In the closing moments of this year’s NFC Championship game, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick dropped back and launched a pass into the end zone toward receiver Michael Crabtree. But in a play for the ages, Seattle’s Richard Sherman stretched out and knocked the ball away — and into the arms of teammate Malcolm Smith.
The Seahawks were headed for the Super Bowl! And the game was to pit them against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos — the most prolific offense in NFL history. At that moment, Woodinville Falcons football coach Wayne Maxwell was fired up.
“I’ve been a long-time Seahawks fan since growing up in the Seattle area,” Maxwell said. “Loved the old guys: Steve Largent, Curt Warner and Dave Krieg. I was a pretty passionate Seahawks fan all the way through.
“I had a feeling that this would be their first Super Bowl win and that I had to be there. So I made the travel plans the next day.”
Traveling with his buddy Wayne Johnson, the two Waynes arrived in New York on Friday evening, two days prior to the Super Bowl. As they listened to the ominous weather reports, Maxwell prepared by bundling up and bracing his slender frame for the frozen tundra. “As a Seahawks fan, I was hoping for strong winds to affect Peyton Manning,” Maxwell said.
As it happened, the weather was fine, sunny and in the 40s. A glorious day for football at MetLife Stadium.
“We had very good seats on about the 20-yard line, and interacted with celebrities and some of the players,” Maxwell said. “ It was intense. It had that different energy. You could feel the energy. Everyone was all jacked up. I typically have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up during the national anthem at whatever stadium I’m at. But I think they were up a lot longer time for the Super Bowl. We were close enough to hear the pads popping.”
On the game’s opening play from scrimmage, a snap sailed past Peyton Manning’s head and into the end zone for a safety. On Denver’s second possession, Manning completed a pass underneath to Demaryius Thomas, who was promptly blasted to the turf by Seattle’s Kam Chancellor.
“That hit wasn’t too far from us,” Maxwell said. “Thomas is a big boy, but Kam put him down! The Seahawks sideline was all jacked up after that hit. They definitely had the swag going. I played safety in college, and I love watching Kam and Earl Thomas play the safety position. Sometimes my eyes migrate more to watching those guys.”
As the first half progressed, Seattle added a couple field goals and then a Marshawn Lynch touchdown, to take a 15-0 lead. As the Seahawk offense came off the field, Maxwell had a primal bonding experience with one of the offensive linemen.
“There was a point the in the game when Breno Giacomini comes off. We were near the Seahawks’ bench. He was doing a nice job of owning the guy who was his blocking assignment. It was just one of those moments where, being a football guy and caught up in the excitement of the game, it just kind of took over. We made eye contact. I started yelling at him, I SEE YOU 68! WAY TO DOMINATE YOUR GUY AND TAKE HIM DOWN AND FINISH HIM INTO THE GROUND! I was motioning with my hands up and then flipping them down, like you’re pancaking. I shouted – ALL DAY! ALL DAY!
“I didn’t expect a response,” Maxwell said. “But he started yelling back. YEAH! DID YOU SEE THAT? YEAH!! ALL DAY! ALL DAY!
“All the people in the rows around us got big eyed and probably wondered what was going on,” Maxwell said with a laugh. “It was pretty intense!”
The Seattle offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, did a fine job against the Broncos. But the story of this Super Bowl was Seattle’s defense, and its ability to neutralize Peyton Manning’s passing attack.
“The Seahawks play a different variation of a cover 3, they play a matchup cover 3,” Maxwell said. “They’ll play some press technique on the outside with their talented cornerbacks, and it’s kind of a matchup zone, where it’s half man and half zone. This allows them to be aggressive out there and allows for help on the underneath routes. And you really saw that in the game how well that worked, because Denver runs all those shallow cross routes. Being in a zone underneath, the Hawks were able to prevent the big catch-and-run that can occur against man-to-man coverage.
“Denver had some catches underneath, but they were bottled up. Great game plan and obviously well executed.”
After Seattle’s Malcolm Smith picked off a Manning pass and rambled 69 yards for a touchdown, the Seahawks led 22-0 heading into halftime.
“Being a defensive coach, I felt really good being up 22-0 the way the Seahawks defense was playing,” he said. “I didn’t want to say anything out loud and jinx anything. But you had the feeling that it was the Seahawks’ game.”
But Maxwell knew it was over on the opening kickoff of the second half, when Percy Harvin’s 87-yard return for a touchdown gave the Hawks a 29-0 advantage. “My immediate reaction when I saw that ball bounce in front of Percy was nervousness. If he didn’t field it cleanly it could have been big trouble. But obviously he picked it up and made a couple nice cuts and was off to the races. We were going crazy, the stadium was going crazy. The Denver fans lost the little bit of hope they had in them.
“And it just basically turned into a Seahawk party,” he said. “After all those years people were ready to cut loose.”
After Maxwell returned home to Seattle, he also attended the celebration rally at Century Link Field last Wednesday afternoon.
“There was a great feeling of togetherness in the city,” he said. “Traffic was horrible but people were patient and courteous. People were dancing in the streets. It was a fun kind of moment where the city had its moment. As a longtime Seahawks fan it feels great to say that we have a Super Bowl trophy now.”
And then chuckling, he added: “I saved a bunch of that Super Bowl confetti. I’ve got it saved away. I’ll do something fun with it.”