SEATTLE (Reuters) - Russell Wilson fired a 35-yard touchdown strike to Jermaine Kearse in overtime to give the Seattle Seahawks a stunning 28-22 comeback win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and seal a return trip to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks, bidding to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowls, will play the New England Patriots in the Feb. 1 NFL title game. The Patriots crushed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to win the AFC championship.
Trailing 19-7 the Seahawks scored 15 points in 44 seconds late in the fourth quarter, Wilson and Marshawn Lynch each powering their way into the end zone for touchdowns before a two-point conversion put Seattle ahead 22-19.
The drama was far from over, as the Packers’ Mason Crosby booted his fifth field goal to send the NFC championship into overtime where Russell hit Kearse for the winning score as CenturyLink Field exploded in celebration.
“If you have the belief these guys have in one another, there isn’t anything you can’t do,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “As crazy as that sounds, they pulled it together and pulled it off, a great comeback victory.
“There was so much belief today it didn’t matter where it came from, it was going to come out somehow.”
The winning touchdown was a spectacular and breathtaking end to a game pitting Seattle’s top-ranked defense against the NFL’s number one scoring offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
It had taken on a funeral atmosphere for much of the game as Seattle’s Super Bowl reign appeared headed to an end.
But Wilson, who had misfired most of the day, throwing a career-high four interceptions, flashed his champion’s pedigree when it mattered, engineering what is already being hailed as one of the greatest postseason comebacks in NFL history.
“I mean three minutes left in the game, four interceptions the guys just kept believing in me,” said Wilson. “We started off a little slow but our defense kept hanging in there and making plays for us. I just kept believing.”
Rodgers, playing with an injured calf, removed any doubts about his fitness, dissecting the Seahawks’ defense as Green Bay stormed to a 16-0 lead to silence the famously raucous Seattle crowd.
The Packers were in command on both sides of the ball, their defense intercepting Wilson three times in the first half as the Seattle quarterback failed to complete his first pass until late in the second quarter.
Seattle finally got on the scoreboard with a bit of razzle dazzle, faking a punt with holder Jon Ryan hitting a wide open Garry Gilliam on a 19-yard touchdown pass to chop the Green Bay lead to 16-7.
Wilson kept hope alive when he ran over from the one with 2:09 left and Seattle recovered the onside kick.
Lynch sprinted 24 yards for a touchdown and the Seahawks added a two-point conversion to push in front 22-19.
But with 1:25 to play Rodgers marched Green Bay into Seattle territory and Crosby booted a 48-yarder to send the contest into overtime.
Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto,; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Gene Cherry