By Ted Olafson and Bob Hurst
It was somewhat ironic that Jermaine Kearse was the target for the winning score in a most improbable comeback by the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
All four of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s interceptions thrown during the game came on passes where Kearse was the intended receiver, and two of them came on balls that bounced off of Kearse’s hands to be grabbed by Green Bay defenders.
After the Packers sent the game to overtime on a last-minute field goal, the Seahawks won the coin toss and elected to receive the overtime kickoff. Facing third down and seven to go at his own 30, Wilson threw a deep pass to Doug Baldwin in the right flat that went for 35 yards. Then he struck deep again with a perfectly-thrown ball down the middle and through close coverage which was caught by Kearse for the winning touchdown, allowing the Seahawks to escape with a 28-22 win.
Moments after the victory Wilson became teary-eyed on the field as he was interviewed by a television reporter.
“I never doubted in our guys. I told (Daryl) Bevell [offensive coordinator]on the sideline, right when we won the coin toss, I said, ‘I’m going to hit Kearse on a check,’ and sure enough, we did.”
On the final play, the Packers defense lined up in man-to-man coverage and Wilson audibled a change to the called play at the line of scrimmage.
“Once I saw the coverage I had a feeling that he was going to check to that play, and I knew that if I could just beat my man, he was going to give me an opportunity,” Kearse said.
The Seahawks rallied in the last minutes of regulation time to force overtime. Green Bay had led the game until late in the fourth quarter and seemed to be in complete control. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb as time expired in the first quarter to put the Packers ahead 13-0. They led 16-0 at halftime.
In the third, Seattle lined up for what would be a 36-yard field goal attempt. But the Seahawks faked the field goal, and punter Jon Ryan, who was the holder, sprinted to the left and then tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie tackle Garry Gilliam to put the first points on the board for the Seahawks.
On a drive that began with less than four minutes to play in the game, Wilson scampered into the end zone to bring the Seahawks within one score of the lead.
Seattle successfully executed an onside kick, recovering the ball at midfield after it went through the hands of Green Bay tight end Brandon Bostick, bounced off his helmet and was then snatched out of the air by Seahawk Chris Matthews.
A quick four-play drive by Wilson and the Seahawks, culminated by a 24-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch gave Seattle its first lead of the game, 20-19, and then a two-point conversion which featured a long, lazy cross-field toss from a pressured Wilson to tight end Luke Willson put Seattle up, 22-19 with 1:25 to play.
Seattle had scored 15 points in 44 seconds.
Efficiently, effectively and coolly, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers down the field for the game-tying field goal by Tim Masthay with 19 seconds left in regulation.
“We were the better team today, and we played well enough to win, and we can’t blame anybody but ourselves,” Rodgers said. “We gave it away.”
Seattle will now face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1st. The Seahawks are the first defending Super Bowl champions to return to the title game since the Patriots did it in 2005.
Patriots blowout Colts: It wasn’t even close in the AFC Championship Game, with the New England Patriots blowing out Indianapolis 45-7 on Sunday night.
The Patriots earned their sixth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and will play the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1st.
Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and LeGarrette Blount ran for 148 yards and three TDs.
“I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year, but right now we’re up, baby, and we’re going to try to stay up for one more game,” Brady said.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had the worst game of his career, going 12 of 33 for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
“My play wasn’t up to par to give you a chance to beat a great team,” Luck said.
The Patriots will try again to get the Lombardi trophy back after losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012.
Copyright © 2015 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.