“Whoa…that was a little too close for comfort,” was the collective sigh of relief for thousands of Seattle Seahawks fans across the Pacific Northwest. Seattle rallied back from a 16-0 first half deficit to beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime and return the defending Super Bowl Champions to back to back championship games.
The Seahawks won the game on a 35-yard touchdown reception in overtime by Jermaine Kearse. In each of the four previous quarters of regulation football, Kearse had been targeted by quarterback Russell Wilson, and the University of Washington product was picked off on each occasion, including two perfectly thrown balls, which were tipped by Kearse into waiting defenders hands.
Also, in the first half of Sunday’s NFC Championship, the Seattle return game was equally inept as the offence was, with Seattle’s top receiver, Doug Baldwin, turning over the ball on the kick-off return after the Packers put their first field goal points on the board.
The Seattle offence, as was the case in the regular season goes through Marshawn Lynch. Lynch ran for 157 yards and tallied one touchdown to give Seattle their first lead in the game in the fourth quarter.
Seattle has been without a top receiver since trading Percy Harvin to the New York Jets back in October. Harvin was dealt as result of mediocre performance on the field and reports of altercations including fights with Doug Baldwin and former teammate Golden Tate. Harvin was used as the primary kick returner during his short stint with the Seahawks and scored a beautiful touchdown on the opening second half kickoff in Super Bowl XLXIII. After the trade, the team did not replace the former pro-bowler with another top receiver. The Seahawks elected to have Russell Wilson use a myriad of receivers for the remainder of the season, but with no main threat coming to the forefront.
The Seahawks receiving corp has been very green this season. The team was using rookie receivers Paul Richardson(suffered season ending knee injury in divisional playoff win vs Carolina), Kevin Norwood and Ricardo Lockette regularly in the receiving corp, second-year wideout Chris Matthews, fifth-year Bryan Walters, third-year receiver Jermaine Kearse playing every down as well as being lead by fourth-year man Doug Baldwin. Combined in the Seahawks lineup is 14-years of experience in the wide out position.
Baldwin was arguably the third receiver last year behind Sidney Rice(he was injured after Week 6 and retired before this season) and Golden Tate who lead the team in receiving yards with 898. Baldwin had 788 receiving yards last year, and 825 this year. His nearest team mate, Jermaine Kearse had 537 yards receiving this season.
They’ve been able to win by committee, but will the existing committee be enough to beat a very experienced New England Patriots defence? “Y’all didn’t believe in us,” said Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, “16-0, in the first half, how many of y’all counted us out? How many of y’all doubted us? It’s indicative of our entire season. Y’all don’t want to believe in us, it’s okay. You ain’t gotta believe in us because we’re going to believe in ourselves.”
But people’s belief certainly wavered after that 16-0 first half deficit. Many may have been thinking that this inexperienced group just got beat by the Packer’s stronger receiving corps led by Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. But Baldwin and his Seahawk teammates weren’t phased by the hold they had dug themselves, “You don’t win the game in the first half, you win in the second half, and what do we do? We come out and we do what we do, we play Seahawks football! We got an opportunity to do what we love, and we’ll see y’all in the Super Bowl!”
The real saviour for the Seahawks offensively has been the running game led by Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. Lynch racked up 1,306 yards on the ground while the starting QB tallied 849 yards.
The Hawks defence has also followed up last year’s Super Bowl win with an equally stingy defence this year, keeping teams to the fewest yards against(267.1 YPG during regular season) in the league. The defence did manage two takeaways, but gave up 306 yards of offence to Green Bay on Sunday.
Fans of the team can only hope that the team’s defence and run game can lead them past New England in Super Bowl XLIX February 1st.
By Zameer Karim