Who said the cold wouldn’t matter?
“Personally, I underestimated it,” said Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks’ leading receiver and a Florida native, following Seattle’s grinding, 10-9 win over Minnesota on Sunday in the NFC wild card playoffs.
The teams played with the temperature at minus 6 and a wind chill at minus 25.
It was the third-coldest game in the history of the NFL — which has been around since 1920.
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Almost none of the 52,090 heartiest souls on Earth sat on the aluminum bleachers at the University of Minnesota’s stadium. They stood, many on the cardboard and foam that authorities suggested they bring to stand on in an attempt to keep their feet from presumably falling off.
“I was able to push through it, but it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be,” said Baldwin, who scored the game’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter on a pass from Russell Wilson. “We had to focus on it.”
It took only minutes in Minnesota’s first frigid air of this winter before ears were stinging, then numb. So the Seahawks’ equipment staff taped the helmet openings. Under the helmets, most players wore ski- type masks.
It made them appear more equipped for a day at Crystal Mountain resort than an NFL playoff game.
Some Seahawks made statements — manhood ones, not fashion — by defiantly going sleeveless. Those included running back Fred Jackson, who played nine years in Buffalo, rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett, right guard J.R. Sweezy, safety Kam Chancellor and linebackers K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin (who had said he couldn’t be a punk and wear sleeves and that he would rag any teammate who did).
Defensive backs Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman wore single arm sleeves, more for the remnants of arm and shoulder injuries dating to last season than as protection from the cold.
Quarterback Wilson didn’t wear gloves, but his Minnesota counterpart, Teddy Bridgewater, did. Wilson, like most backs and receivers, had a muffler-like pocket around his waist under his jersey that he used between plays and right up until each snap.
Wilson said the cold didn’t bother his throwing; he was 13 for 26, far below his team-record completion rate of 68.1 percent in the regular season. He said one pass that fluttered to Baldwin — who’d been wide open at the goal line — and ended up being broken up was affected by Wilson getting nudged from behind by a Viking.
Wilson said the cold did affect his ability to change plays at the line. He said he couldn’t yell to teammates because his mouth was frozen.
The extreme cold was why Seattle coach Pete Carroll decided not to try a 48-yard field goal on fourth-and-13 from the Vikings 30 — with Minnesota leading 3-0 in the second quarter. He said the pregame check determined that Steven Hauschka was unlikely to make it from that far — at the open end of the field, the side closer to the nearby frozen-over Mississippi River. Carroll chose to pass instead, and Fred Jackson caught a short one, then got tackled well short of the first down.
Baldwin and cornerback DeShawn Shead said the biggest issue was their fingers turning numb. That didn’t prevent Baldwin from making one of the most ridiculous catches of this Seahawks season and of his five-year career.
Wilson sent one of his many high throws over the middle on the third play of the third quarter. Baldwin leaped and snared the ball with his outstretched right hand — with the tips of his middle three fingers, in fact — for a 17-yard gain.
“The best catch I’ve ever seen,” Wilson said.
LYNCH “DIDN’T FEEL LIKE HE HAD IT”
Carroll decribed the reason that Marshawn Lynch decided Friday — as the team was leaving Seattle — that he couldn’t play Sunday and chose not to travel to Minneapolis.
That decision came after the team had listed its lead running back as a full participant for all three practices last week.
“We finished practice (Friday) and I went right to you guys, to talk to the media, just going on what I’d seen. But when he went back to his locker and sat down (and reported), he just didn’t feel it,” Carroll said. “He didn’t feel like he could go. And that’s it.
“He just didn’t feel like he had it. There wasn’t enough time to build the confidence that he needed to come in and do something. So that’s it. We took off and left.”
Lynch had abdominal surgery on Nov. 25. He hasn’t played since Nov. 15.
Seattle gained 97 rushing yards on 28 carries Sunday. That included 70, hard yards by Christine Michael. Lynch’s fill-in looked determined on his carries, just as he did when he ran for 84 yards against Cleveland last month.
Asked about Lynch’s status for practices this week and next weekend’s divisional playoff game at Carolina, Carroll said: “I don’t really know. I don’t know. We’ll just take it one day at a time.”
SS Kam Chancellor on the interference call he got on Minnesota’s final drive after colliding with TE Kyle Rudolph (the penalty moved the Vikings into Seattle territory): “ I stood my ground and he ran into me. They tell you that you can stand there and as long as he runs into you, then you’re good. Today, it went the opposite way.” … Sunday was the first time the Seahawks had been shut out in a first half since the 2014 regular-season finale against St. Louis. Seattle had 86 yards of offense by halftime to 99 for the Vikings. … The only injury that Pete Carroll noted was to punter Jon Ryan, who the coach thinks has a broken nose as a result of his failed run after a bad snap by Clint Gresham in the first quarter. Ryan was still woozy hours after the game.
COLDEST GAMES IN NFL HISTORY
By wind chill:
minus 36: Dallas at Green Bay, Dec. 31, 1967 (minus 13 temp., 15 mph wind)
minus 34: San Diego at Cincinnati, Jan. 10, 1982 (minus 8 temp., 23 mph wind)
minus 25: Seattle at Minnesota, Jan. 10, 2016 (minus 6 temp., 12 mph wind)
minus 24: N.Y. Giants at Green Bay, Jan. 20, 2008 (minus 2 temp., 14 mph wind)
Sources: Minnesota Vikings, NFL