Revisiting Past Seahawks Games Considering Possible Onside Kick Alternative

The NFL is exploring an alternative to the traditional onside kick, giving offenses the chance to keep possession by converting a fourth and 15 opportunity. If this rule existed in prior seasons, several Seahawks outcomes could have been far different, for better or worse.
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During offseason meetings with the NFL Competition Committee, the Eagles proposed an alternative to onside kicks, allowing a team to attempt to convert a fourth and 15 play from their own 25-yard line instead of attempting an onside kick.

The reason for the proposal? Traditional onside kicks have become virtually impossible to convert, as just six percent of them were successful in 2019.

Owners will vote on the measure to approve the rule on Thursday, May 28. If this XFL-inspired rule does indeed pass, it could completely change the outlook of late game scenarios moving forward.

Let's take a look back at scenarios from past Seahawks games where an onside kick was attempted and explore whether this new alternative would have helped or hurt the Seahawks.

2015 vs. Carolina Panthers, Divisional Round

This was one of the wildest games of the Pete Carroll era for the Seahawks. After Seattle squeaked by the Vikings to advance out of the Wild Card round, they met MVP quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers in Carolina.

The Panthers jumped out to a 31-0 lead heading into halftime thanks to two Seattle turnovers, including a pick-six, and Carolina's explosive offense scoring on their first four drives of the game.

In the second half, Seattle mounted an enormous comeback, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half, cutting the score to 31-14. In the fourth quarter, Seattle surged again with 10 points in the last six minutes of the game, making it just a 31-24 game.

Their last score was a field goal to bring the deficit to within a touchdown with just over a minute left in the game. 

The Seahawks' ensuing onside kick failed and they lost the game, a heart-breaker after a furious comeback with 24 unanswered points and a stalwart defensive effort coming out of halftime.

What if Russell Wilson had been able to attempt a fourth and 15 from Seattle's own 25 instead? He had Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett at his disposal. Given the fact that Seattle had racked up 403 yards of offense, the odds of them converting such an attempt to drive down and tie the game were far from remote.

Say the Seahawks convert it with the clock ticking under a minute and still needing over 50 yards to score and tie the game. Carroll's squad did have one timeout remaining before the onside kick was attempted.

Looking back, it would not have been a sure-fire victory even if Seattle had been allowed to make the onside kick alternative attempt, since they would have had to drive over 50 yards after converting the attempt and likely forced to burn their last timeout in the process. They also needed a touchdown to tie the game, which is far more difficult to do.

The odds still favored the Panthers winning the game in the Seahawks fleeting attempt to score at the end of regulation or in overtime with their MVP quarterback at the helm. Unless Seattle had chosen to try the attempt earlier in the game as well, since the proposal allows for two attempts per game, they likely still come away disappointed in Carolina.

2017 at Tennessee Titans

The matchup against the Titans was a frustrating one for the Seahawks and their fans. Tennessee ran wild on Seattle's defense to the tune of 420 yards, including 195 on the ground.

At one point, Seattle trailed 30-14 late in the third quarter. However, just as they are prone to do, the Seahawks surged back in the fourth quarter and nearly completed the comeback. 

Russell Wilson found Paul Richardson for a score with just under two minutes left, cutting the deficit to 33-27. Seattle attempted an onside kick, which failed.

If Wilson faced a fourth and 15 instead of the onside kick, he would have had a plethora of options to make the conversion, including Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Graham is a perfect target to try and convert a long fourth down down the seam.

Carroll still had one timeout in his pocket, which he could have used after the conversion or hold for later, as there still was over a minute and a half remaining in the game.

The odds of the Seahawks driving just over 50 yards with over a minute to go are pretty good, given the weapons Wilson had. Plus, the Seahawks only trailed by six, thus a touchdown and extra point would have won the game. 

Had Seattle won this game, perhaps it might have propelled them to a playoff spot instead of sputtering to a 9-7 finish and missing the postseason that year.

2018 at Dallas Cowboys, Wild Card Round

In this 2018 playoff game, once again the Seahawks found themselves behind in the fourth quarter trying to mount a heroic comeback.

