Call it Hawk ‘n awe.
Actually, that was one of the headlines we considered for The Seattle Times. And it works for the insanity that happened Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks’ stunning comeback to beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game not only had Seahawks fans leaping out of their seats, it had the national media nearly at a loss at their keyboards.
Just how do you describe one of the greatest games in NFL playoff history?
Some called it ridiculous, others called epic and still others called it a miracle (that was our A1 headline, in huge type with an exclamation mark, no less).
Dust off a word, and someone probably used it Sunday. The national media and major newspapers covering the game Sunday were as surprised as you were. This was so improbable it defied description.
But, oh, did we try.
Russell Wilson’s tears. Michael Bennett riding a policeman’s bike around the field. Doug Baldwin’s rant. Marshawn Lynch’s silence. It’s all here in a roundup of what the media wrote.
First, here are links to all our coverage (or pick up the paper, which includes a souvenir Page A1 and a 12-page Seahawks Extra section), then a roundup of what was written about the game nationally. We’ll have more later in the week looking ahead to the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl matchup.
In the Seahawks’ locker room, maybe 45 minutes after the NFC Championship Game ended, I stood and looked around.
A story in every corner of the room.
Where the defensive backs dressed, there was Richard Sherman grimacing as his father, Kevin, helped him put his shirt on, gingerly maneuvering his hyperextended left elbow. “Dressing him just like when he was a little boy,” a bystander said. A few lockers down, still in full uniform, safety Earl Thomas, his shoulder dislocated, sat and stared ahead blankly—I’m guessing dreading the act of taking his uniform off because of the oncoming pain.
Tight end Luke Willson, the shaggy Canadian, regaled one wave of the media (there would be others) with the story of an amazing two-point conversion that will go down in Seahawks lore—as will so many things that happened on a windswept and rainy championship Sunday. Willson had a goofy look on his face, like he still couldn’t believe what happened.
Up the row of lockers from Willson, where the wide receivers dressed, one of the two most anonymous Seahawks on this day, wideout Chris Matthews, didn’t want the moment to end. You could see it in his face, as he told the story of the onside kick that ruined the Packers and gave the Seahawks life.
Now, across the way, on offensive-line row, the other of the two anonymous guys, backup rookie tackle Garry Gilliam, a rookie free agent from Penn State, had a cell phone to his ear, and a wide smile on his face, gesturing with his hands while doing a radio interview on some distant show.
Then, in middle of the lockers in the corner of the room, Russell Wilson, his face still streaked with tears and eyeblack, the happiest guy in the room, sat with his hands on the shoulders of a crouching Lane Gammel, the Seahawks’ director of football communications, like he wanted to hug him. The joy on his face told the story of the day.
Everywhere, a story. Ed Werder, the ESPN reporter, came over. “We’ve covered the game for so long,” Werder said, “and been to so many games with so many different things happening. How amazing it is that almost every time, you see something you’ve never seen before. Right?”
Oh, many things. Thirty-one seasons I’ve covered the NFL, going back to a training camp in 1984 in Wilmington, Ohio, covering Paul Brown’s Bengals and watching many a hot summer practice alongside Brown. And I started to think of the great games I’ve covered and how they’d compare to this one. The only one that came to mind, standing there in the Seattle locker room, was the ridiculous Houston-Buffalo wild-card game 22 years ago, with Buffalo down 35-3 in the third quarter playing a backup quarterback and, of course, coming back to win.
But this game … this was different from anything. It was the suddenness. It was Seattle being awful for 55 minutes, as bad as they’d been in any Pete Carroll Era game of consequence, Russell Wilson capping the worst game of his high school, college or pro football career with his fourth interception with 5:04 left. At that moment, Green Bay led 19-7, and it shouldn’t have been that close. …
At that moment, CenturyLink Field as quiet as anyone’s ever heard it, some fans already up and streaming for the exits. Wilson came to the sideline and made a beeline for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
“We’re gonna win it,” Wilson said. “I know we’re gonna win it.”
And he said he had a play he knew was going to work.
Something historic is going to happen in 13 days in Arizona, now that we know that the two top seeds in the 2014 playoffs—14-4 New England and 14-4 Seattle—will be meeting in Super Bowl 49. Either the Seahawks will become the first team in a decade, and the ninth team all-time, to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Or the Patriots, in their sixth Super Bowl appearance, will finally win their fourth title of the Brady-Belichick Era after a decade of knocking at the door and not winning one. You can look it up: The 10-year anniversary of New England’s last Super Bowl win, 24-21 over Philadelphia, is just two weeks away.
Super Bowls are more often duds than scintillating affairs, and this matchup promises nothing. Except this: In the span of two hours Sunday night, Vegas spun the line significantly. At 9:30 p.m., near the end of the Patriots’ 45-7 laugher over Indianapolis, Seattle was a 2.5-point favorite. By 11:30, it was a pick-’em line. That seems fitting. On the surface you’d give the Patriots a ton of credit for eviscerating a team in the conference championship game, but the Colts were such paper tigers that it’s hard to know if New England is the 2007 Patriots or just a team that took advantage of a weak foe. (Or both.) Either way, the even-Steven Super Bowl matches two hot teams. New England has had one hiccup of substance since Oct. 1, a narrow loss at Green Bay. And Seattle, since being an unsteady 6-4 at midseason, is 8-0.
Wilson let go of the ball at the Packer 43. It came down at the one, leading Kearse perfectly. The coverage was tight—borderline interference, in fact, with Williams’ hands going around Kearse’s neck as the ball arrived. “I felt I was in good position,” Williams said. “But he made the throw, and I couldn’t get the ball out. The guy made a good catch, Russell made a good throw. Good read.”
“Tunnel vision,” said Kearse. “I knew I was going to make the play.”
The ball nestled into Kearse’s arms. Williams hogtied him to the ground, but Kearse hung on. Back judge Dino Paganelli, the Grand Rapids AP history teacher (remember him from my Week in the Life of an Officiating Crew series last year?) waited to see that Kearse came down with it. He waited an extra tick, then threw his arms in the air. Touchdown.
“Instant classic,” Bevell said.
“One for the ages,” Carroll said.
“That may be one of the best games in NFL history,” said Wilson.
The Fine Fifteen (Power rankings)
T-1. Seattle (14-4).I don’t know how Vegas makes a line for Supe 49.
T-1. New England (14-4). You can look at it like Seattle escaped and New England dominated, but let’s be real: The Colts were not worthy of being in the NFL’s final four. They did earn a spot in the AFC title game, so good for them. But they are not the fourth-best team in football. They’re fortunate to be fifth. New England just shredded the Colts, for the fourth time in three seasons. And New England’s really, really good. I think it has the potential to be an all-timer of a Super Bowl in Arizona.
3. Green Bay (13-5). I was in the funeral Pack locker room. I can think of a lot of reasons to rip the Packers for giving up three touchdowns in the last six minutes of an NFC Championship Game, but the feeling I had walking around the room was pity. So hard to see a team lose a game in such a strange, completely falling-apart way.
Offensive Player of the Week
Tom Brady, quarterback, New England. The Pats got the ball first in the third quarter, up 17-7 and in a driving rainstorm, and Brady hit eight of eight on the first two drives of the half for 104 yards and two touchdowns. It was all over then, and Brady deservedly earned a quarterback-record sixth berth in the Super Bowl.
Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle. No Offensive Player of the Week in my column, I feel sure, has ever been as bad as Wilson was in the first 55 minutes of a game … and I doubt as exhilarating in the final few. Wilson’s four interceptions were a career-high, at any level of football. But when he had to make plays—on 69-, 50- and 87-yard scoring drives that kept Seattle’s hopes alive and eventually won the Seahawks the game—he made them, including two gorgeous throws in overtime to beat the stunned Packers.
Defensive Players of the Week
Richard Sherman, cornerback; Earl Thomas, free safety, Seattle. I think most football people knew Thomas is a freakazoid when it comes to dishing out big hits and playing with pain. But Sherman? Thomas left the game with a subluxed shoulder, an injury defined by the shoulder bone slipping out of the joint, and came back in the second half with the shoulder in a harness—and then whacked Eddie Lacy with that same shoulder on a hard tackle. “I’m a man, man,” Thomas said. Sherman hyperextended his elbow in the third quarter, never missed a snap because of it, and made a jarring mid-field tackle of Jordy Nelson down the stretch. “That,” Sherman said later, “was absolutely not a pleasant feeling.” Sherman had an interception on the first Green Bay series of the game, and Sherman and Thomas combined for nine tackles.
Coach of the Week
Bill Belichick, coach, New England. In meaningful games since Oct. 1 (I am not counting Week 17 against Buffalo), the Patriots are 12-1. That means Belichick, since the 41-7 beatdown at Kansas City in Week 4, knew precisely what he was doing when he traded Logan Mankins for Tim Wright and a fourth-round pick (which will be about the 101st overall pick this spring), and when he experimented with line combinations throughout September. On Sunday against Indianapolis, he again confounded an opposing coaching staff (though I would blame Chuck Pagano for not having his team ready for the left-tackle-eligible play that resulted in the Nate Solder touchdown) and showed he’s simply the best coach coaching football today.
Goat of the Week
Brandon Bostick, tight end, Green Bay. This is the kind of play that can haunt a player forever. With the Packers nursing a five-point lead with 2:09 to play and only one timeout left for Seattle, the Seahawks onside-kicked. Bostick’s job on the play was to block and allow the more sure-handed players behind him (most notably Jordy Nelson) to catch the ball. But Bostick jumped for it, the ball went though his hands, and the Seahawks recovered. If Bostick or Nelson had recovered, Green Bay could have run out the clock by getting just one more first down.
The game had been over for a few moments, and Doug Baldwin was heat-seeking, headed straight for his audience. A small throng of media had clotted in the halls of CenturyLink Field, and the Seahawks wideout hit the brakes and wheeled around with a derogatory pitch.
“You ready? Y’all ready for it?” Baldwin said in blended anger and excitement, as eyeballs honed in.
“Three-and-three! Remember the beginning of the season when we were 3-3?!”
Baldwin moved closer.
“I want y’all to write this down,” he said. “Write this down, OK? Remember when we were 3-3? Everybody counted us out! Y’all didn’t believe in us! A whole bunch of people saying that we weren’t going to make it, right? When we were 6-4 [you were like], ‘Aw, it’s ok, they got a winning record, but they not gonna go to the playoffs. Remember that? [Trailing] 16-0 at the first half! How many y’all counted us out?! How many y’all doubted us? It’s indicative of our entire season. Y’all don’t want to believe in us, it’s OK. You ain’t gotta believe in us because we can believe in ourselves.”
aldwin spun and headed to the locker room, leaving behind a chorus of laughter, mock cheers and eyeballs rolling. Surely he could have been talking about any number of critics after Sunday’s 28-22 overtime win against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game. Maybe it was the media. Maybe it was opposing NFL players or the retired ones behind the camera. Or perhaps it was a smattering of Seattle’s own fan base, the precious 12th Man, which ended the game at 11 and 9/10ths, by virtue of those who left the stadium following a late fourth-quarter interception that appeared to seal Seattle’s demise.
No matter who Baldwin is blaming, his mantra is hardly new. Long before Seattle clawed back on Sunday, championship-caliber teams have bathed playoff runs in faux-disrespect. This is a necessary component to accomplish a rare feat in today’s NFL: winning it all and then pulling it together and getting back to a Super Bowl one year later.
When he was the 75th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Russell Wilson showed little emotion. He was just grateful for the opportunity, though he may have burned inside with the knowledge that if he were a few inches taller, he might have been a top-10 pick. When he was the odd man out as the Seahawks tried to validate their decision to overpay free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn, Wilson showed little emotion. He just started throwing dimes to receivers he’d never seen before in rookie minicamp and never stopped on his rise to earning Seattle’s starting quarterback job. When he was thought by many to be a game manager early in his career and largely dismissed as a primary factor in Seattle’s ascent to the Super Bowl last season, he showed little emotion. He just went out and made the plays that needed to be made.
And when he threw four interceptions Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, Russell Wilson showed little emotion. He just kept his head down, continued to believe in his ability to rally his team and helped win the game with a gorgeous 35-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jermaine Kearse with 11:48 left in overtime. That score completed a comeback from 19-7 down late in the fourth quarter, a rally that included a fake field goal attempt for a touchdown, an improbable two-point conversion and two crucial bullets from Wilson to his receivers.
When the Seahawks’ 28-22 win went final and Wilson knew that he would be the first quarterback on a back-to-back Super Bowl team since Tom Brady a decade ago, Wilson let it go. He cried openly on the field, letting the emotion wash over him. Which was interesting, given that when the Seahawks took this same journey last year, Wilson was as he usually is: buttoned-up and buttoned-down, with a ready answer for everything but never anything too revealing.
