The Seattle Seahawks cut Chris Matthews twice this season.
But he made one of the biggest plays in the NFC title win over Green Bay.
They kept a roster spot all season for a raw reserve tackle, Garry Gilliam, in part because they liked his mobility as a former tight end at Penn State.
And when it came time to run the fake field goal that resulted in the only Seahawks score in the first 58 minutes, the pass was thrown to Gilliam — now a 306-pound tackle.
The final two big catches came from a pair of usual contributors, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, who, we should remember, were a pair of undrafted free agents who clawed their way onto the roster and into major roles.
Those four went undrafted out of college. Passed over by every team. But they were key to the Seahawks earning their second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.
The win could not have been a more obvious validation for the personnel staff who collect the talent, and the coaching staff who find ways to exploit their attributes.
The collaboration between general manager John Schneider and Pete Carroll, which is at the taproot of this Golden Age of Seahawks football, has never been more effective.
Schneider knows that Carroll wants players with unique characteristics. Maybe it’s size or speed or uncommon experience, with the only constant mandate being a hunger to compete.
And when Schneider brings them in, Carroll puts them right to work.
“That’s kind of how it’s been,” Carroll said Monday. “We’re talking about the work of John and his guys have done. It’s illustrated so many times with so many great examples of finding guys and getting them into the system — and then they playing winning football for us.”
Defensive tackle Landon Cohen, for instance, was brought in off the street (he’d been jockeying cars for his valet-parking company) just two weeks ago.
He played valuable snaps on Sunday, particularly in the goal-line package that was so effective against the Packers.
Cohen had been cut by 10 NFL teams. Now he’s in the Super Bowl.
Matthews is a 6-foot-5, long-armed, quick-leaping receiver who was with the team in the exhibition season and then brought back on and off to the practice squad before being added to the active roster in December.
He had played the past two seasons for Winnipeg in the CFL. But he had interesting blood lines. His mother was a basketball player at TCU, and one of his cousins was the late Hall of Famer Reggie White.
Hmm, where could they use a guy like that? How about covering onside kick attempts? His length and hands helped him pull in the crucial fourth-quarter onside kick against Green Bay.
When starting right tackle Justin Britt wasn’t quite ready to return from a knee injury Sunday, second-year free agent Alvin Bailey got the call to start.
Baldwin and Kearse have become so prominent in their play that their unheralded entrance into the league is mostly forgotten.
But not by them. Baldwin and Kearse have used it as motivation.
“It’s what Pete instills with his philosophy of just competing,” Kearse said. “He gives everyone an equal opportunity to compete, and I feel like that brings the best out of players.”
The fake field goal touchdown was the perfect example of finding ways of exploiting players’ unique skills.
While playing in college at Regina, punter Jon Ryan had thrown a touchdown pass. So he had experience.
Ideally, the fake, which Ryan said was called the “Charlie Brown play,” called for him to take the snap, and rather than hold the ball for kicker Steven Hauschka, run around end for the first down.
Is that a play you want your punter/holder to be doing? Well, yeah. Consider that Ryan has the most impressive statistical college touchdown of any Seahawk player.
At Regina, he once scored on a 109-yard pass reception. Impossible? Not north of the border, where the field is 110 yards long.
There’s no question that the Seahawks are loaded with elite talent.
But some of the great stories are of the car parkers, the passed over, the athletic aliens and the Charlie Brown overachievers who have helped them fight their way back to the Super Bowl.