A recap of the Seahawks' 28-22 overtime victory against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Sunday:
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: THE SEAHAWKS
Yes, the entire team. Because, as coach Pete Carroll put it, "So many different guys had to step up today to make something happen in this game. It had to be something that they all could feel and they all get to share."
There was the defense, which got interceptions from cornerbacks Richard Sherman (in the end zone) and Byron Maxell; a 10-tackle performance from middle linebacker Bobby Wagner; and big stops by Kevin Williams, Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Tony McDaniel and Earl Thomas in a couple of goal-line stands in the first quarter to force the Packers to settle for field goals.
There was the offense, which got a 157-yard rushing performance from Marshawn Lynch; a six-catch, 106-yard receiving game from Doug Baldwin; and Russell Wilson's 35-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse for the game-winner in overtime.
There were the special teams, which were extra special in contributing a 19-yard TD pass from holder Jon Ryan to offensive tackle Gilliam on a fake field goal; and a successful onside kick between the fourth-quarter touchdowns that allowed the Seahawks to cut the Packers' lead to 19-14 and then take their first lead.
Before scoring 21 points in final 5½ minutes, it appeared the Seahawks would lose this one as a team. Because they scored 21 points in the final 5½ minutes, they won this one as a team.
UNSUNG HERO: RICHARD SHERMAN
This might sound farfetched because Sherman was named All-Pro for the third consecutive season, and also had that end-zone interception to halt the Packers' first drive. But the Seahawks' cornerback got style points and then some for continuing to play after having his left elbow injured when he was caught in the middle of a sideline collision between strong safety Kam Chancellor and Packers running back John Starks on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The injury rendered Sherman a one-arm man, as he clung to his shoulder pad with his left hand to protect his elbow.
"It is what it is," Sherman said. "You play for teammates."
How was he able to stay in the game?
"Really, honestly, I couldn't tell you," he said. "I just was trying to stay on my man, keep tight coverage and not give up plays. I couldn't really extend my arm, but I just wanted to not be the one that gave up the big play in a crucial situation."
Offered Carroll, "I don't know he could have played. How do you play bump-and-run (coverage) with one arm? But he did."
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense:** The game-winner, of course. And Wilson's 35-yard TD pass to Kearse in overtime was even more remarkable when you consider that each of Wilson's four interceptions came on passes intended for Kearse – including two that went off him.
"Once I saw the coverage, I had a feeling he was going to check to that play and I knew if I could beat my man he was going to give me an opportunity," Kearse said of Wilson changing the play at the line of scrimmage when he saw the Packers' alignment that left Kearse in single coverage. "I just had no doubt in my mind that I was going to come down with that play."
Defense:** So many from which to choose, but it's difficult to not select Sherman's end zone interception – in the same side of the South end zone where he made his Immaculate Deflection to ice the victory over the 49ers in the NFC title game last January. The Packers had driven from their 20-yard line to the Seahawks' 29 on the game's opening drive. Rodgers went to Davante Adams, but instead found Sherman.
"I'm always on the left, so if they want to give me a chance," said Sherman, who was not targeted by Rodgers in the team's season opener. "I think a bunch of people told him to throw it at me. So he listened and we capitalized."
Special teams: Ryan-to-Gilliam for six. The onside kick was great, and crucial to the comeback. By Ryan taking off to the left and lofting the pass to Gilliam produced the Seahawks' first score.
"It was a run-first play," Ryan said. "It was kind of an option out there. I had to go one way or the other."
In addition to Sherman, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas injured his left shoulder while tackling Randall Cobb after a 3-yard gain in the second quarter but returned; and right guard J.R. Sweezy injured a leg.
But Carroll said all three should be OK, and having two weeks until the Super Bowl should help.
|YOU DON'T SAY|
"Let's stay strong. We aren't done yet."
Coach Pete Carroll to his players in the locker room.
Lynch's 157 rushing yards were a franchise playoff record, topping the 149 he had against the Saints in a divisional game last season.
Wilson and Rodgers came in as the top-rated passers in NFL playoff history – Wilson at 109.6 and Rodgers at 105.3. But Sunday, Wilson's passer rating was 44.3 and Rodgers' was 55.8 as they combined for six interceptions.
The Seahawks extended their home-field winning streak in the playoffs to nine in a row, and they're 3-0 in NFC Championship games.
The last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. So the Seahawks will try to do it against the last team to do it, as the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's AFC title game.
The Seahawks converted 50 percent on third downs (8 of 16) and the Packers 21 percent (3 of 21).
Packers' strong safety Morgan Burnett had a team-high 10 tackles, including two sacks, and also intercepted a pass.
Wilson threw four interceptions, after throwing one in his previous six playoff games. And that came in his first playoff game, the wild-card win over the Redskins in 2012.
The crowd of 68,538 set a CenturyLink Field record, bettering the old mark of 68,526 from the Dec. 14 game against the 49ers this season.
The Hall of Fame trio of Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy and Walter Jones served as the Seahawks' honorary captains. Largent also presented the George Halas trophy that goes to the NFC Champions to owner Paul Allen in the postgame ceremony on the field. And Allen raised the 12 Flag above the South end zone just before kickoff.