One of the most bizarre finishes in football annals

Excerpt from “Walt Loves the Bearcat”

“To Buffalo we go for highlights of the first playoff matchup earlier today. The skies were blustery and the wind chill five below–not the most ideal circumstances for the Indoor Seahawks, but a win today on the frozen tundra of Rich Stadium would put Seattle in next week’s AFC Championship for only the second time in franchise history and the first time in over a decade.”

“And, Jake, if you take a look at the way this Seattle ball club has risen in only two years under quarterback Walt Yeager–you knew they weren’t going to be rattled by snowballs from the stands. This is a team that went 13-3 in the regular season—”

“Yeah, but only 6-2 since the release of Yeager-meister Ice Cream.”

“Ouch … there you see the meister throwing before the game, trying to keep his hands warm–look! Someone in the stands was also warming up! A snowball barely misses the QB. Does he flinch? Not this gunslinger. He’s got his own flava! And dare I say, some of that Joe Namath swagger?”

“Yeah, but these are the 14-2 Buffalo Bills, and Jim Kelly came out smokin’ today. Here you see the Bills QB connecting on a little screen to Thurman Thomas, who breaks two tackles and—”

“He … could … go … he does go all the way … puts the Bills up 10-7 early in the second quarter.”

“I thought Reggie Showman should have stopped him on that one, but maybe Reggie was thinking about the fact that only three people went to see his last movie, which opened this weekend.”

“Ouch … third quarter … Yeager tries to unthaw the Seahawks offense. Last week, they had that thunderous and towel-waving Kingdome crowd behind them in beating Marino and Miami, 17-0.”

“Yeah, but Buffalo in January is a different story.”

“Needless to say, a big test for the first-time Pro Bowler Yeager. And he would be tested. Here’s the Bills’ Cornelius Bennett sacking him from behind on third down. Here’s the Bills’ Bruce Smith saying hello in your face on another third and long. Finally, Yeager converts on third and six early in the fourth, which leads to this 22-yard field goal by El Kicko. Tie game, 13-13. Bills get a field goal on their next possession to go up 16-13 with less than 10 minutes to go in regulation.”

“And that’s when the snow kicks in again, swirling in a crazy wind, and the Buffalo fans are loving it!”

“So are Jim Kelly and the Bills. After a Seahawk punt, Kelly begins a methodical drive downfield, carving up Seattle’s secondary with Lofton, Reed and Beebe.”

“Think he’s trying to teach the whippersnapper Walt on the other sideline a little something?”

“Kelly should have been paying attention to Reggie Snowman! Showman–whatever he calls himself–picks off this bullet meant for Tasker. And look at Reggie–Go Reggie! Go Reggie!”

“Maybe he heard two more people paid to see his movie!”

“Ouch … Show takes the ball from his own 25 to midfield, giving the offense plenty of time to make it happen–three to tie, six to win. Yeager-meister goes to work, connecting on this 15-yarder to Junior Jefferson, the hobbled receiver who shouldn’t be playing in his condition.”

“Hey, it’s the playoffs.”

“Then a shuttle pass to Millstone nets another eight yards.”

“There you see El Kicko–acquired by the Seahawks from the Rams mid-season–warming up his foot, trying to keep unfrozen on the sidelines.”

“He shouldn’t have been the only one, as you’ll see in a second here … less than four minutes to go … Hawks down by three … winner meets Pittsburgh for all the AFC marbles next week. Yeager takes the snap from the shotgun, guns it over the middle. Jefferson sells out his already-banged-up body and boom! He’s decked by Bennett but holds on for a Seattle first down at the 15-yard line!”

“Yeah, but there’s too much time on the clock, and something tells me Walt Yeager does not want to leave it up to somebody else’s foot.”

“Seahawks run a couple of running plays between the hash marks–smart move–forcing Buffalo to use all their timeouts. On third down, Millstone pounds it down to the one-yard line, and just when you think it’s time to talk about Seattle vs. Pittsburgh …”

“This has got to be one of the most bizarre finishes in football annals. Can I say that?”

“This we know for fact: Seahawks’ ball at the one-yard line with 33 seconds to go; neither team has a timeout. Yeager and Coach Robbins are trying to communicate and figure out what to do. They look to be in agreement here; they’re going to run one more play to try punch it in the end zone, then line up for a quick field goal, if unsuccessful.”

“Makes sense in this wind. And let’s face it, El Kicko—”

“Yeager keeps it on a keeper here, doesn’t get in.”

“But wait, why are the Bills celebrating?”

“Because the game is over, right? The yard marker says that was fourth down! In the confusion, the Bills offense rushes the field, runs a play to run out the clock–a smarter move!–and they’re outta there.”

“But it was not fourth down! Millstone got a first down on the previous play! But the down marker guy on the sideline fell out of sync with the last two plays! Why? Take a look here. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that his tongue was stuck frozen to the pole of the down marker! What his tongue was doing there in the first place, we can only imagine, but what we do know is, he was too embarrassed to ask for help!”

“How do you ask for help when your tongue is frozen to a pole?”

“In the commotion, no one noticed in time to stop play.”

“If I’m a Seahawks coach, I’m running on the field naked to hold up the game.”

“Ouch … talk about frozen appendages. The Bills run one quick play to kill the clock–game over, right?”

“Twenty minutes later, officially, after a dozen meetings in the snow. Hey, where’d the guy with the frozen tongue go?”

“The Seahawks say they’ll protest, but we all know how those turn out.”

“Once another play has been run, it’s over, baby. Not to mention, they ain’t gonna come back to the frozen tundra and replay nuttin’.”

“Buffalo wins, 16-13, thanks in part to the Frozen Ref–or whatever you call those sideline guys.”

“I call him fired.”

“For Jim Kelly and the Bills, it’s on to Pittsburgh. For the Seahawks, it’s a hot toddy on a long plane ride home. For buddies Walter Yeager and Bear Coleman, it’s on to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, where it’s highly unlikely there will be any frozen tongues or poles.”

—from Walt Loves the Bearcat

**Find out what happens when the teams meet again in the playoffs the following year in Tongue-tied at an undisclosed location.