(Reuters) - Russell Wilson and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks survived an inspired fightback by the Denver Broncos to claim a thrilling 26-20 overtime win on Sunday in a heavyweight rematch of last season’s title game.
A week after suffering a surprise loss to the Chargers in the searing heat of San Diego, the Seahawks regained some of their championship swagger with a confident display on home turf for the first three quarters at CenturyLink Field.
But the Broncos, who trailed 17-3 heading into the final quarter, staged a brilliant comeback with swarming defense and some pinpoint throwing by Peyton Manning to tie the score at 20-20 on a two-point conversion and take the game into overtime.
With nerves taut and the pressure intense, running back Marshawn Lynch bulldozed his way into the end zone from six yards out for the game-winning touchdown, ending a 13-play drive over 80 yards by the Seahawks that lasted almost six minutes.
“Great teams play until the end and find ways to win,” said Wilson, who rushed for 21 yards in overtime and connected on four of six passes. “And we were able to do that today.
“We look forward to these kinds of moments... where we have to make a play.”
The Seattle quarterback threw for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while Manning completed 31 of 49 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“Obviously the game didn’t start out the way we wanted it to,” Manning told reporters. “Being down two scores, it became somewhat one-dimensional, which is not what you want versus these guys.
“The running game just wasn’t working for us, especially being down two scores. We were forced to throw it a lot, and that kind of put us in a one-dimensional phase.
“It was a good last drive, a two-point conversion, to tie it and send it into overtime and then their offense had a good drive in that first series of overtime.”
The Seahawks, who romped to a 43-8 win over the Broncos in last season’s title game, improved their record for this season to 2-1.
Roared on by their raucous home fans in bright afternoon sunshine, the Seahawks made a strong start to the game on offense but were denied an early touchdown before they opened the scoring with a 20-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka.
Denver countered with a 24-yard field goal from Brandon McManus to end the first quarter level at 3-3 but Seattle then went into overdrive.
Wide receiver Ricardo Lockette scored on a 39-yard pass from Wilson and Lynch scored on a five-yard pass from his quarterback to end a 10-play drive as the Seahawks went into half-time leading 17-3.
The Broncos cut the deficit by two on a safety after Lynch was tackled in the end zone, then made it 17-12 with just over nine minutes left after tight end Julius Thomas scored on a three-yard pass from Manning.
With the clock ticking down and Manning marshalling a late game drive for the go-ahead points, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor pulled off a stunning interception on a pass intended for Wes Welker before returned the ball 52 yards to seemingly ease the pressure for the home team.
A 28-yard field goal by Hauschka with just over a minute left put Seattle ahead 20-12, but Denver were not yet done.
Tight end Jacob Tamme capped a six-play drive by scoring on a 26-yard pass from Manning with 41 seconds left before Manning found Demaryius Thomas in the end zone for the two-point conversion that tied the score at 20-20.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry