Seahawks’ miracle rally tops Packers, earns return Super Bowl trip
Russell Wilson’s TD pass to Jermaine Kearse in overtime snaps 22-all tie, completes an improbable comeback against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In the annals of Seahawks history, this game should have its own chapter. Because simply put, no other team has done something quite like it.
After playing perhaps their worst half of football under coach Pete Carroll , the Seahawks rallied for an improbable 28-22 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday and punch their ticket back to the Super Bowl.
A CenturyLink Field record crowd of 63,538 got to witness something no team in NFL history had done — come back from a deficit of 15 points or more in a conference title game. Seattle trailed 16-0 at halftime.
Quarterback Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse with a 35-yard touchdown pass on the first drive of overtime to seal the victory and keep the Seahawks’ dream alive of becoming the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots in 2003-04.
How did the Seahawks manage such a feat? Like trying to eat an elephant — one bite at a time.
Down by 16 after an abysmal first half, the Seahawks got their first score of the game in the most improbable of ways — a touchdown pass from a punter to an offensive lineman.
Lined up for a 38-yard field-goal attempt from Steven Hauschka, the Seahawks appeared to be happily settling for some much-needed points. Instead, punter Jon Ryan, the holder on placekicks, took the snap, rolled to his left and lofted a perfect pass to a wide-open Garry Gilliam in the end zone. Gilliam, a backup offensive lineman, played tight end in his first three seasons at Penn State.
But the Seahawks didn’t immediately capitalize on the momentum of the play.
A struggling offense seemed it would never get going — until the end, that is.
With less than 3 minutes remaining, Seattle trailed 19-7 and its hopes were quickly fading. But Seattle simply just kept chewing away, hoping for one more chance.
Wilson, after throwing the most interceptions (4) of his pro career, connected with Marshawn Lynch on a 26-yard pass play to give Seattle hope. Moments later Wilson darted into the end zone to cut the deficit to 19-14.
With just over 2 minutes remaining, the Seahawks attempted an onside kick — and it worked. Hauschka’s high-bouncing one-hopper went through the hands and off the helmet of backup tight end Brandon Bostick and into the arms of Seahawks reserve receiver Chris Matthews.
Seattle capitalized on the unexpected opportunity, needing just four plays as Lynch beasted his way through the Packers’ defense for a 24-yard touchdown run to make it 20-19. Seattle converted the two-point conversion on an absurd play that saw Wilson desperately scramble to the sideline and then float the ball all the way back across the field to tight end Luke Willson, who was standing by himself in the end zone to give Seattle a 22-19 lead.
That two-point conversion loomed large.
Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers quickly worked their way down the field and were able to get in position to allow Mason Crosby to hit a 48-yard field goal to tie the score at 22 with 14 seconds left in regulation.
Seattle won the toss in overtime and never let the Packers have the ball. Wilson completed a long pass for 35 yards to Doug Baldwin, setting up Kearse’s game-winning catch. Wilson is 5-0 in overtime games in his Seahawks career.
The stunning, come-from-behind win helped erase a first half that was abysmal for Seattle in every almost facet of the game. The largest culprit was an offense that looked disjointed and out of rhythm, particularly Wilson. Instead of being a steady and calming trigger of the Seahawks’ offense, he became a one-man turnover machine. Wilson threw three first-half interceptions and when combined with Baldwin’s fumble on a kickoff, the Seahawks had more turnovers in the first half than they had combined in their previous nine games.
When the Seahawks weren’t giving the ball to Green Bay, they were doing little with it on offense. They managed a total of 59 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half on 24 plays.
Wilson didn’t complete his first pass to someone other then a Packers defender until just under 4 minutes left in the second quarter. He completed one other pass in the first half with for a total of 12 yards.
Even with the Seahawks being so generous, the Packers didn’t completely capitalize on the opportunities. Green Bay squandered a scoring opportunity on the first possession of the game when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was intercepted by Richard Sherman in the end zone. The Packers settled for Crosby field goals on their next two possessions after Seahawks turnovers.
Green Bay did score one touchdown, on a Rodgers pass to Randall Cobb. But a 13-0 lead could have easily been 24-0 or even 35-0.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @RyanDivish