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Late rally lifts Seahawks past Packers in NFC title game

After spotting the Packers a 16-0 in Sunday’s NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks displayed resiliency and trickery to pull out a 28-22 victory in overtime.

Some things simply defy logic and explanation.

Like the Seahawks' frantic and fateful storm-from-behind 28-22 overtime victory against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

Russell Wilson threw four interceptions of the first time in his career – high school, college and NFL – but the Seahawks are going to Super Bowl XLIX.

The Seahawks trailed 19-7 with four minutes to play in regulation, but they're going to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year.

The Packers rallied to kick a game-tying field goal with 14 seconds left in regular, but it's the Seahawks who are Super Bowl bound.

Each of Wilson's four interceptions came on passes intended for Jermaine Kearse – including two that went off the third-year year wide receiver – but he put the capital W in this Wild victory by catching a 35-yard touchdown pass on the sixth play of overtime to propel the Seahawks into the Super Bowl.

Now the Seahawks will try to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since 2003 and 2004 against the last team to do it – the New England Patriots, who steamrolled the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's AFC title game.

"This is a demonstration of love and believe," coach Pete Carroll told his team in the locker room after Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent had presented owner Paul Allen with the NFC Championship trophy during the postgame ceremony – as a CenturyLink Field-record crowd of 68,538 roared its approval.

Love. Believe. And don't forget trust.

They are the intangibles that allowed the Seahawks to bounce back from being 3-3 to win 11 of their past 12 games – which allowed them to capture the NFC West, secure home-field advantage in the postseason and then win a game they seemed to be hopelessly out of on Sunday.

"I think the resilience of our football team is unmatchable," Wilson said after going 3 of 3 for 80 yards on the overtime drive and 3 of 4 for 54 yards on the two touchdown drives at the end of the fourth quarter. "And the character of the guys that we have, that's what makes the difference."

It was a comeback for the ages, and one that is difficult to comprehend even after sitting through it and having time to digest it.

With 3:52 remaining in regulation, the Seahawks got the ball at the Seattle 31-yard line. Marshawn Lynch, who finished with 157 rushing yards (22 more than the Packers), broke a 14-yard run on first down to get the comeback rolling. Then it was Wilson to Doug Baldwin for 20 of his game-high 106 receiving yards. It appeared Lynch had scored on a 35-yard pass, but replays showed he had stepped out of bounds at the Packers' 9-yard line. On third-and-goal, Wilson scored on a 1-yard run to cut the Packers' seemingly insurmountable lead to 19-14.

The Seahawks had Steven Hauschka go for the onside kick that everyone in the place was anticipating. The ball went off the Packers' Brandon Bostick and the Seahawks' Chris Matthews used every inch of his 6-foot-5 body and outstretched arms to grab the ball.

"I saw the whole thing all the way," Matthews said. "When I ran up, I was going to tackle him. Then I saw the ball come off his hands and there was just an open gap, so I jumped for it and caught it."

And the play seemed to be as easy at Matthews made it look.

Four plays later, Lynch scored on a 24-yard run to give the Seahawks a 20-19 lead.

"He finds ways to make holes. He finds ways to get in the end zone," Wilson said. "That's what makes him the best runner in the National Football League, and I'm glad he's on our team."

The Seahawks went for the two-point conversion – just in case – and Wilson passed to tight end Luke Willson to make it 22-19.

Asked if the Seahawks ran that play 100 times how many times the pass would be intended for Willson, Wilson offered, "Never."

But on that play, it turned out to be a never-say-never situation.

"We spread it out and Luke is the backside protector," Wilson explained. "That's just knowing the game and trusting that the guys are going to make a play and throwing it up."

And the just-in-case pass was needed, as the Packers drove to Mason Crosby's 48-yard field goal with to tie it with 14 seconds left.

The Seahawks got the ball in overtime, as the Packers called tails on the coin flip and it came up heads.

"So many different guys had to step up today to make something happen in this game," Carroll said.

No one stepped up any higher than Wilson and Kearse on the overtime drive, because of the depths that survived earlier in the game. It started with Lynch running for 4 yards; Baldwin catching a 10-yard pass; Lynch running for 4 more yards; Wilson being sacked for a 1-yard loss; and, on third-and-7, Wilson laying a beauty of pass over Packers cornerback Casey Hayward and into the hands of Baldwin for a 35-yard gain to the Green Bay 35-yard line.

Then came the play that Wilson called before the overtime drive even started, and the pass he audibled to at the line when saw the Packers in an alignment that left Kearse in single coverage.

"That was the first thing I told Kearse after that last interception," Wilson said. "I said, 'Hey, we're going to win this game and I'm going to going to keep coming back to you and we're going to find a way to win the game."

And Wilson repeated his bold prediction to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

"I told Bevell on the sideline, right when we won the coin toss, 'Hey, I'm going to hit Kearse for a touchdown on a check,' " Wilson said. "And sure enough, we did."

As incomprehensible as the frantic finish was, it would not have been enough without the defense turning in an end-zone interception by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and turning in two goal-line stands to force the Packers to settle for field goals on Green Bay's first three possessions. Or the 19-yard TD pass from holder Jon Ryan to rookie offensive tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal for the Seahawks' first score with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

"We just came out too flat," center Max Unger said of the Seahawks slipping into a 16-0 hole. "Everybody did."

But, as has been the case all season and for the past several seasons, the defense answered the challenges – and did it with the All-Pro tandem of free safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) and Richard Sherman (elbow) playing through injuries and refusing to leave the field.

"We called a bunch of man-to-man coverage in the second half, and the DBs and linebacker stood up like they always do," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said after his unit held the Packers to 128 yards and six points in the second half. "And that's what was needed for us to have chance.

"I cannot say enough about the heart of these guys – playing injured, playing through it. You talk about attitude to gratitude for how hard they play for each other; I think there's no greater demonstration of that with those guys who were injured not wanting to be out of the fight."

In the atmosphere of disbelief and disappointment that was the Packers' locker room, QB Aaron Rodgers offered, "We gave this game away."

Wilson begged to differ.

"That's a different way to look at it," he said. "I think we had to go get it, though, ourselves. I thought we made the plays, especially the last three minutes of the game – we scored two touchdowns, get a two-point conversion, get an onside kick, get the coin toss. We had to make the plays, and I thought we took it away."

That the Seahawks did, in the most unlikely of ways.

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