After a tremendous third down conversion moving the chains with his legs, a touchdown run by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott gave Dallas a 24-14 lead with two minutes left.

Seattle was able to drive down and score a touchdown along with converting a two-point conversion, cutting the Dallas lead to just 24-22 with a bit over a minute to spare in the game.

From Seattle's perspective, this game would have been especially pertinent to the possible onside kick alternative. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski injured himself on a kick attempt before halftime, thus making him unavailable for an onside kick attempt. 

In reality, All-Pro punter Michael Dickson got the nod to attempt the onside kick, which failed miserably.

Instead, had Russell Wilson been given an opportunity to make the conversion, Seattle would have had a fighting chance to drive down and score a game-winning touchdown or at least attempt a high-pressure field goal with Dickson, who missed most of his field goal attempts during halftime.

Carroll had used all of Seattle's timeouts prior to the onside kick, so the Seahawks would have been working against the clock, with likely less than a minute to go after the conversion.

Late in that contest, the passing game began to open up for Wilson, thus he could have found big lanes open downfield to get Seattle in position to win this playoff game and advance to the Divisional Round against the Rams. 

2014 vs. Oakland Raiders

Coming off of a Super Bowl win, the Seahawks started the 2014 season 4-3 heading into a game against the Raiders in Seattle.

The Raiders were winless at 0-7, but for one reason or another, they gave the Seahawks all they could handle at home that day. 

The Seahawks led 24-3 at halftime, but they let the Raiders get back into the game in the third quarter thanks to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and another score by Oakland, putting the score at 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

Seattle got back up by 13 with two field goals at 30-17 before the Raiders made one last push with a touchdown pass from Derek Carr with just under two minutes remaining in the game, cutting Seattle's lead to six. 

The Raiders attempted an onside kick but Seattle recovered and ran out the clock.

Had Derek Carr been presented with an opportunity to convert a fourth-and-15, things may have shaken out different that day. Oakland was out of timeouts and a fourth down conversion would have put the clock at a minute and a half to go.

Still, given that this was in the peak of Seattle's elite defense with the Legion of Boom still around, minus Kam Chancellor that day, the Seahawks probably would have found a way to clamp down and come away with the win in dramatic fashion with a turnover or a big sack. 

2017 at Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals and Seahawks have had some tight battles through the years and this contest was no exception.

Seattle led 22-10 in the fourth quarter before Drew Stanton led a touchdown drive with 20 seconds left in the game, cutting the Seahawks lead to 22-16. The Cardinals attempted and failed an onside kick try, allowing Seattle to run out the clock and seal the win.

What if Stanton got a chance to make a conversion? The time remaining is key here, as even with a conversion, their hopes would likely have been riding on a Hail Mary try from just behind the 50 yard line.

However, with future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and big tight end Jermaine Gresham, the Cardinals had at least a puncher's chance at their prayers being answered against a gassed Seahawks defense. The odds were remote for Arizona pulling off the upset, but it certainly would have made things uncomfortable for Seahawks fans that day in the desert.

2018 vs. Kansas City Chiefs

This matchup was an epic showdown of two MVP-caliber quarterbacks on Sunday Night Football and it did not disappoint.

Though Seattle never trailed in this game, it seemed Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson were matching each other punch for punch, each throwing for over 270 yards and three touchdowns.

Seattle led by 10 late in the fourth quarter before Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 32-yard field goal to cut the Seahawks' lead to 38-31 with 1:20 left on the clock. The Chiefs helplessly tried an onside kick and failed, giving Seattle the win.

It's a dangerous proposition to give Patrick Mahomes an extra chance to win or tie a football game. He likely would have converted the try from his own 25-yard line in some other-worldly, Mahomes-like way. Kansas City still had a timeout in their pocket, which they would likely have used after the conversion.

Needing just over 50 yards with a minute left, Mahomes and the Chiefs had faced longer odds and succeeded before. This scenario would have left Seahawks fans squirming in their seats at CenturyLink Field.

The MVP quarterback easily could have orchestrated a game-tying touchdown as time expired, setting up a very dramatic overtime session. With how the game was playing out, with each offense humming, whoever won that overtime coin toss likely would have won the game.