MINNEAPOLIS -- The Seattle Seahawks were on the verge of losing their second consecutive postseason game. You remember the last heartbreaker, of course. Eleven months ago, it was Malcolm Butler in the Arizona desert. On Sunday, it was going to be Blair Walsh in a Minnesota freezer. It was 66 degrees of separation, with seemingly the same crushing result.
Statistically, there was about a 1 percent chance of Walsh missing a 27-yard field goal. Basically, the Seahawks were reduced to watching the Minnesota Vikings go in for a breakaway layup with only a few seconds left on the clock, a layup to win the game: the NFC wild-card game at TCF Bank Stadium.
And then ...
"I never thought in a million years he'd shank it to the left, but God was on our side," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said in a giddy and toasty-warm Seattle locker room. "You saw people out there, praising [God]. People were jumping, [yelling] 'Hallelujah!' on the ground, with their face on the ground. Nobody has ever seen anything like that."
The Seahawks got lucky, crazy lucky.
They escaped the frozen north with a 10-9 victory that defied explanation. The two-time defending NFC champions beat the Vikings because of two plays -- a broken play that turned into a miracle pass by Russell Wilson and the Walsh miss with 22 seconds left. The Seahawks' Super Bowl Revenge Tour should be over -- finished -- but they're moving on to the divisional round against the Carolina Panthers thanks to their Houdini-on-Ice performance.
"I don't know if you want to say 'lucky,'" said coach Pete Carroll, his face still red from the minus-25 wind chill. "I think we're fortunate."
Whatever you say, Pete. A little advice: You might want to enter the Powerball lottery, whose jackpot has ballooned to more than $1 billion.
When Walsh lined up for his potential game winner, the odds were overwhelmingly in his favor -- and that's an understatement. Consider: Before that attempt, this season kickers were 189-for-191 from 27 yards or fewer, including the 22-yarder that Walsh made earlier in the game. It was a gimme. To use a golf term, he chili-dipped it. Given the frigid weather conditions, let's call it a Big Chili dip.
Since 2001, no kicker has missed a shorter field goal in the postseason that would've tied the game or given his team the lead in the final two minutes. Afterward, Walsh sobbed at his locker.
The Seahawks tried to play the destiny card, saying they earned the reprieve because of their resilience. There's some truth to that. With nothing going right, they rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. They were unbreakable, displaying the heart of a champion -- or a former champion, anyway.
"Warriors never think it's over," safety Kam Chancellor said.
That sounds nice, but luck played a big part -- that, and a little improvisation. Enter, Wilson.
He made like a kid on the schoolyard, retrieving a shotgun snap that sailed past him and eluding five angry defenders. The Seattle quarterback, who has carried his team the past few weeks, ran around and then found a wide-open Lockett for an improbable 35-yard pass play that set up a Doug Baldwin touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was the icebreaker, so to speak, the play that ignited the Seahawks' dormant offense.
"We've seen so often the magic that comes out of him sometimes," Carroll said.
Wilson, in aw-shucks mode, took the blame for the fumble, saying there was a miscommunication as he tried to change the play at the line of scrimmage. A run was called. It was actually a good snap, he claimed. Instead of pouncing on it, which would've been a 16-yard loss, he scooped and improvised.
"As soon as I got the ball," he said, "I kind of looked back and said, 'Uh oh.' It seemed like a whole bunch of bears chasing you, and you just try to get away."
He got away, all right. They all did, stealing a playoff win from the devastated Vikings. There's no need to apologize for a lucky win. Good teams get lucky, and the Seahawks are good enough to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Brrrring on the Panthers.