True to form, Wilson was easy with the quips after the game.
“The game started off kinda ugly, didn’t it?” Wilson said. “But that last three minutes, plus that overtime, is probably as good as you can get.”
At the expense of the shell-shocked Packers, a Seahawks team that has learned to believe in itself no matter what enjoyed its finest hour yet with this comeback — the biggest in NFC title game history, spearheaded by the first quarterback in NFL history to throw four or more interceptions in a championship game and actually win. (The only other quarterback to do it in professional football history was George Blanda, who threw five picks for the 1961 Houston Oilers in the American Football League’s 1961 title game, a 10-3 win over the San Diego Chargers.) Wilson finished Sunday with 14 completions in 29 attempts for 209 yards, those four interceptions and that one magical touchdown, one week after he had the best third-down playoff performance of any quarterback in the last 10 years against the Panthers: 8-for-8 on third down for 199 yards and three touchdowns. On this day, Wilson couldn’t buy a touchdown with all the money he’s going to get in his new contract this offseason … until it was absolutely crucial, and until a defense that had its way with him all day was suddenly lost in a fog.
In other words, you have to go deep into the recesses of history to come up with anything as weird as this.
Where to even begin in describing the miracle that was Seattle’s win over the shell-shocked Packers? No team had won a playoff game despite committing five turnovers since the 1982 Jets managed it, and the Seahawks crawling out of a 16-0 halftime deficit registered as the second-largest comeback in NFC title game history (bested only by San Francisco’s 17-point rally to win at Atlanta two years ago).
And Russell Wilson’s remarkable day. Simply put, I’ve never seen a quarterback look so bad for so long in this kind of setting, and still find a way to make all the plays that had to be made in order to win the game. Wilson had nothing going for him in the game’s first 56-plus minutes, and he finished the first half 2-of-9 for 12 yards, no TDs, three INTs and a 0.0 passer rating. And he still led the team to touchdown, touchdown, touchdown on the game’s final three meaningful drives in regulation and overtime — a span that went from 3:52 left in regulation to 3:19 into overtime.
What a microcosm of the Seahawks’ 2014 season. The early struggles, followed by the show of pride and resilience, and finally a glorious ending. It was all there in abbreviated form for Seattle against Green Bay, and somehow you actually believed the Seahawks when they said they never lost faith, despite trailing 19-7 with under four minutes remaining.
“I think that’s the best game I’ve ever been in for sure,’’ Wilson said. “I think that may be one of the best games in NFL history. I can’t see a much better game than that. We didn’t show our best at first, but in our whole season we didn’t show our best at first. But we always find a way to finish.
“That’s kind of the story of our season, 3-3, 6-4, win the last six games of the regular season and get into this game, a huge game. We started off slow but that’s what we talked about, just continue to believe in one another. To play in the Super Bowl back-to-back years, when everybody thought we were out when we were 3-3, when everyone thought we were out when we were 6-4, when everybody thought we were out of this game. You just trust the experience, you trust the guys you have around you, and you have faith in the people around you.’’
Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse will be the lasting image from Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. Wilson’s late-game heroics, in light of his struggles for 55 minutes, will dominate the narrative as the Seahawks make a second straight Super Bowl trip. But if not for two special teams plays, we’d be talking about Aaron Rodgers’ date with Tom Brady in Glendale.
Consider the story of Chris Matthews. The reserve wide receiver has never caught an NFL pass, but on Sunday he reeled in one of the highest-pressure onside kick attempts in NFL history.
Matthews, 25, was elevated to the Seahawks’ active roster a month ago. He had gone undrafted in 2011 and played two seasons for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Seattle cut him twice this season.
Six years ago he was a four-star JUCO prospect out of Los Angeles Harbor College. He wanted nothing but to play for hometown USC. One afternoon before a JUCO game, Matthews was lounging at a teammate’s home in Palos Verdes when his host mentioned he lived next door to the Trojans’ head coach, Pete Carroll.
Matthews casually told his friends he’d be right back, then slipped out the front door.
“So I ran out to my car, and I had a box of DVDs of my highlights,” Matthews says. “I took a disc—and this was real bold of me, but I was real desperate.”
He knocked on Carroll’s door. No answer. He knocked again. As he was about to slip the disc through the mail slot, Glena Carroll opened the door.
“I said, Hey, my name is Chris Matthews, and gave her the whole rundown and she said she’d give it to him,” he says. “And that was it. No call.”
People forget this, but when Brady first burst onto the scene, he wasn’t some stat-piling, superstar quarterback. People loved him because he won games, even though attaching entire team wins and losses to a quarterback is a fairly nebulous enterprise.
There weren’t many losses to attach, though. Brady went 9-0 during his first trips years to the playoffs (in four years), elevating his game at each succeeding level and helping to construct a legendary reputation before his career even really took off.
Wilson’s not too far off in terms of building out his legacy. Dude is a game away from having two Super Bowl rings in his first three years and becoming the highest-paid quarterback in the league. After laying a complete and utter egg — and a literal one in the first quarter, with a 0.0 passer rating — Wilson came on strong to hit Jermaine Kearse for a game-winning touchdown.
“There ain’t nothing more beautiful than that last play,” Pete Carroll said.
Wilson isn’t a stat-gobbling monster under center. He plays more like a point guard and even the best point guards have off days. But like his upcoming opponent, Wilson still manages to rise to the occasion.
After a terrible start against the Packers — four interceptions in regulation — Wilson finished strong (6/7 for 134 yards and two total TDs from the final 3:52 of regulation on) and still managed to create a fascinating and close comparison in playoff statistics between he and Brady through their first three years.
Think about it: Are there two more hated teams in the league right now than New England and Seattle? I know they both have passionate fan bases, but outside their regions, are they not the two teams that others love to hate?
Why the hate? Count the ways.
—The Bill Belichick-Brady combo, with their three rings and six Super Bowls, fosters disdain. Everybody hates winners, even though they deserve mad respect.
—The Seahawks are defending champions. See: winners.
—Richard Sherman‘s mouth. I like it, but others don’t.
—The Seahawks’ brashness, including receiver Doug Baldwin ripping the media after his team rallied to beat Green Bay Sunday and Marshawn Lynch grabbing his privates after scores, and then making a mockery of the media with his post-game antics.
—Spygate. Enough said.
On and on it goes. The only team that comes close to this type of national hate is the Dallas Cowboys, and even Chris Christie couldn’t help push them to the top two spots.
