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Originally published January 18, 2015 at 7:35 PM | Page modified January 19, 2015 at 9:49 PM

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Seahawks’ rally shows their incredible resolve, toughness

After being stifled by their own mistakes, the Seahawks put together a rally that defined their spirit and their season.

Times staff columnist


For this one, injured Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had to play the closing minutes with one arm.

For this one, punter Jon Ryan had to throw a touchdown pass to backup tackle Garry Gilliam, and Chris Matthews, a practice-squad player for most of the season, had to recover an onside kick.

For this one, to win the most trying game in a most trying season, the Seahawks defense had to counteract five turnovers, and Marshawn Lynch had to make CenturyLink Field tremble again, and Luke Willson had to catch Russell Wilson’s rainbow miracle of a two-point conversion.

And at the end, for the Seahawks to return to the Super Bowl, Wilson had to throw deep to Jermaine Kearse — a futile connection on this day — ignoring that all four of his interceptions occurred while targeting Kearse, including two picks that went through the wide receiver’s hands.

Kearse caught it. Later, Kearse wept. Wilson did, too. In an NFC Championship Game that felt like a replay of the Seahawks’ entire, strenuous season, Seattle had staged an amazing comeback that embodies the redemptive charm of this team.

The Seahawks outlasted Green Bay in a 28-22 overtime thriller, overcoming a game opponent as well as their own mistakes. It was an ideal Super Bowl encore for this team, an accomplishment that defines its toughness and determination.

The Seahawks were down 16-0 at halftime. The deficit was still 12 with less than three minutes remaining. And then the miracles started happening. Or rather, the Seahawks were rewarded for refusing to quit.

“No matter what you do to us, no matter how hard the pressure gets, no matter what you throw at us — no matter what happens — we bend, but we don’t break,” Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said.

This was the greatest test of that unbreakable claim. At one point in the first half, Green Bay had outgained Seattle 137-3. The Seahawks didn’t get a first down until the 7:02 mark in the second quarter. The Seahawks didn’t force a Green Bay punt until 43 seconds remained in the first half.

They didn’t break, however. Most teams would’ve been down by 27 or 35 points in the first half. The Seahawks held Green Bay to 16. The Packers drove inside the Seahawks’ 33-yard line five times, but they came away with one touchdown, three field goals and a Sherman end-zone interception. The defense’s stingy play early enabled the offense to make a late comeback.

“The toughness of this team surprises me every week,” defensive tackle Tony McDaniel said. “I’m still in shock. It’s like some of those things were happening in a dream.”

It’s hard to call a game with seven combined turnovers a classic. On a wet and windy afternoon before a record CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,538, the sloppy play produced plenty of sighs. But the Seahawks never lost hope amid the frustration.

“It shows our championship mettle,” said Sherman, who injured his left elbow in the fourth quarter and played with it nestled close to his body the rest of the game.

They didn’t score until a fake field goal turned into a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Gilliam. They didn’t score again until Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown run made the score 19-14 with 2:09 left in regulation.

Then Steven Hauschka’s onside kick bounced through the hands and off the helmet of Green Bay’s Brandon Bostick.

Four plays later, Lynch (157 rushing yards) scored a 24-yard TD to give the Seahawks the lead. Wilson extended it by whirling and lobbing a throw to Willson for the two-point conversion.

The Seahawks led 22-19 with 1:25 left, but they left too much time for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He led the Packers into field-goal range, and Mason Crosby kicked a 48-yarder to send the game into overtime.

The extra period lasted just six plays. Wilson orchestrated a brilliant 87-yard drive, completing all three of his passes and dropping the 35-yard game winner to Kearse, who had beaten Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams.

Kearse, the regulation goat, was now the overtime hero.

“I had the teammates’ support to just keep pushing through,” he said, crying, “keep pushing through.”

Wilson did the same. He threw for 12 yards in the first half and had a 0.0 passer rating. In the first 30 minutes, completed more passes to the Packers (three) than to his own receivers (two). He responded by throwing for 197 more yards and the winning TD.

He cried, too, tears for his late father, Harrison, and for this improbable performance.

“Just going through the ups and downs of life in the past year,” Wilson said of the tears. “Just winning the Super Bowl last year, and people doubting what we could do. This is just an emotional time for me. I wish (my dad) was here, but he’s watching. He’s got the best seat in the house.”

From any seat, the Seahawks’ resolve was incredible to see.

“This has got to be one for the ages,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s almost humbling that it was such a classic challenge and our guys found a way to get it done.”

Afterward, defensive end Michael Bennett hopped on a police bicycle and pedaled around the stadium, in the rain, smiling and soon to be crying, too.

He probably could have ridden that bike all the way to Super Bowl XLIX.

Playoff comebacks
The biggest postseason comebacks in Seahawks history:
16Green BayJan. 18, 2015Trailed 16-0, won 28-22
14WashingtonJan. 6, 2013Trailed 14-0, won 24-14
10New OrleansJan. 8, 2011Trailed 10-0, 17-7, won 41-36
San FranciscoJan. 19, 2014Trailed 10-0, won 23-17
7DallasJan. 6, 2007Trailed 20-13, won 21-20

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Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. | 206-464-2277


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