Friday, November 5, 2010

Seahawks-Giants preview: Flashback to the rise of the 12th man

By Kshell

When the New York Giants(5-2,winners of four in a row) travel to Qwest Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks(4-3,3-0 at home) it bring up memories of some of the greatest crowds in regular season history. The Seahawks come into this game pretty banged up as it appears the injury bug has attacked them again. The Seahawks will be without starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, left tackle Russel Okung, they also lost defensive end Red Bryant for the season. By all accounts the Giants should roll in this game but since it's at Qwest field anything can happen.

The Giants appear to be the "best" team in the NFC this year. I throw the term "best" out there loosely as no team in either conference has stepped forward to take the claim as the best team. The Giants started the year off slow going 1-2 with the lone win against Carolina. Then in a Sunday Night game they sacked Jay Cutler nine times and shut down the Bears. The cries for Tom Coughlin to be fired had stopped after that victory. Coughlin has now veteran quarterback Elli Manning running the show.

The Giants are a disciplined football team with a quarterback who is hitting his prime years. Just like that this is Eli's seventh season in the league. Eli has cemented his legacy with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII upset over the undefeated New England Patriots. It wasn't always that way for the Giants in fact Qwest Field in 2005 and then again in 2006 represented a house of horrors for the Giants. They had a young quarterback in Eli Manning and Coughlin appeared to be over his head when matched up against future hall of famer Mike Holmgren.

The Seahawks crowd the "12th man" received national attention against these Giants. Now the number 12 was retired back in the 1980's but nobody noticed nationally. That was until a Thanksgiving week game where first place was on the line in the NFC took place. A game in which the Giants had outplayed the Seahawks on offense and defense. I'll flashback to the most famous regular season game in Qwest field history.

November 27, 2005: New York Giants(7-3) at Seattle Seahawks(8-2)

When the Giants came to town this game had a different feeling to it than usual. This wasn't a Sunday or Monday night game either just a standard 1 p.m. game. The Seahawks fans had heard all week everyone bash their team. From Skip Bayless to Michael Irvin and everyone in between. All the media "experts" picked the Giants to win because they were tougher than the Seahawks who were "soft". Well the 12th man took that as a challenge and were so loud it frustrated the Giants all day.

After each team was struggling finding a way to score the Seahawks on their third possession started to get some yards on the Giants defense. The Seahawks facing a first and 10 from the Giants 35 decided to do a play action fake to eventual league MVP Shaun Alexander to suck the defense in. It had worked as Matt Hasselbeck threw it deep to Joe Jurevicius who went up and caught the ball for a 35 yard touchdown to give the Seahawks a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The crowd was going nuts as this was just the start to a big day from Jurevicius.

The Giants midway through the second quarter finally caught a break. When Hasselbeck hit reliable Bobby Engram for a first down, Engram had fumbled the ball giving the Giants life. The Giants though began shooting themselves in the foot first giving up a sack and young Eli Manning fumbled the ball. Then one of 12 false starts happened killing the drive but Jay Feely made a 39 yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.

The Giants followed up that field goal by three and outing the leagues top offense. On the Giants ensuing possession they drove 79 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. On third and goal from the seven, young Eli hit Jeremy Shockey for a seven yard touchdown which had some controversy. You see to make a reception you need both feet well Shockey when he caught the ball in the end zone had one foot land then Seahawks safety Marquand Manuel hit him so hard forcing the ball to come out. It couldn't have been a fumble since he was in the endzone but it should have been an incompletion. The ruling on the field stood and after the initial zoo of the crowd the Giants took a 10-7 lead going into halftime. The Giants were also dominated the game to that point outgaining the Seahawks 189-136.

The Seahawks began the second half pretty disastrously. The Seahawks turned the ball over on their first possession when Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception. The Giants already up 10-7 had the ball on the Seahawks 26 yard line and could put the Seahawks away. The Seahawks defense got tough and held the Giants to a Jay Feely 43 yard field goal. The Giants led 13-7 but would make a costly mistake that would allow the Seahawks back into the ball game.

The Giants after three and outing the Seahawks offense again were driving. The Giants had the ball first and 10 from the Seahawks 36 yard line. Eli went back to pass and went for the home run ball to put Seattle away but instead he was picked off by Michael Boulware who then returned the interception 40 yards to the Seattle 44 yard line. After being shut down all game long Shaun Alexander finally busted out. Alexander would carry the ball four times for 40 yards on the drive setting up another Hasselbeck touchdown to Jurevicius from 16 yards out. The Seahawks despite being outplayed would take the lead 14-13 heading into the fourth quarter. Unlike years past the Seahawks proved against Dallas earlier in the year and the Rams in St.Louis that they can win the close games.

The Seahawks like they had done all year would have that one final drive to put teams away in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks weren't blowing fourth quarters anymore because the offense would have a nice long scoring drive. Well this game was no different. The Seahawks would go on a 13 play 80 yard drive that took up almost seven minutes in time of possession. On that drive Hasselbeck would hit Jurevicius on two key third and longs for first downs. On the Giants 14 facing a third and 11 Hasselbeck would hit Engram for a gain of 10. That left Mike Holmgren with a tough decision.

With 5 minutes left in the game Holmgren must decide if he should kick the field goal forcing the Giants to score a touchdown or risk going for it on fourth down. He decided to go for it on fourth and one. The play call was very simple and in fact I knew what play the Seahawks were running. Back then everyone knew what the Seahawks would run on third or fourth and shorts and yet not once during the season were the Seahawks stuffed. That is because they would run the ball to the left which feature All-Pro fullback Mack Strong lead blocking for league MVP Shaun Alexander, would then follow the blocking of Probowler Robbie Tobeck at center, All-Pro Steve Hutchinson at left guard and All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones. Alexander not only got the first down but he scored his 20th rushing touchdown of the season from four yards out. The Sehawks held a 21-13 lead and left the game in the defenses hands.

