Stunned in Seattle

With five takeaways and a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Packers appeared headed to the Super Bowl. Instead, in an appalling turn of events, the Seahawks beat the Packers 28-22 for the NFC Championship Game. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY)

Stunned.

In an incredible and bitter turn of events that will haunt these Green Bay Packers for months, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship Game 28-22 at Seattle.

The Packers wasted a 12-point lead, rallied to force overtime, then were beaten by Russell Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on a perfectly thrown ball against Tramon Williams.

"This one’s going to hurt for a while because of the close proximity of feeling that feeling when the clock hits zero and you’re ahead. We gave it away," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions with a rating of 55.8.

The Packers appeared headed for the Super Bowl after Morgan Burnett’s interception with 5:13 remaining. It was Green Bay’s fifth takeaway and, with a 19-7 lead, the Packers were on the threshold of getting back to the Super Bowl.

Instead, the Seahawks roared to life. A 14-yard run from Lynch and a 20-yard catch and run from Jonathan Baldwin got the drive jump-started. Wilson then looped an apparent 35-yard touchdown pass to Lynch. Though it was overturned by review when Lynch was deemed out of bounds at the 9, it set up Wilson’s 1-yard keep on a read-option play with 2:09 remaining.

Still, the Packers were in great shape, considering the Seahawks had only one timeout at their disposal. And they might have won the game had Brandon Bostick fielded the onside kick. Instead, the ball went through his hands and off his helmet and was recovered by Seattle at midfield with 2:07 to go.

Wilson’s 15-yard run on a read-option got the Seahawks rolling, then Lynch thundered off left tackle for a 24-yard touchdown. Micah Hyde was the only defender with a chance, and Lynch ran through his arm tackle at about the 13. That gave Seattle a 20-19 lead, and it tacked on the two-point play on a remarkable pass by Wilson and an abysmal play by safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Wilson, with pressure from Julius Peppers and Sam Barrington, drifted back and to his left before throwing a prayer in the direction of tight end Luke Willson. Clinton-Dix was in position to break up the pass but didn’t, and Wilson made the grab to make it 22-19.

Rodgers, however, got the Packers into overtime. Starting at their 22 with 1:19 to play, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb for back-to-back gains of 15 yards. A scramble by Rodgers, two incompletions and a completion to Nelson set up Mason Crosby’s 48-yard field goal that forced overtime.

The Seahawks won the overtime coin flip and quickly won the game, with a 35-yard completion to Baldwin setting up the game-winning 35-yard completion to Kearse.

With that, the Seahawks have a chance to be the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004.

The Packers basically lived in Seattle’s territory in the first half. After Clinton-Dix’s first interception, the Packers took possession at the 19; it would have been the 4 if not for trash-talking Mike Daniels being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. With second-and-goal at the 1, fullback John Kuhn was stopped short, with a review correctly overturning what was deemed a touchdown. On third-and-goal from about the half-yard line, Lacy went nowhere. The Packers settled for an 18-yard field goal by Crosby.

Brad Jones then stripped Jonathan Baldwin on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Packers the ball at Seattle’s 23. On third-and-goal, Rodgers’ quick pass to Randall Cobb was stopped short of the goal line. A 19-yard field goal made it 6-0

Green Bay’s next possession started at its 43. This time, it took advantage, with Rodgers firing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cobb. Rodgers was drilled from behind just after throwing the pass but celebrated with the “No. 1” fingers while prone on his back.

After Seattle’s third consecutive three-and-out possession, Hyde’s big punt return set up the Packers at the Seahawks’ 33. Cobb had a key drop on a third-down crossing route, and the Packers used Crosby’s 40-yard field goal to extend the advantage to 16-0.

At that point, the Packers had a 143-11 advantage in yards and 10-0 dominance in first downs. If that was bad, it got worse for the Seahawks with Clinton-Dix making a brilliant interception on a deep pass to Kearse. His long return, however, was nullified by Clay Matthews’ illegal block. The teams exchanged interceptions late in the half, and the Packers took their 16-point lead into intermission.

After an exchange of punts to start the second half, the Seahawks got back into the game with two tide-turning plays. Seattle converted a third-and-19 when Wilson hit Baldwin for a gain of 29, who inexplicably was wide open with eight men in coverage. Then, on fourth-and-10, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll dialed up a fake field goal, with punter Jon Ryan flipping a touchdown pass to reserve rookie offensive lineman Garry Gilliam, who was 5 yards behind safety Sean Richardson.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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