The common phrase "Falling down on the job" refers to failing in something you should be able to do. But falling down on the job turned out to be anything but failure for John Carlson on Saturday.
Carlson, a Litchfield, Minn., native, caught two touchdown passes to help the Seattle Seahawks pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history with a 41-36 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
It was Carlson's second TD reception that caught the eye of the NBC television crew when the third-year tight end feigned a chop-block attempt at the line of scrimmage, dropping to the ground in front of safety Roman Harper's feet. With Harper ignoring the fallen Seahawk, Carlson quickly rose to his feet and drifted out to the left flat all alone. Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hit Carlson for a seven-yard TD, pulling the Seahawks within 17-14 with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
"It was a designed play," Carlson said after the game. "We knew that if I blocked on the backside they would kind of lose me. That's what they showed on film and that's what they did today." Carlson, who also caught an 11-yard TD pass with 3:38 left in the first quarter, had entered the game with only one TD among his 31 receptions this season.
"It's always fun to get in the end zone," said Carlson after the game. "Whether it's preseason, regular season, seven-on-sevens, or whether you're playing at a picnic with your family, it's always fun to score touchdowns. But to have a couple in this game and to get a big team win, that's the most important thing."
Seattle, the No. 4 seed, will now play at Chicago at noon next Sunday.
The Seahawks (7-9), entering the game as the first sub-.500 team in NFL playoff history, were an 11-point underdog. And, after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, it appeared as though the game would follow the expected script.
But Carlson put the Seahawks on the board after faking a run-block off the right side and floated uncovered to the end zone where Hasselbeck fired the first of his four TD passes on the day.
The Saints re-established their 10-point lead at 17-7 before Carlson's second score a few minutes later made it 17-14. After Olindo Mare's 29-yard field goal tied the game, Hasselbeck connected with Brandon Stokley on a 45-yard scoring strike with 1:15 left in the half to give Seattle the lead for good.
Hasselbeck, who missed the Seahawks' division clinching victory over the St. Louis Rams last week with an injury, returned to pass for 272 yards and four scores. Carlson finished with three receptions for 17 yards and his two TDs.
The Saints had a chance to pull the game out as Drew Brees threw a TD pass with 1:30 left in the game to make it 41-36. The Saints then attempted an onside kick, but the ball popped up and fell harmlessly into Carlson's arms. The tight end quickly fell to the ground and wisely covered up to avoid any chance of being hit and fumbling.
Seems the "falling down on the ground" phrase now has a whole new meaning when it comes to Carlson.
Scott Thoma is a reporter at the West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minn., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.