They won’t get a trophy for this one. No parade, no confetti, no Disney World trips.
But in their CenturyLink Field locker room after the win over Denver on Sunday, many of the Seattle Seahawks called the 26-20 overtime victory a “championship” win.
It was only September, but it had a February feel to it.
In the first sentence coach Pete Carroll uttered in his press conference, in fact, he called it “a championship game.”
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It’s early in the season and there’s much to be decided. But the Broncos were considered the best team in the NFL — certainly much better defensively than the team the Seahawks hammered in the Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning, performing at a level that has made him one of the best in the history of the game, fashioned a textbook drive to tie the game for the Broncos and put it into overtime.
But once there, in front of a record crowd and facing the perils of falling to 1-2 heading into a bye week, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led an 80-yard drive that went a long way toward proving that the 2014 Seahawks are made of the same stuff as the 2013 version.
“That tells you we still have that intestinal fortitude to bounce back and do what we need to do (to win),” said defensive end Michael Bennett. “Some weeks are going to be like that in the NFL. Every week we’re going to be getting everybody’s best, we can’t afford to not win those games.”
Bennett pointed out one of the keys to the win: The Broncos managed just 36 yards on 20 rushes.
And they did it with a crucial Kam Chancellor interception in the fourth quarter. And with a diverse offense that allowed 11 players (including Wilson himself) to catch passes.
They did it with Jon Ryan averaging 50.2 yards per punt, with five downed inside the Denver 20.
And they did it by relying on Wilson to make the right decisions in overtime.
He completed four of his six passes on the drive, but also rushed for 15 yards on three carries, including two on third downs that sustained the drive.
“Every game is not going to be a blowout — some will come down to one inch,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “Today, it came down to Russ using his legs on third down to keep us alive.”
After Chancellor’s interception, the defense was stung by vintage Manning, rolling 80 yards in 41 seconds.
“Both sides of the ball had breakdowns,” safety Earl Thomas said, noting the Hawks led 20-12 with less than a minute left in the game. “We made this game hard on ourselves.”
But when the Seahawks won the coin flip for overtime, the defenders were confident they wouldn’t have to come back onto the field.
“Russell is a competitor,” Thomas said. “I’m sure, in his mind, he didn’t want Peyton Manning coming into his house and stealing his show. So he put a great drive together. He was so locked in. If the defense took the pass (options) away, he did a great job of using his legs. Russell is so dangerous, he can use both.”
Linebacker K.J Wright said that he knew when the Hawks were able to receive in overtime, “it was over with.”
“We knew it was going to come down to the end,” Wright said. “But for the offense to come down the field shows the determination and grit of this team.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman cited many mistakes the Seahawks made while improving to 2-1. But in some ways that adds to the significance of finding a way to come up with the win in the end over a team such as Denver.
“We’re going to fight, no matter what,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We’ve got a lot of great players and we’re going to fight to the end whether we’re down, whether we’re up, whether our backs are to the wall or not.”
Broncos coach John Fox, too, called it “prize fight” environment.
And it was, with both teams staggered and on the ropes at times, taking big shots from the other.
When it came down to it, though, the Seahawks came up with the winning drive.
That’s what championship teams do. Whether there’s a trophy at stake or not.