Miraculous. Audacious. Gutsy.
These are just some of the many words used to describe Michael Dickson’s once-in-a-career play that helped Seattle seal victory over Detroit in the NFL on Monday (AEDT).
With the Seahawks leading 28-14 with just over two minutes on the clock, Seattle were on their final down and eight yards from securing a first down on their own three-yard line.
Coach Pete Carroll and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider decided Dickson would run down time on the clock before stepping out of bounds for a safety rather than punt the ball from deep inside their own end zone.
The time knocked off the clock, as well as the difference in field position, was more valuable than giving up two points in a close game.
But instead, shire product Dickson produced a stunning fake punt from his own end zone.
Going against the coaches’ play call, the punter saw space in front of him and took off out of the end zone for the first down line.
He made it, taking a strong hit for his trouble.
The gutsy play sealed the game for Seattle, allowing them to run the clock down in possession and secure their fourth win of the season.
Why was the play so outrageous? Because of what might have gone wrong.
Dickson said after the game he fully intended to step out of bounds – until he saw the space in front of him.
If he had been tackled short of a first down he would have gifted the ball back to the Lions. Or worse, he might have fumbled it and given up a touchdown.
But, as his coach told reporters after the game, it was something that “great players do”.
“That was us taking a safety, and that was a really terrific competitor, seeing the moment and seizing it,” Carroll said.
“I thought Mike was smiling as he turned the corner and he knew he could make the first down. He knew he was going to have to take a hit and he was thinking about taking care of the football. It was an incredibly beautiful play. Sometimes you have to improvise and really good players seem to do it at the right time. I thought that was a fantastic illustration of what’s to come.
“I thought it was awesome. I can’t love a play more than that. It was like he went against all tradition, all thinking and everything. But he saw a situation and he took advantage of it. And I think that’s what great players do and they surprise you sometimes. That was truly a surprise. That was a great moment and I was really fired up for him.”
Dickson has already turned heads in his rookie NFL season.
He left commentators speechless when he produced a ‘drop kick’ kick-off earlier this month and was already being talked about as a rookie of the year contender after game week one.
Dickson, from Kirrawee told the Seahawks website he had simply backed himself with his snap decision.
“I was meant to drain the clock a little bit,” Dickson said.
“We were going to take a safety. I was going to run around to the right, and before contact, step out and take the safety. But I looked up and there was a pretty big gap, and I felt like I could definitely get the first down. I knew I was going to get hit after, but I saw the first down and just tucked it and ran. As soon as I started, I was like, ‘there’s no backing out now, just go for it.’”
The 22-year-old decided to skip his final year of college and declare himself eligible for the NFL draft in April.
Seattle selected Dickson in the fifth round of the draft, taking him with the 149th pick. The Seahawks traded up seven places to take Dickson, handing the 156th and 226th picks to Denver for the right to move up the draft.
Dickson earned the Ray Guy Award in his final season with Texas as the best college punter in the US. He was later named the Texas Bowl MVP in his last game as a Longhorn.
Dickson was so impressive in pre-season that Seattle let go their longest-serving player, Jon Ryan, who had been the Seahawks’ punter for the last decade. Dickson led all NFL punters with an average of 51.7 yards per punt in pre-season.
Seattle are second in the NFC West and host Los Angeles on Monday (AEDT).