The Seahawks' thrilling overtime win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday was good for this team for obvious reasons. They improved their record to 7-5, beat a very good, playoff-caliber team and proved to themselves that they actually can win on the road.
But they gained something more significant and more meaningful than that – they bonded as a team.
The scene on the sidelines as doctors and trainers hovered around semi-conscious receiver Sidney Rice was evidence that this team went through an experience that will help it come together and finish the season strong. As we all waited for the final decision on Rice's touchdown, we saw Golden Tate helping Rice over to the bench, Pete Carroll praising his young middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, Chris Clemons celebrating with Russell Wilson.
They had accomplished something that no one outside of Seattle believed they could and you could see the gratification in every coach and every player's face as they left a dead-quiet Soldier Field. It's an "us against the world" feeling that you can only get with a road victory.
The timing of that win was crucial. They bottled the recipe for a road win that they can use in Toronto when they face the Buffalo Bills, or possibly on the road if (when) they make the playoffs. The fact that they were on the road serves another important purpose. It allowed the significance of that experience to sink in as they made their long journey home.
There's nothing like winning on the road. Had that win occurred at CenturyLink Field, it wouldn't have been as momentous for the simple reason that after a home game, players go their separate ways. There's typically a brief meeting in the locker room and sometimes players will linger in the parking lot or get together for dinner. But for the most part, everyone disperses.
On the road, there's plenty of time on the buses and the team plane to savor the win and that makes for a lasting impression. Some of my fondest memories of the NFL include winning on the road.
The most memorable one came in Kansas City in 1990 and it was eerily similar to the 2012 Hawks' win in Chicago. The Seahawks had not beaten the Chiefs in Kansas City for 10 years and on that day in November, it felt like that streak would continue.
The late Derrick Thomas sacked quarterback Dave Krieg eight times in that game but it was the one he missed that allowed us to win. Trailing 16-10 with less than a minute to go, Krieg took us on a drive for the ages. He led a three-play, 66-yard scoring drive that ended with him ducking out of what would've been Thomas' ninth sack of the day and throwing a 25-yard touchdown strike to receiver Paul Skansi with no time left on the clock.
Much like the scene in Chicago on Sunday, the only sound in the stadium was the eruption of our sidelines.
That celebration continued off the field as we filed onto the buses and to the airport. Just outside of the gate to the team plane was a tiny airport bar. A few players trickled in for a quick beer before departure and it created a chain reaction that culminated in what looked like a frat party.
When head coach Chuck Knox noticed there was no one on the plane, he made his way up the jet way and into the bar. He gave us all a long, icy stare, reached into his pocket and plopped two $100 bills down and bought drinks for everyone. The 300-pound men spilling out of a broom-closet-sized bar made for an odd sight at Kansas City International that day.
The silence at Arrowhead Stadium, the impromptu party at the airport and the raucous plane ride home was something special that brought us together as a team. Like the 2012 Hawks, we overcame a major obstacle in adverse conditions. That win and that experience set us on a course to win seven of our last 10 games, reversed a 2-4 start and nearly landed us in the playoffs (we lost a tie-breaker to the Cincinnati Bengals).
I expect the win in Chicago will have a similar effect on this team. The Hawks have some more challenges to overcome and four games left to win. But once a team comes together, it's hard to beat.