For the past few seasons, the “L.O.B.” has been the driving force behind the success of the Seattle Seahawks, who are headed back to the Super Bowl after stunning the Green Bay Packers in a 28-22 overtime win in the NFC championship game.
As far as the fans know, “L.O.B.” stands for “Legion of Boom,” the powerful secondary led by Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. But to the players on the team, “L.O.B.” means something else entirely.
“Love Our Brothers,” according to tackle Garry Gilliam.
It’s hard to believe that the reigning Super Bowl champions could face doubt during their title defense, but that’s exactly what happened to the Seahawks after a shaky 6-4 start to the season, the abrupt trade of playmaker Percy Harvin and rumors of discord within the locker room. But they never folded, and they weren’t about to start on Sunday, not even down 12 with less than four minutes to play in the game.
“Everybody counted us out, y’all didn’t believe in us, a whole bunch of people didn’t think we were gonna make it,” an emotional Doug Baldwin shouted at reporters waiting to enter the locker room after the game. “It’s indicative of our entire season. Y’all ain’t gotta believe in us because we believe in ourselves.”
And they would need that belief against the Packers. Down 19-7 with 5:13 to go, quarterback Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception (the team’s fifth turnover of the game). At that point, it would be difficult to do anything other than doubt the Seahawks. And nobody would have faulted Green Bay for believing they were headed to Glendale and Super Bowl XLIX.
Except the Packers couldn’t finish the game. Looking to lean on their baby bull of a back, Eddie Lacy, Green Bay failed to move the ball when it absolutely had to, thanks to Seattle’s stiffened defense, which was battered – Sherman played through a hyperextended elbow and Thomas suffered a shoulder injury in the first half – but determined to once again bail out their brothers on offense.
“We felt good about coming up here to run the football,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said afterward. “But every week is a new week. And that was definitely the toughest point in the game to run the football. And their run defense was better.”
Lacy carried the ball three times for minus-4 yards on that drive, giving the ball back to Seattle with 3:52 to play. And from there, the champs were in business. It would take them one minute and 43 seconds to score their first offensive touchdown of the game, and after a successful onside kick, it took only 34 seconds to score their second. Fifty-eight minutes into the game, after five giveaways and seemingly as many Packers’ trips into the red zone, Seattle had its first lead. Just like the “L.O.B.” planned it.
“I believed in our offense, I believed in our playmakers, and Russ always finds a way,” Sherman said in his postgame press conference.
That belief ultimately has the Seahawks headed back to the Super Bowl, and one step closer to their goal of repeating as champions. To do that, they’ll have to beat the last team to win back-to-back titles, the New England Patriots – though you get the feeling Seattle wouldn’t have it any other way. They’ve come this far with a roster made up of 32 undrafted players. Wilson was too short, Marshawn Lynch was too uncontrollable, Sherman was too slow, Chancellor was too big, Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse were too small and Michael Bennett was too inconsistent. And the man leading them, head coach Pete Carroll, was a proven failure in the pros.
In short, this is a team that knows how to deal with the doubters. And then there’s Gilliam, who went undrafted last May. Despite the fact he had played most of his career at Penn State as a tight end (he tallied eight catches) Seattle liked his future at tackle, and Carroll liked “the chip on his shoulder,” so they invited him to camp. Raised by a single mother in a rough Pennsylvania neighborhood, Gilliam was no stranger to overcoming adversity, so in a sense, he was the perfect man for Carroll to call on during a pivotal moment in Sunday’s game – and the Seahawks’ season.
With less than five minutes to go in the third quarter and Seattle being shut out, Carroll called for a fake field goal. The play had just been introduced on Monday, and the Seahawks hadn’t even practiced it until Thursday, but none of that mattered: Punter Jon Ryan rolled out and flicked a wobbly pass to a wide-open Gilliam in the end zone. It was his first touchdown grab since high school, and it couldn’t have come at a bigger moment.
“I told him ‘Throw it to me, I’ll catch it,'” Gilliam said, when asked how he had inspired his coach’s confidence. Naturally, Carroll believed him.
That play changed the dynamic of the game, igniting a listless Seattle offense that had put up just 120 yards to that point, and bailed out Wilson, who had his worst game as a pro – until he dropped a game-winning dime into Kearse’s arms in overtime. And it was proof that unlike most scouts, coaches and so-called experts, Carroll doesn’t doubt the players on his team. He believes in them, and now, that belief has the Seahawks back in the Super Bowl, one win away from history. The pedigreed Patriots will be a stiff test, but after a season of doubt and a Sunday pushed to the brink, the Seahawks have been tested and then some. And they’re stronger for it.
“It’s a family,” Gilliam said. “We’re all brothers.”