But you know what, we wouldn’t want to see any other game right now. There is so much to love about this matchup.
There’s Brady vs. the Seattle defense. There’s Seattle coach Pete Carroll against the team that fired him. There’s Belichick getting two weeks to face Russell Wilson‘s talents. There’s the natural comparison of Sherman vs. Darrelle Revis and trying to decide who’s the league’s best cover player.
Wilson is 5 feet 11, a former third-round draft pick who revived his football career only after a professional baseball career fizzled. He’s also the NFL’s most impressive winner, a young and poised player who is one victory away from winning two Super Bowls in three NFL seasons.
On Sunday, Wilson somehow had his best and worst game as a pro. He already has a reputation for avoiding crippling mistakes, only throwing three interceptions in a game once: his fourth game in the NFL. He had three in the first half against the Packers, whose lingering error was settling for three field goals. Wilson kept passing, kept flinging trying to turn his luck, throwing his fourth pick with 5 minutes 13 seconds to play and Green Bay leading by 12. “Kind of ugly, huh?” Wilson said later.
It was worse than that: Wilson wasn’t even his team’s best quarterback through three quarters after punter Jon Ryan executed a brilliant and gutsy fake field goal for a touchdown.
Then Wilson found running back Marshawn Lynch for a 26-yard gain that led to Wilson’s one-yard touchdown, and an onside kick landed in Seattle wide receiver Chris Matthews’s hands. “I didn’t have to do nothing,” Matthews said. “It just opened up like the Red Sea.”
Wilson naturally led a flawless, seven-play touchdown drive, punctuating it with a two-point conversion on a backpedaling, floating, doomed pass that, yes, found tight end Luke Willson for a 22-19 lead. “I don’t even know how to explain it,” Willson said, shaking his head.
Wilson had four interceptions, and the Packers looked as if they would avenge their 20-point loss here in the Kickoff Opener. Green Bay opened a 16-0 halftime lead, and had 33 offensive snaps on Seattle’s side of the field before the Seahawks had a single snap in Packers territory.
Sunday marked the first time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that a team won a conference championship game despite having four passes intercepted. In 1961, Houston beat San Diego in the AFL title game, even though George Blanda had five picks.
The first points the Seahawks put on the board didn’t come on a throw by Wilson, or a run by Marshawn Lynch, but a toss by holder Jon Ryan, who found a heck of a time to complete the first touchdown pass of his career — at any level of football. He connected with offensive lineman Garry Gilliam for a 19-yard score on the fake field goal.
“I had my speech prepared for after the game,” said Steve Ryan, reclining in his brother’s locker stall afterward. “I said, ‘Well, if you’re going to lose an NFC championship game, at least you got to throw a touchdown pass.’ And then the miracle happens.”
In truth, they were rapid-fire miracles, starting with the Seahawks’ coming alive with three minutes left in regulation.
You could call the NFC Championship Game a great comeback by the Seahawks, or you could call it a horrendous collapse by the Packers. But this was something different.
The Packers didn’t so much cost themselves Sunday’s game by playing badly in the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks can’t just credit their comeback to great play in the fourth quarter. What really cost the Packers this game is that when they had a chance to finish the Seahawks, put them away, step on their throats, they didn’t do it.
As great as it seemed like the Packers were playing when they built their 16-0 lead in the first half, the reality is that they were keeping the Seahawks in the game with overly cautious play calling and poor strategic decisions, particularly on fourth downs.
The Seahawks’ defense remains great. Aaron Rodgers may be the best player in the NFL right now, but Seattle made him look ordinary. Rodgers finished 19-for-34 for 178 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, for a passer rating of 55.8. That was just the second time in the last four years that Rodgers finished a game with a passer rating under 60. If the Seahawks have another great game in the Super Bowl, they have to be considered among the handful of greatest defenses in NFL history.
The Seahawks’ medical staff has some explaining to do. Russell Wilson took a hard helmet-to-helmet hit from Clay Matthews in the second quarter, and FOX’s Erin Andrews later reported that the Seahawks’ doctors only looked at Wilson for “two seconds” after that. Richard Sherman suffered an injury later in the game, went down in obvious pain on the sideline, and then went right back in without missing a single play. The sideline medical staff needs to explain why, with the NFL’s emphasis on player safety, those two players were allowed to keep playing without being thoroughly checked.
Russell Wilson has incredible luck. After picking up a fumbled snap on Sunday, Wilson has now fumbled 13 times in the regular season and postseason combined — and the Seahawks have recovered all 13 of those fumbles. That’s remarkably good fortune; the bounce of a football is so unpredictable that when a ball is fumbled, it’s little more than a coin flip which team is going to recover. But Wilson or his teammates keep falling on his fumbles. Wilson had a generally awful game on Sunday, with four interceptions, and yet when it was all said and done he topped 200 passing yards and his team somehow won. Things just keep going Wilson’s way.
Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, in two weeks will be a matchup of the NFL’s most recent dynasty franchise and what could be the next dynasty franchise.
The New England Patriots were the NFL’s most recent dynasty. From 2001 to 2004, the Patriots won three Super Bowls in a four-season span. They are the most recent team to win back-to-back Super Bowls and were the most recent Super Bowl champions to win a playoff game the following year until the Seattle Seahawks did it this year.
The Seahawks won perhaps the greatest championship game in the Super Bowl era, rallying from a 16-0 deficit to beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime. Russell Wilson rallied the Seahawks from a 19-7 deficit in the final four minutes to take a 22-19 lead. A gimpy Aaron Rodgers executed a 48-yard drive to set up the tying field goal in the final 85 seconds, sending the game into overtime. Wilson then lifted the defending champs back to the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in overtime. In the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots blew out the Indianapolis Colts 45-7.
The Super Bowl has plenty of interesting angles. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was the Patriots’ head coach before Bill Belichick. The game will feature the NFL’s two best shutdown cornerbacks, New England’s Darrelle Revis and Seattle’s Richard Sherman. It’s also a matchup of two of the league’s best clutch quarterbacks, New England’s Tom Brady and Wilson.
Here are 10 key questions heading into the Super Bowl:
1. What makes Wilson so hard to beat? It may go unnoticed on a team known for having a conservative offense, but he can be unpredictable. Just look at the NFC Championship Game. On the two-point conversion that gave the Seahawks a 22-19 lead, tight end Luke Willson was supposed to be a blocker on the left side of the field. When Russell Wilson scrambled right, Luke Willson took a couple of steps into a route on the other side of the field. The tight end was stunned when the quarterback threw across his body and across the field for the completion. “He’s the only quarterback in the league that can make that throw,” Luke Willson said.
