Seahawks kept believing until the end
RENTON, Wash. -- It was far from a direct route back to the Super Bowl for the Seattle Seahawks.
But finally, a straight pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse washed away a day of frustration and led the Seahawks back to the NFL's biggest game and a chance to become just the ninth team to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
Seattle's 28-22 overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, clinched on a Wilson-to-Kearse 35-yard touchdown, gave the Seahawks a date with the New England Patriots on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.
The touchdown capped an almost unfathomable rally from a 19-7 deficit with under three minutes to play.
"Words can't even describe it," said Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell of a game in which the Seahawks overcame five turnovers -- four interceptions by Wilson and a fumbled kickoff by Doug Baldwin -- and a tepid offense early that didn't get a first down until there was just over seven minutes left in the second quarter.
"We just had to keep believing and trusting," said linebacker K.J. Wright. "And take things one step at a time."
The defense kept Seattle in it early by twice keeping the Packers out of the end zone on drives that reached the 1-yard line, with Green Bay each time deciding to go for the field goal instead.
Seattle seemed out of it when the Packers picked off a fourth pass with just over five minutes left. But Seattle got the ball back with just under four minutes remaining and drove for a touchdown and then got an onside kick and a two-point play that helped offset a final Green Bay drive for a field goal that forced overtime.
Seattle won the coin toss and needed just six plays to drive 87 yards for a touchdown to win it.
The frantic ending set off an especially emotional reaction from some Seattle players, particularly Wilson, who circled the field with the Halas Trophy.
"I'm usually pretty calm," he said. "But I think just going through that game and going through the ups and down, a lot of downs, more so than normal, that's for sure. ... That's why I got emotional."
The Seahawks will now have a week in Seattle to get back to the task at hand.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the team will use a schedule similar to last year, when it got in the majority of its game plan at home before heading to the game -- the Seahawks will arrive Sunday. As Carroll said, the plan worked well last year -- in a 43-8 win over Denver in the Super Bowl -- so there seems little reason to change anything.
"This has got to be one for the ages," Carroll said.
Indeed it was.
REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- One could say that all's well that ends well, as Russell Wilson made up for a horrible first three-and-a-half quarters with a fabulous finish to win it. Still, four interceptions can't be ignored -- he'd never thrown more than three and hadn't tossed more than two since his rookie season. They weren't all his fault as two went off the hands of receiver Jermaine Kearse. But Wilson also forced two passes into coverage that were picked off and just seemed out of sync for much of the game. The receivers also struggled at times to get open against a Green Bay defense playing primarily man.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Marshawn Lynch was the main reason the offense did anything the first three quarters, and then powered the comeback with more strong running to finish with 157 yards. All but 37 of that came after halftime as the Seahawks pulled off their usual trick of eventually wearing down an opponent. The run blocking was spotty early and the Seahawks seemed to veer away from the zone read part of their offense for a while after Wilson took a big hit on an interception return. But Lynch was fabulous down the stretch, including the 24-yard run that put Seattle ahead late in the fourth quarter.
--PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Seahawks gave up a few uncharacteristic plays early on as Aaron Rodgers threw for 115 yards in the first half, with a touchdown. But he had just 53 on 13 attempts after halftime as the Seahawks held the Packers to just two field goals in the final three quarters, which keyed the comeback. Richard Sherman had a big interception in the end zone in the first quarter to stop a Packers drive and then also played through an elbow injury to stay on the field in the fourth quarter. Byron Maxwell also came up with an interception in the second quarter on a play where there appeared to be some miscommunication. That gave Maxwell two of the seven interceptions against Rodgers this season. One possible concern going forward is a pass rush that managed just one sack.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- This was yet another area that looked a little subpar early but then ended up being a key to the win. Eddie Lacy had 57 yards at halftime when the Packers held a 16-0 lead. But he had just 16 yards on eight carries in the second half as the Seahawks kept the Packers close enough at bay to end up pulling off the comeback. Nose tackle Kevin Williams had a particularly strong game and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was his usual self with a team-high 10 tackles.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- Seattle had a fumbled kickoff return early by Doug Baldwin that typified the kind of day it was in the first half. But it was the special teams that typified the comeback down the stretch with a perfectly executed fake field goal for a touchdown, a recovery of an onside kick, and a two-point play that gave Seattle what turned out to be a much-needed three-point lead. The onside kick and the fake field goal were alone worth the high grade.
--COACHING: A -- Credit Pete Carroll and his Win Forever philosophy with instilling in the Seahawks an almost uncanny belief that they are never out of any game. It was ugly for much of the day and those who wondered about the Seahawks' fragile state were probably waiting for the team to collapse. Instead, the Seahawks hung tough and made the plays at the end to rally. Also credit Carroll for a few aggressive play calls, notably the fake field goal that gave Seattle some needed momentum when things weren't going well. The Seahawks said their goal when they were down was to at least go down swinging. That's a true Carroll philosophy that ended up paying off.