From goat, to legend.
That’s what Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in-game transformation was. After throwing four interceptions in the game, and a horrendous start failing to complete any of his three opening quarter throws, while throwing an interception. The second quarter was even worse, as Wilson finished the half with one completion on nine attempts, for 12 yards, no scores, and three interceptions. The team was down 16-0 at the half, and late into the fourth quarter, the quest for a championship defense appeared to be over. Wilson had thrown his fourth interception with just 5:04 remaining, and the team’s chances of pulling off a comebacks seemed impossible.
All of a sudden, things started clicking. With his team trailing 19-7, and having the ball just one possession after throwing his fourth interception of the game, Wilson needed to be nothing short of miraculous in order to give his team a chance. He needed 69 yards, and the team got them in less than two minutes. Running back Marshawn Lynch scrambled for 14 yards, and Wilson completed a 20-yard pass to Doug Baldwin to get the ball to the Packers’ 35-yard line. On the very next play, Wilson threw what seemed like a 35-yard touchdown pass to Lynch. However, Lynch was ruled out of bounds at the nine-yard line. After Lynch and Wilson each garnered a four-yard run, the quarterback ran in from a yard out to cut the deficit to 19-14, with 2:13 remaining.
After the touchdown, with just one timeout remaining, the Seahawks needed the onside kick to keep their hopes alive. The kick hit the ground, and the Seahawks recovered at midfield. Wilson scrambled for 15 yards on the next play, and Lynch’s two-yard run got them to the Packers 33-yard line at the two-minute warning.
Wilson followed up with an eight-yard pass to Luke Wilson. Marshawn Lynch ran 24 yards into the end zone on the next play and all of a sudden, the Seahawks had their first lead of the game. On the two-point attempt, Wilson scrambled around, and threw what looked like an incredibly errant pass from the 18-yard line across the field. However, it was caught by Luke Wilson at the one-yard line, and he snuck in for the conversion, and the Seahawks extended their lead to 22-19.
Trailing for the first time in the game, Aaron Rodgers converted a pair of 15-yard passes to get his Packers to the Seahawks 36-yard line, and on third down, threw a six-yard pass to Jordy Nelson to set up a 48-yard field goal attempt for Mason Crosby, who nailed it right through the goalpost with 14 seconds remaining, and the game went into overtime. What was a one-sided contest for three and a half quarters was now turning into a classic.
In overtime, the Seahawks won the toss, and took the ball. They never looked back. Starting from their own 13 yard line, the Seahawks began the extra stanza with a pair of four-yard runs from Lynch, sandwiched by a 10-yard pass from Wilson to Baldwin. After getting “sacked” for a yard by the Packers, Wilson caught fire.
First, on third down, Wilson completed a 35-yard pass to Baldwin, and on the next play, threw the 35-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse that ended the game. His first four attempts in Kearse’s direction resulted in his four interceptions, but the last one ended the game in his team’s favor, by a score of 28-22, in overtime.
The Packers were in control for most of the game, scoring 13 points in the first quarter, despite Rodgers throwing an interception to Richard Sherman on the game’s opening drove. They scored on the following three first quarter possessions, and were up 16-0 at halftime. They allowed the Seahawks to score their first points on a fake field goal attempt, which turned into a 19-yard touchdown pass from punter Jon Ryan to offensive tackle Garry Gilliam. The score cut the Packers lead to 16-7 with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter. The Packers converted their fourth field goal of the game with 10:48 to go, and led 19-7 in the final minutes, before the Seahawks’ rally.
The issue for the Packers was that while they were dominating, they failed to score touchdowns. The team managed just one touchdown in the game, as opposed to five field goals from Mason Crosby. The first two were from 18 and 19 yards out. In other words, they were three total yards away from being up 14-0, instead of 6-0. They decided not to risk going for it on fourth down on either opportunity, and could have been up 21-0 instead of 13-0 after one.
Crosby’s final three field goals were from 40, 48 and 48 yards, which is understandable. But to wail away from touchdowns early in the game, even though they’re going up against the league’s top defense, is questionable. Had they converted even once, the opposing rally would have been much more likely to fall short.
Statistically, both teams had their ups and downs. Both quarterbacks had their mix of successes and struggles. Rodgers threw for 178 yards, completing 19 of his 34 attempts, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Running back Eddie Lacy got the ball a lot early, but finished with 73 yards on 21 carries. Receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb played fairly well, with Nelson catching five passes for 71 yards, while Cobb caught eight passes for 62 yards, and the team’s lone touchdown. Aside from Richard Rodgers (four catches, 35 yards), no other receiver added much else. Last week’s star, Davante Adams, caught just one pass for seven yards.
Defensively, the Packers attacked Wilson from all angles. They sacked him five times, and picked him off four times. Morgan Burnett led the team with ten tackles and two sacks and also had an interception. Julius Peppers added 1.5 sacks of his own, Letroy Guion had half a sack, and Clay Matthews added one as well. Sam Shields had an interception, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked off two passes, and allowed the two-point conversion.
For the Seahawks, Wilson overcame his horrid first three-plus quarters, to finish 14 of 29 for 209 passing yards, one passing touchdown and four interceptions. Three of them came in the first half, and he added seven rushes for 25 yards, as well as a rushing score. Running back Marshawn Lynch played excellent, running for 157 yards on 25 carries, while adding the touchdown that gave the Seahawks their first lead, and making the pivotal 26-yard catch that led to the start of the team’s rally.
The only receiver to make a wholly positive statistical impact was Doug Baldwin, who caught eight passes for 106 yards. Jermaine Kearse saw each of the first four passes intended for him get intercepted, but made the game-winning catch in overtime. Various other receivers made contributions, with Luke WIlson catching two passes for 11 yards, as well as the two-point conversion that gave his team the 22-19 lead.
In the end, the game will go down as an instant classic. The Seahawks’ comeback was the largest second-half comeback in NFL conference championship history, and the team proved that anything is possible.
Another motif that may be garnered from the game is that of karma. While I don’t necessarily believe in it, the sense of “justice” continued to float around the postseason in this game. In WIld Card Weekend, the Cowboys won against the Lions in a controversial manner. They then lost in heartbreaking fashion last week in Green Bay. As for the Packers? Well, they blew a game they were dominating for three-plus quarters, losing in the worst way of them all. Was karma involved? Does it even exist? Nobody knows, but this game and postseason surely serves as fodder.
Alas, the game was a classic, and will go down as one of the most stunning postseason games in NFL history. Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers on a fine season, and the Seahawks for getting back to the Super Bowl.