Two weeks ago Sunday at around 6 p.m. Eastern time, the Super Bowl’s first team looked for all intents and purposes to be Green Bay. The Packers would await the winner of the AFC Championship between Indianapolis and New England in Glendale, Ariz. The first day of February would be the crowning of a new champion.
The visiting Packers led Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle 16-7 with barely five minutes remaining and Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson had just thrown his fourth interception. The Packers had the ball near midfield starting a new drive with a two possession lead. Some of the boisterous Seattle fans headed for the exits.
So what happened?
The heart of a champion can never be underestimated.
Just ask New England, which overcame two touchdown deficits on a pair of occasions to rally past Baltimore, 35-31, in the divisional round.
Seattle came back to win in overtime (the details of which could be discussed in an entire book), 28-22, and New England clobbered the overmatched Colts. Super Bowl XLIX was set.
While New England quarterback Tom Brady will lead his team to his record sixth Super Bowl, it’s also important to note that Wilson is the first quarterback to ever start in two Super Bowls in his first three seasons in the league.
His intestinal fortitude cannot be questioned. Wilson was hideous for three quarters in the Green Bay game. Into the fourth quarter, he was 8-for-22 for 75 yards passing with four interceptions and no scores. He is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win a conference title despite throwing four interceptions. George Blanda of the 1961 Houston Oilers was the last one to throw four interceptions and win a conference (at that time, the AFL) crown.
All four of Wilson’s interceptions came when he was targeting Jermaine Kearse. Amazingly enough, Kearse now has four straight playoff games with a touchdown catch. He is just the second player with an overtime touchdown in a conference title game. The first was Alan Ameche, who scored for Baltimore in the 1958 NFL title, known to some old enough to recall it as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.
The Seahawks become the first team since San Francisco in 1981 to win a conference title game with five turnovers and the first since the 1982 Jets to win ANY playoff game. Since then, 45 teams lost in the playoffs because they could not overcome all of those turnovers.
Wilson now stands at 10-0 in his career against quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl. Though, like with the last game, Seattle’s defense deserves all of the credit for doing the heavy lifting. The Seahawk stop unit held Green Bay to just SIX points on FOUR first-half turnovers.
The Patriots are known mostly for an innovative offense. A new playoff wrinkle they showed against Baltimore and again against Indy was throwing passes to eligible linemen while leaving backs in as ineligible receivers. Quarterback Tom Brady has enough weapons to make the Seahawks sweat for 60 minutes.
New England had just one scoring drive of longer than 65 yards last week against the Colts, who self-destructed after halftime. But long drives are going to be important for New England, since Seattle only allowed 14 passing plays of 25 yards or longer this season, compared to 36 yielded by the Pats. The teams had the exact same number of those long pass plays on offense, which nullifies some of the public perception of the offensive capabilities for each team.
The Seattle defense carried the day in the Super Bowl victory (43-8, and it wasn’t that close) over Denver last year and it was largely responsible for them getting here this year. It has allowed a total of 13 points in the fourth quarter of the last eight games. The 1.63 average is beyond phenomenal in what is usually the highest scoring quarter in football.