The Giants young quarterback actually played pretty well in the hostile environment. Young Eli would lead his team down the field. Manning on the Seahawks 18 yard line hit Armani Toomer for a touchdown to pull within two points. Manning on the drive was four of six passing for 54 yards. On the two point play Manning would hit Shockey to tie up the score and crowd was stunned.

The Seahawks would go three and out so quickly that allowed the Giants to win the game in possible regulation. The Giants had great field position on the 50 yard line. After Manning completed two passes the Giants ran the ball to Tiki Barber to line up for the winning field goal. With four seconds left and on the Seahawks 22 it was looking like the Seahawks were going to lose at home. Then Jay Feely who had been 23 of 25 kicking field goals on the season missed a 40 yard chip shot wide left. The crowd was roaring in excitement as the Seahawks had survived. The Seahawks then won the coin toss and it was looking good for the Seahawks.

The Seahawks offense again continued to go backwards and gave the Giants great field position again. The Giants had the ball at midfield. The Giants had the ball at the Seahawks 31 yard line when the 12th man came calling yet again. The Giants would committ their 12th and final false start penalty of the game which is unheard of in the NFL. That back the Giants up five yards. On third and 15 Manning had hit Shockey for a completion to the Seahawks 26 yard line. The catch appeared questionable so Holmgren gambled and called a timeout to give the booth more time to review it. The booth reviewed the play and it was an incomplete pass. That set up a tough decision for Tom Coughlin which is try and kick a 54 yard field into the Hawks Nest when Feely had just missed from 40 yards out on the same side of the field. Another option was to punt the ball and play field position but Coughlin didn't want to give the Seahawks another chance so he decided to kick the field goal. Feely again missed the kick from 54 yards out. The crowd was energetic as the Seahawks had life still.

The Seahawks drove the ball to the Giants 40 yard line but couldn't do anything and were forced to punt. Making things worse punter Tom Rouen punted the ball out of bounds so the Seahawks couldn't pin the Giants. On the first play the Giants runningback Tiki Barber who would finish second in the NFL in rushing yards that year behind Shaun Alexander would rush up the middle for 49 yards to give the Giants another opportunity. The Giants had the ball on the Seahawks 27 yard line and again left it up to Jay Feely to put the Seahawks away. When Feely first kicked the ball it had appeared good but he missed it from 45 yards out. Michael Strahan was so confident he was running on the field and had to stop to get his helmet. There is a famous shot of Shockey pointing at the Seahawks crowd celebrating until he realized Feely has missed the kick.

This time the Seahawks stopped messing around. Facing a first and 21 from their own 24 yard line Hasselbeck hit D.J. Hackett for a 38 yard pass to the Giants 38 yard line. Then Alexander took over rushing the Seahawks to the Giants 15 yard line. That set up Josh Brown who kicked the 36 yard field goal to give the Seahawks an amazing 24-21 win in overtime.

The win was incredible as the Seahawks had no business winning this game. The Giants had out gained them 490 to 355 in yards. Out rushed the Seahawks 166 to 127 and threw for more yards 324 to 228. The Giants had 25 first downs to the Seahawks 17. The Giants also won the turnover battle two to one. The Seahawks had fumbled the ball four times but lost just one and went three and out six times. The Giants did themselves in with 16 penalties including 12 false starts and three missed field goals where each one could have won the game .The Seahawks win was so unlikely that Mike Holmgren gave the Seahawks fans the game ball.

The Seahawks had a great game from Joe Jurevicious who had 8 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Hasselbeck ended up 21 of 37 passing for 249 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Eli Manning out performed Hasselbeck at times passing 29 of 53 but 344 yards and also had two touchdowns with an interception. Shaun Alexander carried the ball 31 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks couldn't stop Tiki Barber as he became the first and only runningback to rush for over 100 yards on the Seahawks running for 151 on just26 carries.

That was indeed a great win for the Seahawks as it gave Qwest Field the mystique that nobody could beat them at home. The Seahawks would finish the year 13-3 and would go 8-0 at home. The Seahawks would then win both home playoff games going to the Super Bowl. While the Giants finished the year 11-5 and were upset at home in the playoffs. In fact the Giants the NFC East champions were shutout to the Carolina Panthers who the Seahawks defeated in the NFC Championship game.

The following year in the much anticipated rematch at Qwest Field the Seahawks destroyed the Giants. The Seahawks behind the debut of newly acquired receiver Deion Branch constantly ran four wide receiver sets that confused the Giants. Matt Hasselbeck would throw for a career high five touchdowns as the Seahawks would race out to a 42-3 lead in the third quarter and led 35-3 at halftime. Eli Manning would throw three interceptions in the first half as well. The Giants would tack on some cheap points at the end to lose 42-30 but the game was decided in the first half. Many Giants players questioned Coughlin saying they were simply outcoached.

If someone had told me that not only would Coughlin somehow keep his job after that season but win a Super Bowl the following year I would have called you crazy. Now the only player who made a real impact for the Seahawks that game Lofa Tatupu who had 11 tackles is the only player left. The rest are either retired, left or in Hasselbecks case injured. There was a time that Qwest Field meant automatic loss. Well the Seahawks are 3-0 this year so hopefully the Qwest Field spell over the Giants can continue. One can only hope.

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