NFL playoffs: Packers hold off Seahawks to reach NFC title game
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers connected with Davante Adams eight times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, Green Bay’s spruced-up defense fended off a spirited Seattle rally, and the Packers held on for a 28-23 victory Sunday night to reach the NFC championship game for the third time in six years.
Aaron Jones rushed for 62 yards and two first-half scores for the Packers (14-3), who will travel next weekend to take on top-seeded San Francisco.
Russell Wilson carried the Seahawks (12-6) on yet another comeback, this time from a 21-3 halftime deficit, but the Packers forced a punt just before the two-minute warning on the second sack of the game by Preston Smith. That was Green Bay’s fifth of the game. Za’Darius Smith, the other big-money free agent added to the defense last spring, had two sacks himself.
The Seahawks never got the ball again.
Rodgers sealed the win with two third-down throws: first a 32-yard pass to Adams on third-and-8 with 2:19 left and then 9 yards to Jimmy Graham on third-and-9 right after the two-minute warning to take down a Seahawks team that was 8-1 on the road this season entering the game.
Rodgers exacted some payback for five years ago, when the Packers blew a 16-0 halftime lead in the NFC championship game at Seattle and lost 28-22 in overtime. The Seahawks haven’t been back to the conference title game since, let alone the Super Bowl. Rodgers is running out of time faster than Wilson, though, nine years after his only championship.
The Seahawks had just a plus-seven scoring margin during the regular season, making quite the habit of second-half rallies. Wilson did some of the finest work of his eight-year career in 2019, helping the Seahawks stay on track despite a steady stream of injuries, including the late setbacks in the backfield that prompted the emergency call for Marshawn Lynch.
Racking up 64 yards rushing on seven scrambles and completing 21 of 31 passes for 277 yards, Wilson directed touchdown drives of 69, 84, 79 right out of the gate after halftime. Lynch finished two of them with scores, and Wilson threw to Tyler Lockett for the other one.
Lynch’s second touchdown with 9:33 left cut the lead to 28-23, but Jaire Alexander blew up the 2-point conversion attempt with a sack on an unblocked blitz. The Packers gave the ball back to the Seahawks with a second consecutive punts, this time with 4:54 left at the Seattle 22, but Wilson ran out of tricks in his seemingly bottomless bag of them.
FORCEFUL FIRST HALF
The Seahawks brought their pass rush to life with seven sacks while grinding out a 17-9 win at Philadelphia last week in the wild card round, with Jadeveon Clowney making his presence felt including a hit that knocked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz out of the game with a concussion. The Packers mostly kept Rodgers much better protected, though.
The Packers had three touchdown drives of 75 yards apiece over the first three quarters, plus a 60-yard march preceded by a missed 50-yard field goal try from Jason Myers.
Rodgers hasn’t had much help beyond Adams and Jones this season, but he and coach Matt LaFleur did a masterful job of getting them the ball with some Tyler Ervin and Jimmy Graham mixed in. On the opening possession, Adams and Geronimo Allison ran angled routes toward each other before faking the pick and zagging away. Seahawks cornerback Tre Flowers was caught in the confusion, allowing Adams to break free for the 20-yard score.
OH, NO, LAMBEAU
Seahawks fans have plenty of bad memories of their favorite team’s performances in Green Bay, with the losing streak at Lambeau Field now at nine straight games. The last such win for Seattle was on Nov. 1, 1999.
There was the hot mike that picked up Matt Hasselbeck’s ill-fated boast during the overtime coin toss that the Seahawks would win, preceding his pick-six in the 2003 playoffs. There was the blowout in the snow in the 2007 playoffs, which turned out to be Brett Favre’s final win for the Packers. There were also the regular season losses with Wilson in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Seahawks: LG Mike Iupati was out with a neck injury, and Jamarco Jones left in the second quarter with a concussion. That forced rookie Phil Haynes into action. … Clowney, who has fought through a core muscle injury this season, was holding his midsection in the second quarter and briefly absent for the first TD run by Jones. … Backup DEs Ziggy Ansah (neck) and L.J. Collier were inactive, and DE Quinton Jefferson left with a foot injury in the third quarter.
Packers: RT Bryan Bulaga, one of six players the team reported this week as being limited by illness, was active for but did not play. Jared Veldheer replaced him. … FB Danny Vitale (ankle/illness) was inactive. … WR Allen Lazard hurt his ankle in the second quarter after Jones collided with the back of his right leg.
Seahawks: head into the offseason, needing replenish their depth on the offensive line and on defense while Wilson remains in his prime.
Packers: advance to their third NFC championship game in six years. They lost 37-8 on Nov. 24 to the 49ers, who beat Minnesota 27-10 on Saturday in their divisional round game.