They didn’t want to leave. They stayed on their feet, full-throated, white towels waving, wanting to celebrate this game for as long as security would allow.
For the 60 minutes of this deliciously improbable playoff game, the sellout house was as much a part of the game as it was in the halcyon days of 2005.
These Seahawks fans had waited three years for this week, and they were so into the game they practically played it. They turned Qwest Field into decibel hell.
And after the Seahawks had won Saturday’s NFC wild-card game 41-36 over defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans, those fans celebrated with the players who lingered on the field, drinking in the noise and thanking the throng that had helped breathe life into their once-dying season.
Linebackers David Hawthorne and Will Herring high-fived the fans who stood most of the afternoon behind the Seahawks’ bench. Safety Jordan Babineaux hugged and hollered in the delirium of the south end zone.
“The fans get overlooked too much,” Babineaux said. “I felt like we needed to thank them.”
Coach Pete Carroll joined Babineaux, running a gantlet of hand slaps.
“This was a day to remember,” he said. “Today was just an unbelievably energetic, electric day in the stadium.”
Defensive tackle Craig Terrill, a Seahawk since 2004, stood on the field with his wife and daughter and thought about all of the indelible moments he’s had in this building.
“This is one of the greatest wins we’ve had here,” said Terrill. “It’s right there with ’05, when we had all those wins in a row and the great playoff run. I think the adversity we’ve been going through this season and the struggling times we’ve had and then to make these playoffs, made this game mean so much. It was really cool.”
In just seven days, the Seahawks have redefined their season. Just a week ago, this was a team in trouble, lopsided losers of seven out of nine.
Then came last Sunday night’s win over St. Louis and the NFC West championship. And then this win over New Orleans. And now the Seahawks, even at 8-9, believe in themselves again.
This win was hysterical. It was historical. Nothing like this had ever happened in the NFL.
A team never had won a division title with a losing record.. A team with a losing record never had beaten a defending Super Bowl champion in the playoffs. And a defending Super Bowl champion never had lost a playoff game after leading 10-0.
“The message for this game is that we’re serious,” safety Lawyer Milloy said. “We’re starting to figure it out. And if you doubt us, if you’re overlooking us or something, that’s on you. We’re not going to let the people on TV, or the people with pens, control our outcome. We’re in control of our outcome.”
Even when the Hawks fell behind 10-0 in the first nine minutes, they believed. And instead of deflating, the crowd thundered even louder. Qwest Field was the X-factor in this win.
“When the world champions answered the bell and they got up 10-0,” Milloy said, “our fans were right there to give us that extra boost. There was that energy. There’s no place like it. So when the world champions were up on us 10-0, we didn’t blink.”
This win came out of nowhere. It materialized out of the ashes of December.
“That’s the reason why you win a division,” Milloy said. “No matter how you get it done, you win a division so you can play at home in front of the best fans in the whole league. They stepped up when we needed them.
“It was crazy, man. When the fans were called upon, they were deafening. This is all we could ask for today, especially going up against the defending world champions.”
Days like this are why we love sports. Impossible dreams are why fans suffer and gather and cheer.
“There’s a feeling they (fans) give us and we haven’t had this feeling in a couple of years,” said Babineaux, who, like Terrill, joined the Hawks in 2004. “Some of the guys who have been here awhile, we know what it’s like to be around here when you’re winning.
“We know what it’s like to play in here in January. These fans are such a big part of what we do right now. It’s like we can’t be denied.”
The Qwest fans stayed and cheered until the last Seahawk had disappeared into the tunnel. They celebrated a victory that felt like it belonged to everyone.