Seahawks v. Packers, NFC Championship game
So after quite an odyssey of a season for the Seahawks, their home schedule concluded with the team it began against, the Green Bay Packers. When they were 3-3 in October, myself and virtually every other NFL-sentient being thought it was nearly impossible they would host the NFC championship game at the end of the season.
As you may have heard by now, the Seahawks ended up having one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL playoffs history on Sunday. It was a remarkable experience to be in the stadium. For about 3/4ths of the game, the stadium had the energy of a funeral parlor. It was as bleak as I can ever remember, and things were bad not really all that long ago. But after the fake field goal touchdown at the end of the third, things started getting rolling, especially the last four minutes, which were unlike any sports event I’ve ever attended or covered. Perhaps the 1993 deciding game five between the Sonics and Jazz that I saw with my Dad which had a striking reversal of fortune (look at the scoring by quarter), but that was an early playoffs series and doesn’t carry nearly the weight of the Seahawks-Packers NFC championship bout.
Ok, less Seattle sports history and more photos, right?
Richard Sherman, looking dapper:
I was part of a team of four other shooters for USATSI, and we divided the field up into quarters. I was assigned end zone safety duty, which can be really good, or really bad if the play is at the other end of the field, since you have to stay put just in case of long interception return. For me, it was pretty bad, the action seemed to be on the other end of the field for nearly the entire first half:
The crowd reaction salvages this sequence to make it semi-usable. I wish I was a little closer than 120 yards away and you could see the players’ faces a little better, however.
The Seahawks briefly moved the ball in the first quarter while the sun was out, and I had some nice backlit rain and rim light on the players to stand out from the shaded stands.
Kam Chancellor had a classic bone-rattling hit, too! If I was greedy, I’d wish the players had been a little more wet so there would have been more backlit spray coming off, but I’m not, so I’ll just say I’m cool with what I have.
Occasionally the ball would be closer to my end of the field, but never for very long.
Are your eyes glazing over, too? How about a photo of genius of strategy, Packers coach Mike McCarthy, in action?
Ok, that above photo is too much. How about Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, attempting to make a catch:
Or some reactions to an interception thrown by Aaron Rodgers, King Discount Double Check?
Or Beast Mode, running back Marshawn Lynch:
More Beast Mode in the second half:
The Seahawks defense was a bit more stiff in the second half, yielding only two field goals and harassed a gimpy Aaron Rodgers.
Cornerback Richard Sherman gets injured by some friendly fire from Kam Chancellor:
The tide turned after a fake field goal touchdown, which I got blocked on by another shooter’s assistant (who I won’t name, but will be pushing pins into a voodoo doll for). Here’s reaction by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll:
Finally, things really started to come together for the Seahawks late in the fourth:
Including a miracle on-side kick recovery, which might be the first one I’ve ever seen in person, after hundreds of college and pro games covered:
And an absolutely absurd two-point conversion play, in which Russell Wilson pulled a rabbit out of a hat to throw a rainbow prayer of a pass to tight end Luke Willson. This gave the Seahawks a three-point cushion, which turned out to be quite useful when the Packers scored a field goal a minute later to tie the game and force overtime:
And finally, the Seahawks ended up winning in overtime on a touchdown pass to UW alum Jermaine Kearse. It was a little nuts.
Because our agency had multiple shooters in the end zone, I decided to use my wide angle glass on the deciding play. I rationalized it this way so if it came directly towards me, I wanted to be ready for it. (I will neither confirm nor deny that the Golden Tate Fail-Mary and Sherman-tip pick plays from the two previous seasons happened immediately in front of me, where even zoomed out at 70mm on my mid-range lens I was hopelessly too close to get a usable picture and that these events may or may not have influenced my decision to go with the wide angle 16-35mm zoom when I saw Russell Wilson release a deep pass towards the end zone). I wasn’t sure exactly where the pass was going when it left his hand, so I decided to go with my wide angle zoom since I knew my USATSI comrade 12 feet away from me would have the mid range glass up and have us covered if it went further in the middle of the field.
The pass ended up going a bit further away from me than I had hoped/been ready for, so I won’t waste time or bandwidth with the catch, but since I had my wide angle glass in hand, I was able to get out to the celebration before virtually anyone else, including the mascot, Blitz:
One advantage of being 6’4″ is that I could (barely) hold my own when football players collide together in a celebratory mosh pit.
A few other jubilation pictures from the postgame. It was a little chaotic and there were pictures being made absolutely everywhere.
Including Michael Bennet’s now-infamous celebratory tour-de-CenturyLink-Field:
Who knows, maybe there will be a parade for me to cover in a couple of weeks?