargers’ 37-yard line, but by the time Kitna released the ball, he was near midfield and throwing across his body.

"He made a great throw across the field, a nice tight spiral, and hit me right at the first-down marker," Jackson said.

According to Kitna, the play was designed to go to Derrick Mayes, Christian Fauria or Ricky Watters. But when Smith beat right tackle Chris McIntosh and got his hands on Kitna in the backfield, the quarterback had to freelance. Jackson came back for the ball and made what might be the most important catch of his young career to date.

"We were overdue for something like that," Holmgren said.

An encroachment penalty on San Diego’s defense gave Seattle the ball at the Chargers’ 14 with 1:10 remaining, and it appeared the Seahawks were on their way to victory. Then running back Ricky Watters broke free for a 14-yard touchdown run for what appeared to be the end to a 371/2-minute scoreless stretch. That play was called back due to a holding penalty on tight end Christian Fauria, and things continued to get worse.

Three runs-for-loss by Watters meant Lindell had to kick a 48-yarder, after the Seahawks had lost a total of 16 yards from their original line of scrimmage.

Lindell, a rookie from Washington State who is now 5 of 6 from beyond 40 yards, delivered in the clutch.

"It’s always nice to see a kick go in, but it just didn’t hit me," said an underwhelmed Lindell, who was mobbed by teammates afterward. "I’ll probably be bouncing off the ceiling tonight, but all the time I was just happy to see it go in."

The game-winning drive, which ended a string of 15 consecutive points by San Diego, was atypical of the rest of the game. Without the two holding penalties and Watters’ last three runs, the Seahawks gained 55 yards — almost half of their season-low total of 128. And Kitna, who was 6 of 13 passing during the first 55 minutes, completed 5 of 6 on the final drive.

Perhaps most telling of all, Seattle’s only four first downs of the second half came on the final drive.

"I think that last drive typifies what this locker room is made up of," guard Pete Kendall said. "It’s character guys and we played right down the end.

"It would have been very easy for us to say, ‘Here were go again, we let another one go.’ But Kitna keeps battling, makes a play, Darrell makes a catch and Rian makes the kick. And we come out with one of the ugliest wins that anybody’s ever been around."

Ugly it was. The Seahawks converted two Jim Harbaugh fumbles into first-half touchdowns, but couldn’t get anything else going offensively. While San Diego (0-9) crawled out of its deficit behind long, time-consuming drives, Seattle saw six of its 10 drives end without so much as a first down.

"We were lousy today on offense," Holmgren said afterward. "We were not playing with much confidence.

"Right now we’re playing with very little confidence, and it shows in the execution. Now, let’s give credit where credit is due. (The Seahawks) made a couple nice plays on that last drive."

The way this season has been going, 55 minutes of subpar play can be overlooked by a victory — even if it comes at the expense of the NFL’s worst team.

"If you don’t know how hard it is to win a game in this league," Holmgren said, "you’ve never been a part of this business."

For the first time in a long time, Holmgren and the Seahawks can finally appreciate that feeling.

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