Then in overtime, Russell Wilson audibled out of a running play when he spotted the Packers in a Cover Zero blitz, which meant there wasn’t a safety in the middle of the field. He fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kearse. …
4. What’s the most interesting matchup? Seattle’s secondary against Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots’ two-tight end offense. Gronkowski caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Seahawks gave up the fifth-fewest yards to tight ends (39.12 yards per game). The league average is 50 yards a game. They can match up against Gronk with safety Kam Chancellor or linebacker K.J. Wright, one of the better coverage linebackers in the league. The Patriots led the league with 622 snaps out of two-tight-end formations. The Patriots got 199.3 yards a game and 34 touchdown passes out of two-tight-end sets, according to ESPN Stats & Info research.
When it was over, the normally stoic Wilson went to the players prayer circle in the middle of the field, looked up and cried.
“Yeah, I’m usually pretty calm,” said Wilson, now 10-0 over the past three seasons as a starter against quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl, including 3-0 against the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. “But I was thinking about the game and, I don’t know, just the ups and down of life in the past year and people doubting us and what we could do. I was thinking about my dad and wishing he was here, but he was watching from the best seat in the house. It was an emotional time for me.”
It was the 15th time in Wilson’s career that he brought the Seahawks back in the fourth quarter or overtime to win a game, but never like this one. Not such an important game and not on a day in which he couldn’t do anything right for three-and-half quarters.
Wilson didn’t complete a pass until the 3:58 mark of the second quarter. Well, he didn’t complete a pass to a Seahawk. Wilson completed two passes for 12 yards to the Seahawks in the first half. He completed three passes for 53 yards to the Packers in the first half.
The fourth pick came in the fourth quarter, a crossing route to Kearse in which the ball bounced off his hands and to Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett.
“Four interceptions when the ball was thrown my way,” Kearse said. “I was like, ‘What is going on?’ But I never really felt sorry for myself. It’s a tough game and you’ve got to be mentally tough and learn how to push through it.
“Everything’s not going to be perfect. Life’s not going to be perfect. There’s always going to be downs. You are going to be tested and it’s how you respond to that adversity. When things aren’t good, it really tests your character.”
Twenty players in the visitors locker room — the losing team’s locker room — at CenturyLink Field on Sunday knew the kind of football that could keep them from another Super Bowl.
Ask any of those Green Bay Packers with a ring from Super Bowl XLV. You’re not likely to find someone to make a convincing case the Packers could get a shot at another title with the kind of special-teams gaffes, late-game defensive breakdowns and milquetoast offensive attack coach Mike McCarthy’s team showed in the late stages of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Now, the other 33 players on the roster know it, too.
How many of them will even get another chance like this?
Sunday’s 28-22 overtime loss to the defending champs will go down as one of the Packers’ most gut-wrenching playoff losses, especially if McCarthy and his MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers never get to another Super Bowl.
“It’s going to be a missed opportunity that we’ll probably think about for the rest of my career,” Rodgers said. “We were the better team today, and we played well enough to win, and we can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”
The Seahawks didn’t choke the life out of the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game the way they did the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers during a five-day stretch in November. They didn’t physically beat the Pack down the way they did the Denver Broncos last February.
What the ‘Hawks did do in this pulse-pounding 28-22 win over the NFL’s best quarterback was probably more impressive.
In one stretch of just over 17 minutes, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers started possessions on the Seattle 19, the Seattle 23, their own 44, the Seattle 33, and their own 44. They came away with just 16 points. And from there, the Seahawks allowed just two field goals.
In the process, Seattle’s defense mitigated five turnovers and wiped out the advantage the Packers should’ve had simply because the Seahawks weren’t getting a sniff of a breather. At one point, Green Bay held a time of possession advantage of 17:31 to 4:22.
The game, without question, should’ve been out of hand. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and the rest of Seattle’s fearsome group made sure it wasn’t, which kept the door ajar for the heroics of Jon Ryan, Chris Matthews, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and Jermaine Kearse.
“The group is so tight, there’s never a time when they’re saying, ‘Oh man, a turnover.’ Anyone could get upset,” said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, as confetti fell on his head. “They know it’s just part of our ball. Our offense has taken care of us plenty of times. It really has everything to do with how close these guys are. Give us a blade of grass and they’re gonna go try and defend it.”
Or a yard, as it played out on numerous occasions.
It took the most unexpected of finishes to set up the finish everyone expected.
The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, a match-up pretty much everyone has been eyeing since mid-October. As defending champions, the Seahawks have a chance to establish themselves as the NFL’s first dynasty since, well, the Patriots a decade ago, and the accompanying story lines are every bit as colorful as you can imagine.
The clutchest young quarterback vs. the old master.
The most versatile offense vs. the lethal Legion of Boom.
Easygoing Pete Carroll and his free-wheelin’ hipsters vs. dour Bill Belichick and the Bionic Team.
Generation Next vs. Aging Veterans hungry for what is perhaps their last chance.
It’s as tantalizing a Super Bowl as you could dream up – except none of it happens without an almost implausible rally by the Seahawks.
“That last, what? Three minutes plus the overtime is probably as good as it gets,” Russell Wilson said.
But the Seahawks got the break they needed, and Wilson took it from there, capping the rebound with 35-yard strikes to Doug Baldwin and Kearse – the latter off a check Wilson said he told offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell would produce the TD right after Seattle won the coin toss.
“He was believing the whole time,” Bevell told USA TODAY Sports. “You throw that pick right there at the end that bounces off Jermaine and you’re looking at the clock with the time. But you’ve got to keep believing. As long as there’s time left, you keep playing.”
Only after the win was complete did Wilson break down, tears streaming down his face in an unusual show of emotion as he conducted a TV interview with FOX.
In a media conference later, Wilson said he was “just thinking about that game and … going through the ups and downs of life in the past year, but also more so of just winning the Super Bowl last year and people doubting what we could do. It’s just an emotional time for me.”
Since helping the Seahawks to their first title last February in a blowout of the Denver Broncos, Wilson has gone through a divorce and parted ways with his agent. He also mentioned his father, Harrison, who died in 2010 but had “the best seat in the house” for his son’s heroics Sunday.
