By TODD FREDRICKSON
SEATTLE – Making the game-winning field goal for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday didn’t immediately change Rian Lindell’s perspective.
“I’m buying you dinner tonight,” Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs shouted across the locker room as reporters crowded around Lindell.
“Thanks, Shawn,” Lindell shot back. “I’ll take a paycheck instead.”
A weekly paycheck isn’t something most rookie placekickers can take for granted in the NFL, but Lindell can probably breathe easy for at least a few weeks after kicking a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Seahawks a 17-15 victory over San Diego.
The kick under blustery conditions saved the Seahawks (3-7) from what would have been a truly ugly and disheartening loss.
San Diego, still winless at 0-9, outgained the Seahawks 398-128 in total yards, had 22 first downs to Seattle’s nine and controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
But Lindell’s kick, which cleared the crossbar by perhaps five feet, rendered all that meaningless as the Seahawks celebrated the end of a five-game losing streak.
“When it comes down to a kick at the end certainly there’s a lot of guys’ butts in the fire that Rian bailed out,” said Seahawks guard Pete Kendall.
Including, perhaps, Lindell’s own.
After all, Lindell is only with the Seahawks because another rookie kicker, Kris Heppner, got cut after four games.
Lindell, a free agent out of Washington State, was available after being cut by Dallas at the end of training camp. He is now 7-for-9 in field goal attempts with Seattle and undoubtedly solidified his hold on the job with Sunday’s heroics.
“It doesn’t have to be a game-winner, I don’t think, but you have to put together a couple of field goals and just be consistent, just hit the ones you’re supposed to hit,” Lindell said. “As far as needing a game-winner before I belonged, I don’t think I had to do that.”
“But it’s nice,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong.”
Lindell wasn’t willing to describe the game-winner as a kick he was supposed to make. It was cold and wet, and a bit of a swirling breeze had knocked down kickoffs and placekicks all day heading to the east, open end of Husky Stadium.
“There’s a lot more pressure with a 36-yard kick where if you miss it you’re a goat,” he said. “With a 48, you just let it rip and if you miss it people say, ‘Well, it was a tough kick.’ “
So tough Sunday that on the second play of the fourth quarter Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren decided against a 49-yard field goal attempt heading the same direction, even though Lindell has already made field goals of 51 and 50 yards as a Seahawk.
“It was right on the cusp, right on the borderline of where we said we would take the kick,” Seahawks special teams coach Pete Rodriguez said. “With the wind blowing in our face we would like to be at least at the 30-yard line.”
The Seahawks were at the 32 and leading 14-12 when they decided not to try a field goal. They were right on the 30 and out of options when they set up for the game-winner.
When the kick left his foot, Lindell wasn’t sure it had enough on it.
“I saw it go up and I thought, ‘Oh, get there. Get there.’ I hit it pretty well, but everything going down to that end was just dying,” he said.
“(Holder Jeff) Feagles was jumping around, so he must have known something I didn’t. It finally went over, but when I first hit it I thought, ‘Well, I gave it a chance,’ but I didn’t know.”
What he does know now is that this second chance in the NFL will last at least a little longer.
“He certainly has status in the locker room now,” Kendall said. “I know that I’m very much in debt to him, and I suspect that I’m not the only one that feels that way.”
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