ABOVE: Oops! Some Seattle Seahawks fans who left early were forced to watch historic comeback from outside the stadium
SEATTLE – Never doubt the resilience of the Seattle Seahawks.
Plagued by turnovers and outplayed much of Sunday by Green Bay, the Seahawks staged an improbable comeback and beat the Packers 28-22 in overtime. Russell Wilson, who struggled until the final minutes, hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown 3:19 into the extra period to end the game.
The Seahawks became the first defending champion to make the Super Bowl in 10 years, and will play the winner of the AFC title game between Indianapolis and New England. How they got there was stunning.
Seattle (14-4) trailed 19-7 with about four minutes remaining and had been ineffective on offense all game. Wilson finally put a drive together with passes to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch – initially ruled a touchdown but called back because he stepped out of bounds. Wilson finished with a 1-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:09 left.
The onside kick went high to Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, but he couldn’t gather it, and Seattle’s Chris Matthews recovered at the 50. The crowd, which had been quiet since falling behind 16-0, came alive and Lynch sped and powered his way to a 24-yard TD run. On the 2-point conversion, Wilson – about to be sacked – threw a desperate pass hauled in by Luke Willson to make it 22-19 with 1:25 remaining.
Aaron Rodgers, limping on an injured calf, calmly led the Packers (13-5) down the field to set up Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal, a 48-yarder with 14 seconds to go to force overtime.
Then Wilson and Kearse struck, with Kearse – the target on all four of Wilson’s interceptions – beating Tramon Williams on the winning pass. Kearse caught the winning score in last year’s conference title win over San Francisco, too.
“Just making the plays at the end and keep believing,” said Wilson, who was overwhelmed and sobbing after the game. “There was no doubt … we had no doubt as a team.”
Kearse, who has caught touchdown passes in four straight postseason games, and several other Seahawks leaped into the stands behind the end zone, saluting the stadium-record crowd of 68,538. Wilson ran through cameramen to jump on Kearse’s back, and defensive end Michael Bennett borrowed a bicycle from a police officer and rode around the edge of the field saluting the “12s.”
Until the final minutes, there seemed to be no doubt the Packers were headed to the big game Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Despite All-Pro Rodgers’ injured calf, Green Bay and its overlooked defense was carrying the day.
“It’s going to be a missed opportunity that I’ll probably think about for the rest of my career,” Rodgers said. “We were the better team today, we played well enough to win. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”
Across British Columbia, where the “12th Man North” has become an increasing part of the Seahawks’ fan base, the win was celebrated in bars far and wide.