“He’s really, really mentally tough,” Bevell said. “The visualization that he does and seeing positive things happen to himself – he had been there before. He’d been in that situation. He was even-keeled. Never got down on himself. Just, ‘Hey, what do we got to do? Let’s go. Let’s go.’ ”
The Seattle Seahawks aren’t winning Super Bowl XLIX.
This has nothing to do with Russell Wilson’s poor play in the NFC championship or Richard Sherman’s injured arm. It doesn’t have a lick to do with Pete Carroll’s coaching strategy or Marshawn Lynch’s seismological runs. The opponent won’t matter either. No, the Seattle Seahawks aren’t going to win Super Bowl XLIX because history says they won’t.
The Seahawks could easily go back-to-back as Super Bowl champions, of course. I mean, they’re only 60 minutes away from giving their 2013 Lombardi trophy a new friend and they just completed one of the most epic comebacks in championship game history. If you believe in momentum and karma, Seattle’s your team. But the historical odds and current NFL landscape are so stacked against a repeat that Seattle’s back-to-back attempt, however it turns out, could be the last we see for some time.
No NFC team had even gone to back-to-back Super Bowls since Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers in 1996 and 1997. Only three NFC teams have gone back-to-back in the previous 48 Super Bowls. And the last repeat Super Bowl champions were the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots, a juggernaut that went a combined 34-4 in those years and set a then-NFL record with 21 straight victories. They also had a Hall of Fame quarterback standing under center and faced average opponents in their respective Super Bowl wins: Jake Delhomme and a queasy Donovan McNabb were the signal callers for the opposing teams.
If Seattle should win in two weeks, it could be the last repeat NFL champions for a long while — far longer than the current 11-year drought. The Seahawks are in a ideal situation: They have a young quarterback with a cap number under $1 million, new contracts with star defenders that are expensive but have yet to get unwieldy and a cast of characters quite similar to last year’s Super Bowl team, giving them the “experience” that’s debatably important come January. It’s a perfect storm and one that’s nearly impossible to duplicate.
Yet for all of his cool under fire, the emotion of the moment got to Wilson, causing him to shed tears in the game’s aftermath. He had his reasons. As he said in the GameDay Morning interview, Wilson regards his late father, Harrison, as a “guardian angel,” and that’s who was on his mind as blue and green confetti fell at CenturyLink.
On Thursday, Wilson had spoken of the moment that Harrison, then 55, passed away from complications due to diabetes — the morning after Wilson had been drafted by the Colorado Rockies. When asked if his father had been coherent enough to appreciate the moment, Wilson replied, “I believe so. You know, he couldn’t speak back to me. He had a breathing mask and everything. But I believe he could hear me.
“I left the room and my mom and I were talking out in the hallway for about an hour. And the nurse came back in to get us. And — we went back in — and this is why I believe he could hear me — because I went back into the room and the EKG was moving perfectly fine. And I stepped one foot into the room. I said, ‘Dad, I’m here.’ About three seconds later the line went flat.
“So I think that he just knew that, you know, things were going in the right direction. I think it was his time to go. God took him when he was ready to take him. And he’s smiling. He’s my guardian angel, watching me every day.”
As he stood at his locker after the game, Wilson said he felt his father’s presence throughout Sunday’s instant classic — during good times and bad.
“He’s just right there with me,” Wilson said, getting choked up as he spoke. “He just taught me so many lessons — how to compete, how to fight, how to never give up. So when things weren’t going my way, I knew what I had to do.”
Wilson knew what he had to do, and — at least in some sense — he knew how Sunday’s fateful climax would play out, one way or another. Obviously, he couldn’t have predicted how close the Seahawks‘ dreams of a Super Bowl encore would come to being squelched, or how narrowly they would escape defeat and overcome a determined and accomplished opponent.
All he knew — or at least visualized, as he’d confided on Thursday — was that there would be an amazing play to win the game — and that he was betting on himself to make it.
Against all odds, he did. And that’s now something a whole lot of football fans can visualize happening on Super Sunday.
The Seahawks will head to Glendale in two weeks with a chance to become the NFL’s first back-to-back Super Bowl champion since 2005. It’s fitting the team standing in their way is the Patriots, who are the last franchise to repeat as Lombardi winners.
It’s a classic old guard-new guard matchup with the stakes at their highest. Will the Seahawks edge toward dynasty status? Can Tom Brady win a fourth ring and solidify his GOAT credentials? Will Richard Sherman outshine Darrelle Revis? Can Marshawn Lynch find a way to escape Media Day? Here’s our first look ahead:
1. What a great matchup this is. Belichick and Brady squaring off against a historically great Seahawks defense. Michael Bennett bragged last week that the Seahawks have the No. 1 defense of their era. No one will deny that claim if Seattle goes back-to-back with wins over Brady and Peyton Manning.
2. Last February, Manning had his chance to solidify his argument as the best quarterback ever against the Seahawks and fell woefully short. Now Brady gets a golden opportunity in his record sixth Super Bowl appearance. On the flip side, Russell Wilson has conjured memories of a young Brady in his ability to find instant success at a young age. Like Brady, Wilson has always played like a quarterback wise beyond his years. Now the two passers collide.
Aaron Rodgers generated the lowest postseason passer rating (55.8) of his career against the first defense since the 1985-86 Bears to lead the NFL in points and yards in consecutive seasons. His calf strain didn’t limit him as much as it did through three quarters in last week’s victory. To Rodgers’ credit, he came through in the clutch with a game-tying field-goal drive in the one-minute drill to send the game to overtime. Due to the NFL’s overtime rules, the MVP candidate never got an opportunity to match the Wilson-to-Kearse touchdown.
The Seahawks aren’t without red flags heading into Super Bowl XLIX against the Patriots. Sherman was forced to play with his left arm dangling in the second half after taking errant friendly fire from bone-jarring strong safety Kam Chancellor on a sideline tackle. Sherman injured his left elbow on the play and X-rays taken after the game were negative, according to NFL Media’s Steve Wyche, per a source close to Sherman. He will undergo further examinations but Sherman said he will be on the field for the Super Bowl, per Wyche. Fellow All-Pro Earl Thomas also missed time with a shoulder issues. Injuries aside, the Packers exposed the Seahawks‘ porous pass protection and the wide receivers’ inability to gain separation against man coverage. No matter the outcome of the Super Bowl, a prototypical No. 1 receiver should be high on the offseason shopping list.
