Seahawks stop Saints, earn spot in NFC Championship Game
By The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 8:03 p.m.
SEATTLE — When he got around the edge, there was no one for Marshawn Lynch to hit. Directly ahead was open field, the end zone and the Seattle Seahawks' place in the NFC championship game.
Once again, Lynch overpowered the New Orleans Saints in the postseason.
“That was maybe ‘Beast Mode II.' I don't know, but it was a very cool way to end that game and give us the score that we needed,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Lynch carried 28 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and Seattle's defense flustered Drew Brees and New Orleans in a 23-15 victory Saturday in an NFC divisional playoff game.
“You just don't know how many more opportunities you're going to have,” Brees said. “That's what makes it so tough standing up here and talking about it.”
Steven Hauschka added three field goals in blustery conditions, and the top-seeded Seahawks advanced to the NFC title game for the second time. They will host San Francisco or Carolina next Sunday after last reaching the conference title game in the 2005 playoffs.
Seattle shut out the Saints in the first half, got Lynch's first 100-yard game since Week 10 of the regular season and received a spark from the brief return of Percy Harvin before he left with a concussion. Lynch scored on a 15-yard run in the first half and capped the victory with a 31-yard scoring run with 2:40 left.
While the clinching score lacked the stunning explosiveness of Lynch's “Beast Quake” touchdown run against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs, this one was more important. It ensured Seattle would not be the latest No. 1 seed to get upset by a No. 6 seed in the divisional round.
Lynch's clinching TD was a similar to that 2010 play. Lynch read the blocking perfectly and cut to the outside using two blocks from tight end Zach Miller and Jermaine Kearse. Lynch's only contact was a stiff-arm of Keenan Lewis that allowed him free passage to the end zone and left CenturyLink Field swaying.
“It's all want with him,” Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate said. “He's blessed with tremendous athleticism and body control and power.”
Lynch set a franchise playoff record for yards rushing. His running made up for another shaky day passing by Russell Wilson. Seattle's offense was a concern heading into the postseason and, outside of Lynch, did little to quell those worries.
Wilson missed on five of his first six pass attempts to start the second half but came through with a 31-yard toss to Doug Baldwin with 2:57 remaining. The Saints blitzed, and Wilson and Baldwin connected. Lynch scored on the next play.
Wilson finished 9 of 18 for a career-low 103 yards. Harvin had three receptions for 21 yards in the first half and one rush for 9 yards but left the game late in the first half with a concussion. Carroll said they won't know Harvin's status for the NFC Championship Game until later in the week.
Brees finished 24 of 43 for 309 yards. He took the Saints 80 yards in nine plays, capped with a 9-yard TD pass to Marques Colston with 26 seconds left that made it 23-15.
Colston then recovered the onside kick when it caromed off Tate's and directly to the Saints' receiver.
Brees took over at his 41 with 24 seconds left and Jimmy Graham caught his first pass of the game on an 8-yard completion. Brees spiked the ball to stop the clock, then found Colston near the sideline. Instead of stepping out of bounds, Colston tried to throw across the field to Darren Sproles. It was an illegal forward pass, and the penalty ran off the final 10 seconds of the clock and gave Seattle the victory.
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