Steven Hauschka takes one . . . or doesn't take one . . . for the team
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SEATTLE -- Everyone in the NFL wants to be in the middle of big plays. But it takes a special kind of player to know when to back away.
That was the case for Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka Sunday night.
As he trotted onto the field to attempt what would have been a 53-yard field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game -- a kick that, if successful, would have cut the 49ers' lead to one -- he grabbed coach Pete Carroll and begged out of the kick.
"I didn't really want to kick it, to tell you the truth," Hauschka told Newsday after the game. "It was into the wind . . . I didn't think it was the right decision and I let coach Carroll know that."
Hauschka said he'd never before passed up an opportunity to attempt a field goal.
"You have to be honest with yourself," he said. "It was the wind at that moment. Sometimes you can make that, but I felt the wind at that moment was into the face enough to not want to try that kick. I grabbed him on the sideline as I ran out because I could see the flags [on top of the uprights] and I told him: 'We shouldn't kick this.' "
But the Seahawks already had their field-goal personnel on the field, so Hauschka simply stood there, looking down at the spot where the ball would be placed were it to be snapped, and waited. He thought Seattle would take a delay-of-game penalty and punt. Instead, Carroll called timeout and sent the offense back onto the field.
And Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on fourth-and-7 to give the Seahawks a three-point lead they wouldn't relinquish in their 23-17 victory.
"We had some options there," Carroll said. "We wanted to get points . . . We weren't going to punt."
Hauschka, who kicked a 47-yard field goal with 3:37 remaining to give the Seahawks a six-point lead, was glad he was vindicated by the touchdown, but said that even if the Seahawks had turned it over on downs, he would have stood by his decision.
"It was kind of a crazy sequence of events," he said.
Of course, Hauschka will have to worry about the wind in his next game, too. The gusts at MetLife Stadium are notorious, and on Feb. 2, that undoubtedly will be one of the many elements that will play into the first cold-weather outdoor Super Bowl.
Hauschka said he's not worried because he kicked there this season against the Giants. He was 3-for-3 on field goals that day, with a long of 49 yards.
"I like to see how it is at the moment," he said. "I'm not gonna look at the forecast for a few days. You'll drive yourself crazy if you do that. We'll be in New York. We'll know what's going on with the weather."
Plus, he has an advantage. The Seahawks will be practicing at the Giants' facility, which is just across the parking lot from MetLife Stadium. The Broncos will be at the Jets' place in Florham Park.
"I get to practice right next to the stadium," Hauschka said. "We'll get used to it."