The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots took vastly different routes to Super Bowl XLIX.
The Seahawks recovered from an awful first half to stun the visiting Packers in overtime, 28-22, in an NFC Championship Game that became an instant classic.
By contrast, the Patriots were in control from start to finish in a 45-7 victory over the visiting Colts in a rain-soaked, not-so-classic AFC Championship Game.
Seattle is the first team to qualify for the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons since the Patriots completed back-to-back championships 10 years ago with a 24-21 victory over the Eagles. The victory over the Eagles was the last of New England’s three Super Bowl titles. The Patriots have lost their last two Super Bowl appearances, both against the Giants.
A Seattle return to the Super Bowl seemed unlikely as they fell behind by halftime, 16-0. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw three interceptions during the first half, which is one more pass to the Packers than he completed to his own receivers.
The Seahawks didn’t even pick up a first down until midway through the second quarter. But the Packers failed to take full advantage of the turnovers, stalling in the red zone and settling for three first-half field goals.
The Seahawks finally got on the scoreboard with a touchdown pass, but it was punter John Ryan, not Wilson, who threw the touchdown pass on a fake field goal.
Still, the situation looked bleak when the Packers held a 19-7 lead in the final minutes of regulation. That’s when Wilson and the Seahawks found renewed life.
Wilson ran into the end zone from 1 yard out on a misdirection play, cutting the Seahawks’ deficit to 16-7 with 2:09 remaining.
The Seahawks then made another crucial play on special teams. This time it was an onside kick. Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, with sure-handed receiver Jordy Nelson right behind him, bobbled the onside kick, and it was recovered by Seattle’s Chris Matthews at the 50-yard line.
That’s when Wilson and the Seahawks offense seemed to rediscover its mojo. They moved quickly to the Green Bay 24, and Marshawn Lynch put the Seahawks ahead on a 24-yard run with 1:25 remaining.
Knowing a Green Bay field goal could put them behind again, the Seahawks went for a 2-point conversion. Wilson was chased far into the backfield before lofting a desperation pass across the field. Two Packers seemed frozen in their tracks as the pass floated to tight end Luke Wilson for a 22-19 lead.
The two-point conversion proved necessary when Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a drive that set up Mason Crosby for a game-tying 48-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining.
The Seahawks won the toss in overtime and chose to receive the kickoff. Russell Wilson moved Seattle into scoring position, and then found Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard pass down the middle for the winning touchdown, touching off a wild celebration in CenturyLink Field.
The Patriots didn’t need a dramatic comeback. They took a 14-0 lead in the first half and then pulled away in the second half for an easy victory.
Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Running back LeGarrette Blount produced three rushing touchdowns, gaining 148 yards on 30 carries.
The Patriots defense limited Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to 126 passing yards. Luck completed just 12 of 33 passes.
So the Patriots, making their fifth Super Bowl appearance in the past 12 seasons, will try to win their first Super Bowl in 10 years when they meet the Seahawks, making their third Super Bowl appearance in the past 10 years, on Feb. 1 at Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz.