Post-Super Bowl Olio: The 19 Most Impactful Plays of the Seahawks Season

The Seahawks just won the Super Bowl.  I can still say this, can’t I?  It’s still okay to use the adverb “just” here, right?  I think so.  It seems to me a “just” window of at least two weeks is warranted when your team wins the Super Bowl for the first time ever.

Whatever the case may be, I’m not ready to move on yet.  The Seahawks either won or just won the Super Bowl, and I’m not done living vicariously through it yet.  So for fun I decided to look back through each game and single out the biggest play.  Here “biggest play” is defined as the play that most increased the Seahawks win probability in wins or most decreased their win probability in losses.  In a sense, these are the Seahawks most impactful plays of the season.

1.  Earl Thomas causes DeAngelo Williams to fumble: +26%.
This ended a potential go-ahead drive for the Panthers deep in Seahawks territory with under six minutes in the game.  The ‘Hawks were subsequently able to run out the clock.

2.  Doug Baldwin burns the 49ers for a 51-yard gain: +14%
I don’t remember this play, but Doug Baldwin also had a 51-yarder against the Niners in the NFC championship game.

3.  Seahawks show up for game against the Jaguars: +100%
After this 45-17 beatdown, we thought the Jags might be historically bad; turns out they were the far more banal normal bad.

4.  Richard Sherman pick-sixes Matt Schaub: +51%
We all remember it.  It took the Texans from a 99.8% chance of winning to essentially a coin toss (which the Seahawks won after losing a literal coin toss to start overtime).  So the Seahawks comeback wasn’t quite a 1-in-1000 shot; it was a 2-in-1000 shot.

5.  Colts return block field goal for touchdown: -23%
This turned a 15-7 lead into a 12-14 deficit.

6.  Beast Mode and DangeRuss connect for 55-yard gain against Titans: +16%
Surprisingly this game was tied going into the 4th quarter.  But on the first play of the quarter, Marshawn Lynch caught a big pass from Russell Wilson to set up the go-ahead score.

7.  Carson Palmer sacked by Tony McDaniel for 14-yard loss: +7%
No single play in this game was huge, but the biggest was an early sack of Palmer.

8.  D stuffs Daryl Richardson at the goal line: +41%
This was a weird game — the one in which Robert Quinn utterly dominated everybody and Wilson was sacked seven times, but the Seahawks still won 14-9.  The weirdest thing about it might have been that on the final drive, Kellen Clemens drove the Rams 96 yards to the Seahawks 1-yard line before failing to score.  Interestingly, the biggest play of the game was not the final play (an incomplete pass by Clemens on 4th down), but the play right before it.  On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, the Rams had a 52% chance of winning; after Richardson was stopped for no gain, it dropped all the way to 11%.

9.  Jermaine Kearse catches 27-yard pass to Tampa Bay 3-yard line: +29%
Another weird game.  This is an example in which win probability delta isn’t the best metric for bigness, as the Kearse catch increased the Seahawks probability by 29%, but on the very next play it dropped by 49% when Wilson threw an INT in the end zone.  The Kearse reception was a big play in name only.

10. Golden Tate catches 31-yarder against Falcons: +9%
Too much of an ass-kicking from the get-go for there to be any really big plays.

11. Cliff Avril strip-sacks Christian Ponder: 7%
Early Avril strip-stack I.

12. Cliff Avril strip-sacks Drew Brees, Michael Bennett scores: +11%
Early Avril strip-sack II.  This one was even returned for a touchdown.

13. Frank Gore escapes for 51-yard run: -31%
Worst play of the season, literally.  Earl Thomas takes a rare bad angle.  It sets the Niners up for the game-winning field goal.

14. Eli Manning intercepted by Byron Maxwell (the first time): +8%
One of five on the day.

15. Carson Palmer hits Malcolm Floyd for a touchdown: -31%
Second worst play of the season.  The Cardinals were in good position to take the lead with a field goal; a touchdown really put the ‘Hawks behind the eight ball.

16. Malcolm Smith pick-sixes Kellen Clemens: +11%
Here it is.  Amazingly this is number three on Malcolm Smith’s “Top INTs of the Season” list, and he was mostly a reserve linebacker for the season.

17. Michael Bennett forces Mark Ingram fumble: +7%
The beauty of this play is that Michael Bennett both forces and recovers the fumble.

18. Cliff Avril strip-sacks Colin Kaepernick: +21%
This barely edges out the Sherman tip as the biggest play of the game.

19. Russell Wilson hits Doug Baldwin for 37 yards: +11%
It doesn’t even make NFL.com’s top-5 list, but it was a big play, because the game was still close when it occurred.  This is the play where Wilson lofted it toward the sideline to Baldwin who was running a quasi-wheel route on 3rd-and-5 from just inside Broncos territory.  The result was a first down inside the 10.  It was the biggest play of the Super Bowl.

-DJG