Countdown To Kickoff: Seahawks vs Packers

It had been a rare occurrence for the Seahawks to play in a conference championship game, but here they are for the second consecutive season and looking to make a little history on Sunday when they host the Packers in the NFC title game.

SEATTLE, Wash. - Greetings from CenturyLink Link Field, where the Seahawks are about to do something for the second season in a row that they did only twice in the franchise's first 37 seasons:

Play in a conference championship game.

Sunday's matchup with the Green Bay Packers is the second time in the past 12 months that the Seahawks will have hosted the NFC Championship game, after they dispatched the San Francisco 49ers last January to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII. The winner on this blustery Seattle afternoon will move on to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona in two weeks to face either the New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts – who play later in the day for the AFC championship.

And everyone knows that the last team to play in back-to-back Super Bowls, let alone win them, was the Patriots after the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

So the Seahawks are on the verge of an historic accomplishment.

And speaking of history-making, that's what appearing in conference championship games was for the Seahawks from their inaugural season in 1976 until last season.

Their first title game came in 1983, when first-year coach Chuck Knox led the Seahawks to the AFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Raiders by dispatching the Denver Broncos in the franchise's first playoff game on Christmas Eve at the Kingdome and then upsetting the Dolphins in Miami the following week. The title trip to L.A. didn't go as well, as the Raiders romped 30-14.

It took 22 seasons before the Seahawks got back to a conference championship game, and got it right. That was after the 2005 season, when the Seahawks ran the table at home in the postseason by beating the Washington Redskins in the divisional round and the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. But they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10 in Super Bowl XL in Detroit.

Last season, the Seahawks managed to take the final step – which turned out to be more of a quantum leap. After beating the New Orleans Saints in their playoff opener, the Seahawks spun some postseason magic to get past the defending conference champion 49ers in the NFC title game. Russell Wilson passed to Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-7 play to give the Seahawks their first lead in the fourth quarter and Richard Sherman then made his Immaculate Deflection in the end zone in the closing seconds and Malcolm Smith intercepted the pass to ice the victory. Then it was on to New Jersey, where the Seahawks took on the highest-scoring offense in NFL history and came away with a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.

And here they are again, one step from returning to the Super Bowl. But the Seahawks know it won't be easy against this Packers team, which is much better than the Packers team they beat 36-16 in the season opener back in September.

The events of that Thursday night still are ringing in the Packers' ears.

"That kickoff opener, that Week 1, it's probably as loud as that place has been all season long," fullback John Kuhn told the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Friday. "That place was rocking. It's a tremendous place to play. We can look back on that and see some of the things we didn't do as well, and learn from those and make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes."

And the Seahawks aren't making the mistake of overlooking the Packers because of what happened in the opener.

After practice on Friday, coach Pete Carroll used the term "phenomenal" to describe Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and called wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb "extraordinary."

Then he added, "This is arguably the best offense in the NFL. They have big plays in them and they can hammer you with the ball."

The Seahawks will have to offset all of that with a defense that *is *the best in the NFL, and led by "Hammering Man" strong safety Kam Chancellor. As well as Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, Chancellor's All-Pro mates in the Legion of Boom secondary. And a linebacker trio of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin that does not back down from any challenge. And the disruptive presence of linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who will lead the charge in trying to disrupt Rodgers – who's playing with a calf injury that has limited his mobility in the Packers' past two games.

It's another of those strength-versus-strength matchups that the Seahawks have been so good at winning. Which unit, and team, prevails in this game? We're about to find out, with kickoff and TV coverage on FOX (channel 13 in Seattle) set for 12:05 p.m. PT.

It was the evening of a Championship Blue Friday and this was the scene in Seattle.

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