They were yelling, chanting and jumping for joy in the locker room--the losing locker room.
In one of the most surreal scenes the NFL has witnessed recently, the Seattle Seahawks left the field 19-9 losers to the New York Jets today. Then they gathered around a television in the trainer's room and watched Oakland edge Kansas City, 41-38, in overtime, lifting the Seahawks to the AFC West title and their first playoff berth in 11 years.
A team that was thoroughly throttled by an opponent that is going home wound up in the Super Bowl chase.
"I'm a huge Raiders fan," quarterback Jon Kitna said with a smile. "This is great, it's what we play for. We just have to figure out how to fix things before next week."
That would be at home against Miami in a first-round game that appeared to have slipped away when the Chiefs led late in their home game. But the Raiders rallied, saving Seattle's season--and setting off the celebration by the Seahawks.
"I wasn't expecting help today," Coach Mike Holmgren said after his club lost its fifth in six games. "Heck, no. But we'll take it."
The Jets took the measure of nearly every contender they played down the stretch. After they plummeted to 1-6, largely because of an injury epidemic and several decisive errors in tight games, they finished 8-8 by winning their last four. They were one of the league's best teams in the second half of the season.
Curtis Martin gained 203 yards, 158 rushing, and scored the only touchdown as the Jets controlled most of the game.