There was a confluence of theatrics at Qwest Field on Sunday afternoon that transcended a mere football game.
From the irregular snowfall that ensconced the stadium in a white veneer to the final home game of Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren to the poetry of that exclamation point coming against his one-time protégé, New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre, the 13-3 outcome in favor of the Seahawks seemed almost an afterthought.
Yes, it was the excuse for an estimated 50,000 faithful to gather in wintry conditions usually reserved for Holmgren’s first stop as an NFL head coach, Wisconsin.
But it nearly got lost in a barrage of snowballs from the stands, both before the end of the game and as Holmgren made his way around the stadium in the afterglow of the victory, waving to supporters who have come to appreciate what he has done for the Seahawks organization over the last decade.
“It was like it was too much,” Holmgren said of the day. “It was just unbelievable.”
Crews were on the field at midnight trying to clear the snow, and back at 5:30 in the morning, when the precipitation finally abated.
There were great drifts of powder that bordered the stands, pushed from the middle of the field. The Hawks Nest, the vertical bleachers at the north end of the stadium, had all the snow shoveled to either end, forcing some fans to sit on frozen banks throughout the game – not that they seemed to mind.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of the Seahawks’ playoff game in Green Bay last January, when Lambeau Field resembled a snow globe and the 39-year-old Favre frolicked like a boy, leading the Packers to a 42-20 victory.
Though the setting was similar, the outcome was not, Seattle’s defense putting forth a stout effort that resulted in two Favre interceptions and the offense doing just enough to eke out a fourth victory in 15 games, the 2008 season finale coming next week in Arizona.
With a makeshift offensive line that includes not one projected starter from the beginning of the season, Seattle has won two successive games and is left to ponder why exactly more efforts like Sunday’s were not more forthcoming earlier in the season.
If nothing else, though, these latest wins give the Seahawks a sense of optimism about next year as they head into the offseason.
“We knew we could’ve been doing this the whole season,” safety Deon Grant said. “Sometimes when the cookie doesn’t crumble in your area, you can’t eat anything. That’s exactly what happened this season.”
The Jets (9-6), whose playoff aspirations were severely hampered by the loss, took the opening kick and drove the length of the field, booting a 20-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
It seemed to set the kind of pattern the Seahawks had seen all too often this year.
But thereafter, Seattle’s defense held running back Thomas Jones, the AFC’s leading rusher and brother of Seahawks running back Julius Jones, to just 67 yards. Favre was only 18-of-31 for 187 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, both by cornerback Josh Wilson.
And the offense got two more field goals by Olindo Mare and a 2-yard touchdown reception by tight end John Carlson, who reached over linebacker David Harris for his team-leading fifth touchdown catch of the season.
Though many were expecting the indefatigable Fave to pull out yet another grandiose victory in the fourth quarter, Seattle’s defense stood firm. With the Seahawks holding a 10-3 lead with less than three minutes left, the Jets went for it on fourth down from their own 20.
But Favre’s pass intended for Laveranues Coles was knocked down by embattled cornerback Kelly Jenning, setting up Mare’s clinching field goal.
As the clock ticked to zero, chants of Holmgren emanated from the stands. But so too did snowballs, which hit cheerleaders, media members standing on the sidelines, a referee and team officials. Security guards stood behind owner Paul Allen batting aside the frozen projectiles.
On New York’s final drive, Favre attempted more downfield throws. But Wilson grabbed Favre’s pass meant for Jerricho Cotchery from the air, ending any suspense.
Wilson then picked himself off the snowy turf and raced to the south end zone, where he maniacally grabbed handsful of snow and threw it in the air. He climbed atop the snow bank, crawled across to fans and threw himself into their arms.
“I just wanted to celebrate with the 12th man,” Wilson said.
Wilson drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct – something that would normally move Holmgren to chastise the youngster for the display.
But Holmgren had his own celebration to attend, and he was not inclined to reprimand somebody else for their well-deserved fete.
After all, Wilson only said hello to a few fans. Holmgren said goodbye to thousands before walking out of a stadium whose culture he helped establish.
“I’m not going to be here any more in my current mode,” Holmgren said. “I will miss that.”