In one of the greatest championship games in NFL history, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks rallied from 16-0 down at halftime and 19-7 late, to break the hearts of the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime, to win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLIX to face the New England Patriots. New England destroyed Indianapolis 45-7 in the AFC Championship.
It was the worst of days for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson for 55 minutes on Sunday, four interceptions, not even completing a pass to his own team until just before halftime. But Green Bay failed to take advantage.
The Packers never once threw to Richard Sherman’s side when the two teams opened the 2014 NFL season in September, so on his first possession Rodgers threw at Sherman to make a point. Sherman intercepted him in the end zone.
On GB’s next possession, they thought John Kuhn had scored. But replay overturned it, and the Seattle defense overturned Green Bay. Packers Coach Mike McCarthy, the source of much angst after this game, chose to kick the field goal rather than go for it from the ‘one.’ His decision looked better when Doug Baldwin, unaccustomed to returning kicks, fumbled the ensuing one for Seattle.
But once again, McCarthy elected for a field goal rather than go for it from the ‘two’—6-0 Green Bay. After a three-and-out, Green Bay struck again. On the last play of the first quarter, Rodgers found Randall Cobb in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard score that made it 13-0. There was another three-and-out, then more mistakes by the Seahawks including an illegal use of hands penalty on what would have led to 4th-and-13. Then Mason Crosby kicked a 40-yard FG to make it 16-0.
A spectacular interception by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led to a turning point moment, with crossed up communication between Rodgers and Cobb and a Byron Maxwell pick at the Seattle 26. Even though the Seahawks eventually threw another interception in Green Bay’s end zone towards the end of the half, Maxwell’s interception stopped the Packers’ momentum on offense.
The third quarter began with Seattle’s defense shutting the Packers down. The offense gained some traction. At the 4:50 mark, there was a play that will be talked about forever. From the GB 19, punter Jon Ryan took the snap, rolled left, and lobbed a pass to tackle eligible Garry Gilliam for the touchdown on a fake field goal that broke the seal for Seattle. The Packers could do no more than another Crosby field goal, making it 19-7. The fourth Wilson interception seemed to finish the champs off.
What allowed the Packers to be done in was their amazing lack of aggression in anything they did from kicking field goals, to going vanilla on offense, to taking the ball out of Rodgers’ hands late, to decisions made on the field—the entire mentality of the day.
Morgan Burnett decided to go down on his own where replays showed he might have been able to score on a return. Three Eddie Lacy runs led to a punt, which led to Marshawn Lynch’s heroics, which led to the sad fate of Brandon Bostick on the onside kick—which led to more Marshawn Lynch heroics.
Then despite some heroics from Aaron Rodgers to get the game back tied, destiny had already been determined. Seattle won the toss, Wilson took over, and a pair of 35-yard lightning bolts ended the season for Green Bay.