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WRITER’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book NOTES FROM A 12TH MAN: A TRULY BIASED HISTORY OF THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS.
The Seahawks have never had a real history book about the team, especially from a longtime fan’s point of view and I think it’s high time it did. Think of this book as a sports time machine that visits the highs (and lows) of the franchise. I am a television writer/producer originally from the Seattle area, now based in Los Angeles. The book will be coming out following the 2008 season, which hopefully will be a memorable one for the Hawks.
HAWKS FINALLY BEAT ONE OF THE ELITE
SEAHAWKS 29, VIKINGS 28
The Kingdome, October 8, 1978 Quarterback Fran Tarkenton and the famed Purple People Eaters defense make their first and only appearance in the Kingdome in 1978. I am excited to see one of the premier teams of the seventies live in person. Head Coach Jack Patera is excited since he coached the aforementioned “Eaters” for seven years. The Vikings are only a season removed from winning their fourth NFC Championship and while they are on the decline in ’78, they’re still contenders. The Seahawks catch a break before the game when Vike all-pro running back Chuck Foreman is scratched from the lineup but Minnesota is still a prohibitive favorite.
On the first play of the Hawks’ second possession, Zorn makes a nice play-action fake and hits Sam McCullum in the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown (part of Zorn’s AFC-leading passing yardage total for the season). However, Efren Herrera’s extra point is negated by a false start call against Seattle. Backed up five yards, Herrera’s second attempt is blocked. Later in the quarter, the Seahawks drive 83 yards on only six plays for a 13-0 lead. The touchdown comes when Zorn, finding no one open, takes off and shows that Tarkenton isn’t the only master scrambler in the house as he goes 12 yards for the score.
After the Vikes get on the board via a touchdown reception by Ahmad “Seahawk for a few minutes” Rashad, the Hawks march down the field again; only this time Zorn throws an interception in the end zone. Late in the second quarter, FB David Sims runs eight yards for a touchdown on a nice draw play (Sims would go on to lead the NFL in touchdowns scored in 1978). Unfortunately, the Vikings again block the extra point. The special teams woes worsen on the kickoff when Herrera’s attempted squib flies right into the mitts of an upback who returns it seven yards to the Minnesota 42 with :35 remaining in the half. It takes five plays and only :31 for the Vikings to make it 19-14 at the half.
Things get worse in the third quarter as Minnesota scores two touchdowns to go up 28-19. When Zorn throws his second interception of the game at the Viking 31 early in the fourth quarter, life is very bleak inside the Kingdome. But the defense steps up to play possibly its best quarter in team history (up to this point) as it limits Tarkenton to only eight more passing yards and more importantly, no more Viking points or first downs. Meanwhile, the Hawks put together a solid drive and close the gap when Zorn, seeing no open receivers but an open lane on the right side, darts 22 yards for a touchdown. The extra point once again is an adventure as the Hawks are flagged for a false start after Herrera knocked it through. However this time, Efren is able to convert the second attempt, mere milliseconds before another Viking comes in from the side to block it. The score now stands 28-26, Minnesota.
The defense holds the Vikes to three and out and the offense gets the ball back with 7:04 remaining. Early in the drive on third down, Zorn is stopped just short of the first down markers at the Seahawk 38. Patera decides to go for it on fourth down knowing:
A) If he punts it back to Minnesota, the offense may not see the ball again. B ) Picking up a few inches represented the best way to beat his old boss Bud Grant.C) What did a third-year expansion team have to lose since they were not expected to win anyway?
Sure enough, Sims is able to pick up slightly more than a yard for the first down. Another key play occurs just inside the two minute warning when on first and ten at the Minnesota 33, Zorn avoids the sack by dumping a pass off to Sherman Smith who scampers to the 16 to put the Hawks in more makable field goal position. The next play is a draw to Sims who goes up the gut eight yards that gives Efren an attempt in chip shot range. The Hawks eat up more clock and get all the way to the Viking two before calling their last time out with :03 left. My dad, wanting to avoid the rush out of the stadium, drags me out of our seats. He tells me we can watch the field goal from a monitor in the 200 level concourse. Reluctantly, I exit our row. As Herrera comes onto the field, three things are going through my mind and the minds of thousands of other Hawk fans:
A) Efren had been a shaky 2-6 in field goal attempts this season. B ) This field goal was exactly the same distance as an extra point and he already had two blocked today.C) Why would Fran Tarkenton go on to host That’s Incredible?
As I sit at the top of our section, I risk the wrath of my father by running back down the steps so I can watch the field goal in person. Incredibly, just as the Hawks are ready to snap, flags come out for the fourth time on a kicking attempt. Fortunately, the call goes against the Vikings, moving the ball near the one. Rather than hear my dad telling me we need to view the kick from a concession stand near an exit, I decide to stay on the stairs and watch the next attempt. Then, in almost anti-climatic fashion, Herrera makes what could possibly be the shortest game-winning field goal that will ever happen in team history. I quickly run up the steps where my dad gives me a semi-stern look before we hustle out of the ‘Dome.
The win is very significant in the story of the Seahawks because it is the first time Seattle beat a team that finished the season with a winning record. Minnesota was 8-7-1 in 1978 (and NFC Central Division Champs), which incidentally was not as good as the Hawks 9-7 mark. By finishing above .500, Seattle became the fastest NFL expansion team to have a winning record.
© Copyright 2007 Mark Tye Turner
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