The Seahawks huddled on their sideline Sunday afternoon, and inside the circle, their coach, Pete Carroll, pointed and shouted and waved. Above the din, in a stadium that two hours earlier had been stunned into silence, many players nodded along as he spoke.
“This is where you’re supposed to be,” Carroll told them, even as logic and good sense — as well as the first 58 minutes of the N.F.C. title game — suggested otherwise.
In their locker room, perhaps, sulking over the five turnovers and the missed tackles and the dropped passes and one of the worst first quarters, if not first halves, that many of them had ever experienced. Or in their cars, their windshields streaked with tears of a grieving city.
Then overtime began, and then came the perfect catch of a perfect throw, and then Michael Bennett commandeered a bicycle from a police officer and started riding around the field.
“When you win a Super Bowl,” Bennett said, “you can do whatever you want.”
The Seahawks are in position to defend that championship because of an improbable confluence of events — improbable to anyone not scampering around their locker room afterward, dispensing and accepting hugs after a 28-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers. A 35-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse clinched the win in front of the largest announced crowd, 68,538, in CenturyLink Field’s history.
Oh, to be sure, if anyone doubted the heart of the defending Super Bowl champions during or before this game, no one does now.
Not after two of their Pro Bowl defensive backs essentially played parts of the game with one arm due to injuries. Not after Wilson somehow rallied his team to victory after playing the worstthree-and-a-half quarters of his professional career. Not after the defense put him in position to do so by sticking together, getting timely stops and, most importantly, keeping the finger pointing to a minimum.
“We were strong,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team trailed 16-0 after a miserable first half. “We were talking the way we needed to talk at halftime. There was some frustration that it wasn’t quite happening, but we corralled the frustration and turned it into the juice we needed and played really aggressive, tough football in the second half.”
No one epitomized that spirit, that football character, more than Seattle’s quarerback, who managed to keep his cool and hold all his emotions back until after the game, even after he’d thrown his fourth interception of the day with 5:04 left in the fourth quarter and his team trailing 19-7.
They don’t forget any playoff game in the National Football League’s smallest city. All 51 of them live on and on, and on.
Lombardi’s bitter defeat in Philly followed a year later by the 37-0 blanking of the Giants. The late cross-field bomb to Sterling Sharpe that beat the Lions in the Silverdome, the first of Brett Favre’s 12 post-season triumphs. Of course, the Ice Bowl.
When historians remember the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field, what should it be called? The Big Choke would be appropriate.
How else to describe a game in which the Packers, perhaps the league’s healthiest team this season, were in total control for about 57 minutes against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks before they threw it all away?
Coaches, executives, players, staff, everyone in that locker room were walking around like zombies after the Packers collapsed, 28-22, in overtime.
“It’s terrible,” said tackle David Bakhtiari. “I’m still in shock.”
There was only one way the Green Bay Packers were going to lose Sunday at CenturyLink Field after dominating the action for three quarters and leading the game by a dozen points with 2 1/2 minutes left in the game.
They were going to have to make a series of blunders, miscues and questionable decisions to blow everything they had built leading up to that moment.
In fact, that’s exactly what befell a team whose destiny seemed so certain that its logo was probably being cast on Super Bowl XLIX silk screens at the very moment the collapse began.
One bad play beget another and added together — along with a couple earlier ones — equaled a 28-22 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
Clay Matthews dressed slowly, his head down, his back turned to a throng of reporters and TV cameras. Every 30 seconds or so, the door to the field opened and the sound of the Seattle Seahawks’ postgame celebration rushed into the locker room.
Then the door would close and silence would engulf the Green Bay Packers’ linebacker once again.
Silence. Matthews buttoned his shirt.
Silence. Matthews zipped his travel bag closed.
Silence. Matthews donned his beanie.
The juxtaposition told the story without a word being said: The Packers lost a game they should have won Sunday, blew an opportunity they can never, ever get back. Minutes away from an upset victory and a trip to Super Bowl XLIX, they instead collapsed in heartbreaking fashion.
Brandon Bostick made the Packers Hall of Shame with one just play Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Of all the gaffes committed by Green Bay, probably the easiest to prevent was the recovery of Steven Hauschka’s onside kick with just more than 2 minutes remaining in the NFC Championship Game.
Not only didn’t Bostick follow his assigned task, he couldn’t even make a routine catch of a boot that went straight to him.
The football bounced off his hands to wide receiver Chris Matthews at the 50. A few plays later, the Packers were behind.
– Aaron Rodgers said Green Bay “gave it away” in a 28-22 overtime loss to Seattle in the NFC championship game.
The opposing quarterback sees it differently.
“I think we had to go and get it ourselves,” Seattle’s Russell Wilson said when I asked him afterward.
They’re both right.
The Packers wasted far too many chances on a blustery Sunday afternoon to put away Seattle in the season’s most important game. And the Seahawks simply refused to quit when they had every reason to think a trip to Super Bowl XLIX was out of the question.
“Five turnovers and we still win?” Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin said with incredulity. “That’s crazy.”
Irvin wasn’t the only one in disbelief at the third-largest comeback (16 points) in the history of conference title games.
“Clueless” also would aptly describe the Packers from the final 5:04 of regulation until Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse caught the game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass from Wilson.
To put it bluntly: They blew it.
Destiny might have hunted the Packers down, if you subscribe to such notions. But on the Packers’ sideline, and in their locker room, what should have been will haunt them. Not what the Seahawks took away, but what Green Bay coughed up down the stretch and then in overtime in a 28-22 crushing defeat in the NFC Championship Game.
Aaron Rodgers dug deep to find the resolve reserved for the great ones. Curt Schilling and the bloody sock. Michael Jordan and the flu. Tiger Woods and the torn ACL. No doubt, Rodgers, playing on a badly injured and clearly painful calf, showed that kind of courage.
The only difference between the Packers quarterback and his steel-willed brethren is that they all won.
Rodgers exited CenturyLink Field devastated. Instead of stripping the Seahawks of a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the Packers pushed them along the way. After forcing Russell Wilson into the worst game of his career; after leading 16-0, and never trailing until the final 1:33; after tying the game on a 44-yard field goal to force overtime, Green Bay still, inexplicably, lost.
In three words, Rodgers brought the calamity into clear view: “We gave it away.”
How secure was victory? Rodgers was 40-1 in his career when leading by at least 16 points. Somehow, the Seahawks made that lopsided advantage inconsequential.
It was a true worst-to-first. It was the worst game Wilson has played in the NFL, if not ever, and probably Kearse’s, too.
