The victory: playoff-bound Raiders jilted
By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
SEATTLE — On an ironic day in a season filled with ironies, Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren muttered the most baffling of them all.
Upon walking off a rain-soaked field following one of the craziest games in recent history, Holmgren stood in front of the media and summed up his day with a shrug.
"Another day at the office," he quipped.
Another day at the office, that is, if you work amid torrential rains and swirling winds that were as predictable as a paper airplane’s flight. Or if your typical workday involves emotional roller coaster rides and instant replay challenges.
This game was filled with so much unpredictability that it made the presidential race seem tame by comparison. Perhaps the most unlikely thing of all was the result, as the lowly Seahawks knocked off the playoff-bound Oakland Raiders 27-24 in a rare Saturday afternoon NFL game at Husky Stadium.
Darrell Jackson’s touchdown reception in the final minute, coupled with a Willie Williams interception on Oakland’s final drive, sealed the win. But the Seattle weather also played a part in the victory, especially when considering the Raiders’ 31-3 win over the Seahawks less than two months ago on a windy afternoon in Oakland.
"To have the wind and the rain, that made it tough," Seahawks quarterback Jon Kitna said after braving the weather to complete 19 of 30 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. "You never really get used to it.
"I asked one of the guys on the Raiders, ‘Can you believe we tore down our indoor stadium?’ I think it played to our advantage today."
The rainy, windy conditions made for some strange bounces, but things got downright unbelievable in the final five minutes and change, when Seattle scored 15 unanswered points in most unconventional fashion.
Having fallen behind 24-13 on back-to-back Randy Jordan touchdown runs, the Seahawks inched back into the game when rookie Shaun Alexander scored from 4 yards out with 5:16 to go.
After stopping the Raiders’ next drive on three plays, Seattle got the ball back at its own 29 with 2:52 remaining and trailing by five points. That’s when things got really bizarre.
Ricky Watters appeared to be on his way to the game-winning touchdown, but got caught from behind by Oakland’s Charles Woodson, who batted the ball loose from Watters’ grip. The ball skidded to the Raiders’ 1-yard line before Marquez Pope fell on it and rolled into the end zone. After originally ruling the play a touchback, the officials talked it over and awarded Seattle a safety.
Instead of possession of the ball and a five-point lead, Oakland (11-4) suddenly found itself punting off to Seattle from its own 20-yard line — with only a three-point lead. By rule, the team that forfeits a safety must either kick or punt the ball to the other team.
The Seahawks (6-9) then got the ball back again at their own 39, trailing by a field goal with 2:19 to go. Passes to Jackson and Itula Mili pushed Seattle close enough to attempt a game-tying field goal, but Holmgren burned two timeouts so that the Seahawks had a shot at victory in regulation.
On third-and-5, Kitna hit Jackson on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds to go. Jackson freelanced after cornerback Eric Allen sat on an inside pattern, cutting to the outside to free himself in the left corner of the end zone.
"Eric Allen was overplaying and I went right by him," said Jackson, who has a team-high six touchdown receptions this season. "Jon made a great read and a great pass."
After a failed conversion attempt that kept Oakland within 27-24, the Raiders’ offense responded by crossing midfield before a Rich Gannon pass bounced off the arm of receiver Tim Brown and into the hands of Seahawks cornerback Williams with 19 seconds to go.
"The ball bounced a little bit more our way," defensive tackle Riddick Parker said. "Maybe we felt a little bit more comfortable in the conditions than they were. I don’t imagine it rains in Northern California much."
The win leaves the Raiders a half game ahead of Denver in the AFC West race, and the Broncos can pull into a tie with a win at Kansas City today. Furthermore, Denver holds the tie-breaker over Oakland with just one game to go.
The Raiders’ chances of playing host throughout the AFC playoffs also dwindled, although it came as little consolation for a Seahawks team that has been eliminated since Week 13.
"I don’t take any satisfaction out of making the road bumpier for Oakland," guard Pete Kendall said. "You just go out and play whoever’s out there. We don’t try to keep somebody down just because they’ve achieved it. We had a game to play today, too. And that’s what we did."
Outplaying a team with everything on the line may have been the Seahawks’ most rewarding irony of all.
"It just proves what I believed about these guys, that you can take the idea of making the playoffs away from them and there has to be something more to motivate you as a football player," Holmgren said. "I think in the last few weeks, they’ve displayed that — whatever it is. Heart, character, whatever. It really bodes well for our future and gives us hope."
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