With Sunday’s NFC Championship game fast approaching, questions are raining down about which offensive player holds the key to Seattle’s Super Bowl dreams. Can quarterback Russell Wilson rediscover his passing production against that San Francisco 49ers pass-rush? Will running back Marshawn Lynch be able to fully beast his mode against that dreaded Niners front-seven? Is wideout Percy Harvin going to shake off that concussion and return in time to save us from damnation and deliver us from evil? Everybody seems to have their own game-makers and deal-breakers.
But with all the noise, there’s one name that’s been strangely absent from the speculation, especially considering that this name has been responsible for over 1/3 of Seattle’s total points this season. That’s right. I’m talking about place kicker Steven Hauschka y’all.
Hauschka is a big boy at 6’4” and 210 lb., and has spent his three seasons with Seattle going from very good to great: In 2011, he was 25/30 on field goal attempts (83.3 percent accuracy) with 109 total points scored; in 2012, he went 24/27 (88.9 percent) for 118 points. In this 2013 regular season, he was nothing short of stellar, with 33 field goals on 35 attempts (94.3 percent) and 44 extra points after touchdowns for a total of 143 points.
Hauschka’s numbers put him among the top kickers in the league for 2013, but his contribution is made even more significant considering how much of the Seahawks’ total offense he was proportionately responsible for. Of Seattle’s 415 total points scored this season, 143 came off Hauschka’s foot. That’s roughly 34.4 percent of their offense. To put that into perspective, this percentage is just shy of Russell Wilson’s combined passing and rushing contribution of 162 points, which is about 39 percent.
This is not to mention that many of Hauschka’s points have come in clutch situations. In Week 1 at Carolina, he provided half of Seattle’s points in their 12-7 win over the Panthers. Against the Houston Texans in Week 4, Hauschka hit two late field goals, including the OT 45-yard game-winner, that sent the ‘Hawks to their first 4-0 start in franchise history. Hauschka helped Seattle to another comeback win in Week 9 over Tampa Bay, hitting from 36 in the fourth and 27 in OT. In their playoff win against the Saints, Hauschka conquered the rain and wind that QB’s Drew Brees and Russell Wilson could not: he hit three first half field goals (38, 49, 26) for 9 points that would prove crucial to Seattle’s 23-15 win down the stretch.
In this weekend’s NFC championship game, Hauschka’s accuracy and grace-under-pressure will be more important than ever.
San Francisco is a team that’s also founded on solid defense (7th against the pass, 4th against the rush) and a possession-based power run-game. They will be looking to get stops on defense and slow the game down on offense by putting the ball on the ground and controlling the clock. After two big playoff road-wins, the Niners are not about to allow the ‘Hawks to put up big points like they did in Week 2. This will be a low-scoring affair similar to San Francisco’s Week 14 win over Seattle, a win that was capped by a late Phil Dawson field goal for the Niners.
Whether or not Seattle manages to address their recent offensive foibles, it is likely that Hauschka’s accuracy and clutch mentality will turnout to be a deciding factor down the stretch. And as a fantasy football owner who enjoyed the spoils of Hauschka’s put-da-team-on-mah-back mentality this season, whose team was literally named “Hauschka of the Rising Sun,” I have to say that I’m not worried in the slightest.
Meet Clint Gresham, Steven Hauschka’s partner in crime.