Packers hold off Seahawks to reach NFC title game
Aaron Rodgers connected with Davante Adams eight times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, Green Bay’s spruced-up defence 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.
“This is where it really gets fun. There’s only four teams left, and we’re one of them, and we’ve got a legitimate chance,” said Rodgers, who went 16 for 27 for 243 yards in his 17th career postseason start. He has 38 touchdown passes in the playoffs, good for fifth in league history.
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 shortly 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 bigmoney free agent added to the defence last spring, had two sacks, too.
The Seahawks never got the ball again.
“I couldn’t be happier for our guys. They’ve put in a lot of hard work,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re a group that sticks together, and they don’t blink.”
Rodgers sealed the win with two third-down throws: a 32-yard strike to Adams on third-and-8 with 2:19 left and then for 9 yards to Jimmy Graham on third-and-9 right after the twominute warning to take down a Seahawks team that was 8-1 on the road this season entering the game.
“I’m just going to enjoy a nice glass of scotch tonight,” Rodgers said, “and get on to the film of San Fran and get ready for a tough opponent.”
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. Though many of Green Bay’s performances haven’t been pretty, with so many hold-on-at-the-end wins, Rodgers and LaFleur have sure meshed well in the coach’s rookie season.
“Let’s be honest. I don’t know that even our fans felt supremely confident in us,” Rodgers said.
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 and 79 yards right out of the gate after halftime. Lynch finished two of them with scores, and Wilson threw to Tyler Lockett for the other one.
“Every time I looked up, he was making somebody miss in the pocket, creating and extending plays,” LaFleur said. “That’s what he’s done his whole career.”
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 punt, this time with 4:54 left at the Seattle 22, but Wilson ran out of tricks in his seemingly bottomless bag of them.
Lynch, who has 12 rushing touchdowns in 13 career post-season games to tie for fourth in NFL history, had only 26 yards on 12 carries.