Then, in a blink, it was the greatest comeback in conference championship game history, from 16-0 behind the Packers at halftime and 19-7 with five minutes left. It ended with a 28-22 overtime win that sends Wilson, Kearse and the Seahawks to another Super Bowl.
Who wouldn’t cry after an emotional rollercoaster like that? Victory, redemption, relief, all coming so fast that tears are impossible to hold back.
“God is good, all the time, every time,” Wilson croaked out to FOX in his postgame interview, eyeblack streaking his face, as the celebration swarmed around him. He wrestled with pulling on an NFC Champions t-shirt, and with his feelings. “These guys on this team are unbelievable, man. The fight — the fight, we’re in this fight over and over again. People used to doubt, man. We’re just excited to be on this team.”
Absolutely people doubted — all game long, the same way many doubted he belonged in the “elite” conversation, Super Bowl win or not. At halftime, Wilson had a 0.0 passer rating. He was throwing picks right up through the fourth quarter (four of them in all), with the last coming with 5:04 to go, 12 points behind and the faithful “12s” creeping en masse toward the exits.
The last pick was much like the first: Off Kearse’s hands, continuing a showing by the Seahawks receivers that was less than what they perpetually told the world they could do.
Back to Wilson, still squeezing out his thoughts in the heat of triumph: “Four minutes left in this game, three minutes — four interceptions, and just kept playing. These guys just keep believing in me, man.”
His teammates were about the only ones in America who did at that point. But after three years, three playoff runs and a second straight NFC title game, they never had stopped believing in him.
At some point, maybe in two weeks in Glendale, Ariz., if and when Wilson raises the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his three seasons at age 25, everyone else will get it. The comeback against the Packers wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t Wilson trying not to mess up the brilliance of his defense and running game.
Sometimes, the story ends up going exactly how everyone expected. The NFL’s two best teams will meet in two weeks in the Super Bowl, and it’s anyone’s guess how this one will play out.
Start with Seattle. The Seahawks were barely two minutes from an ignominious exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Packers, but only a miraculous finish (and some highly suspect Green Bay play) kept Seattle alive. The Seahawks had the finest defense in the game throughout the year, but it was their offense which couldn’t keep pace this day. Green Bay gifted this one to Seattle in a dozen different ways, but that doesn’t take away from the strength of the Seahawks.
Question is, will even the Seahawks’ defensive prowess be enough to contain a Brady-and-Belichick offense that could find flaws in a diamond wall? In the nightcap Sunday, Tom Brady demonstrated an absolute mastery of the offensive game, humiliating the Colts so badly that Indianapolis might well consider whether it wants to stay in the AFC.
This, then, is the key matchup of the Super Bowl: Tom Brady vs. the Legion of Boom. Give Bill Belichick enough time, and he ought to be able to suss out all of Seattle’s weaknesses, starting with the arm injury cornerback Richard Sherman suffered in Sunday’s game. Sherman indicated he’ll be fully healthy, but what else would you expect him to say? For whatever reason, the Packers didn’t target the hobbled Sherman, but you can expect Belichick will have no problem lasering in on any weakness.
The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are heading to Glendale, Arizona. Fans of both teams are right behind them. With the matchup now set for Super Bowl XLIX, Super Bowl tickets are already in high demand on the secondary market.
Currently, the secondary market average price for Super Bowl tickets on TiqIQ is $3949.52. While that price is 17% above the average price from Super Bowl XLVIII last season at MetLife Stadium, the average is 2.8% below the average of Championship Sunday of last year.
This year’s Super Bowl will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium, the second time the venue has hosted the event. With a listed capacity of 63,400, University of Phoenix Stadium will be the smallest host venue over the past six seasons. It will also leave almost 10,000 fewer tickets available than last year’s Super Bowl, which could lead to increased prices for Super Bowl tickets on the secondary market.
Russell Wilson wasn’t his best Sunday. In fact, he was probably near his worst. But when it came time to save the Seattle Seahawks’ season, Wilson got the job done.
The former Pro Bowl quarterback hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown in overtime, completing a historic comeback and sending the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with a 28-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
A game that seemed like an easy Packers win throughout instead became host to the biggest comeback victory in conference championship history. Down 16-0 at one point and 19-7 with just over two minutes remaining and one timeout left, the Seahawks needed miracles (plural) to mount a comeback.
The first came via a beautifully floated 26-yard pass from Wilson to Marshawn Lynch that set up a one-yard Wilson touchdown run. The next came on the ensuing onside kick, when Packers tight end Brandon Bostick allowed an easy catch to bounce off his head and into the waiting arms of a Seahawk. And then another came on the Seahawks’ two-point conversion attempt after their go-ahead touchdown, when Wilson launched a floating prayer in the air that came down in the arms of Luke Willson.
One of the biggest postseason collapses in the history of the Green Bay Packers franchise was started by the special teams and completed by the defense but was also accelerated by an offense that failed time and again to put the final nail in the Seattle Seahawks.
Left standing, the defending champions stole a trip to Super Bowl XLIX with a 28-22 overtime win in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Blame in Green Bay falls at the feet of many. But the Packers’ constant stream of missed opportunities and lack of a killer instinct on offense certainly helped create a defeat worthy of 4th-and-26 and the Terrell Owens catch among the club’s most improbable playoff failures.
Down 16-0 at the half and 19-7 with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks scored two late touchdowns before walking off a winner on Russell Wilson‘s 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on Seattle’s first possession of overtime. The Packers, who didn’t trail until the 1:25 mark in the fourth quarter, never saw the football in the extra period.
When we look at Green Bay’s collapse against the Seahawks, the largest comeback in championship game history, we will talk about Russell Wilson’s perseverance after an awful start. We’ll talk about Green Bay’s failure to recover an onside kick that hit TE Brandon Bostick in the hands. We’ll talk about the incredible stretch where everything the Seahawks tried went perfectly, and everything the Packers tried failed.
We probably won’t spend a lot of time talking about things that happened in the first quarter. But we should. Because Mike McCarthy’s decision to kick a pair of absurdly short field goals didn’t put his team in the best possible position to win, and in a game that eventually went to overtime, every point matters.
The decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard-line is one of the easiest in football. This is not up for debate. An offense has a pretty good chance of gaining a single yard: NFL teams pick up a yard 55 percent of the time. Even if you fail, you give the other team horrible field position, leading to high likelihood of another scoring opportunity. And the payoff is worth it. A touchdown is worth more than twice as many points as a field goal.
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