Seahawks beat Saints to reach conference final

Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:32pm EST
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(Reuters) - The Seattle Seahawks, led by powerful running back Marshawn Lynch, used their tried and true formula to beat the New Orleans Saints 23-15 on a rainy, windy Saturday to advance to the NFC conference championship next Sunday.

The top-seeded Seahawks, who were 13-3 in the regular season, justified their ranking with an overpowering first half in taking a 16-0 lead before holding off a surge by the battling Saints.

"We played good, grind it out football," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who felt the wet, slippery conditions made it hard to rely on the passing game.

"This is exactly why you make a commitment to be a balanced offense and be a balanced football team. So when you have these opportunities and situations you can play defense, kick the ball and run the football."

Lynch, who goes by the nickname "Beast Mode", ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yard romp that padded Seattle's lead to 23-8 with 2:48 left.

New Orleans gave themselves a last desperate chance against the National Football League's top-ranked defense after quarterback Drew Brees hit Marques Colston with a nine-yard touchdown pass to make it 23-15 with 26 seconds to play.

The Saints recovered the onside kick and Brees made two completions before Colston tried to extend the final play with a forward lateral and the infraction resulted in a 10-second run-off that ended the game.

Colston had a chance to step out of bounds, and stop the clock with a couple of ticks left to give Brees one last opportunity to heave the ball to the end zone, but instead he improperly tossed it across the field in hopes of catching Seattle off guard.

"I'm proud of the way our guys competed. But we weren't able to get it done," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "It's always tough when you get this far and you're not able to finish.   Continued...

Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports