The hallmarks of that win: Redemption, trust and resilience

Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin hold the NFC trophy after they came up big in overtime vs. the Packers (Seahawks.com)Redemption, resilience, trust, teamwork.

Other than a trip to the Super Bowl, those were the themes of the Seahawks’ historic comeback win over the Green Bay Packers, 28-22 in overtime, on Sunday.

For much of the game, Russell Wilson, Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin were the Three Stooges — taking turns poking each other in the eyes, hitting each other in the head and tripping over each other.

Wilson threw four interceptions — all on passes intended for Kearse, who had two go off his hands — and Baldwin fumbled on a kick return and dropped two passes himself.

But all three redeemed themselves on the winning drive in overtime — Wilson hitting Baldwin twice for 45 yards and then finding Kearse for the winning 35-yard touchdown.

After the game, Wilson and Kearse were overcome with emotion after their rollercoaster day.

Coach Pete Carroll said Wilson “was pretty up on this one because it took so long for the good stuff to happen. It was a long, hard day for him, and we were throwing for nothing — I think 10 yards at halftime. It was a crazy game. But with the game on the line, with the chance coming down to it, this is what he has totally believed would happen, and he never thought that it wouldn’t. Heck yeah, we enjoyed it like crazy when it happened. He knows when to let it go, and he did.”

Wilson said his tears were a culmination of many emotional frustrations: “Just going through the ups and downs of life in the past year (including a divorce) but also more so of just winning the Super Bowl last year and people doubting what we could do, this is just an emotional time for me. I think about my (late) dad right away. I wish he was here, but he’s watching — he’s got the best seat in the house. That’s why I got emotional.

“I’ve been in a lot of games and I’ve played a lot of sports and I’ve seen a lot of great games and I’ve seen a lot of sports, and I think the resilience of our football team is unmatchable, and the character of the guys that we have and the belief of the guys that we have, that’s what makes the difference.”

Kearse was perhaps the most resilient. He rebounded from the worst game of his career to secure the winning touchdown in the NFC title game for the second straight year. Like Wilson, he cried out his frustrations.

“Yeah, he was very emotional after the game because he knew he was in the midst of a lot of things that didn’t go right for us today,” Carroll said. “What a great story, you know, local kid (Lakes High in Tacoma and UW) and all of that, wins the game with that touchdown catch. He was totally emotional about it, because he felt like he had not been able to come through in some other situations. But that is exactly the Jermaine Kearse that I was talking about. He just finds a way to do stuff for us — another touchdown in a playoff game in a critical situation — and wins the game. It was just extraordinary.”

Kearse said he appreciated teammates sticking with him — e.g., on the sideline, injured safety Jeron Johnson kept reminding him that he would get more chances and “to make the most of it.”

“They (were) never negative; they (were) always positive,” Kearse said. “Positivity: We always preach it. It goes a long way. They just pushed through the adversity. Everything is not going to be perfect. Life is not going to be perfect. There’s always going to be downs. But the real test is how you respond to that adversity, how you respond to the down moments.”

Carroll said the trust, teamwork and resilience were characteristic of how this team has played since midseason.

“What happened in the middle of the year was they found the connection of what team is all about, and that’s about supporting the guys around you,” Carroll said, “and they found that and embraced it. We have ridden that thought all the way to this point, even to the point where we gathered them up going into OT and we talked to them about how powerful that belief is and what it can allow you to accomplish. So many different guys had to step up today to make something happen in this game, it had to be something that they all could feel and they all get to share.”

Many unusual suspects contributed in huge ways.

There were the Canadians:

**Jon Ryan, who is from Regina, Saskatchewan, threw a touchdown pass on a fake field goal for Seattle’s first touchdown, late in the third quarter.

**Chris Matthews, who was signed out of the CFL last year, recovered the hugely important onside kick with 2:07 left, after the Hawks had cut the deficit to 19-14.

**Luke Willson, who is from Ontario, caught the miracle two-point conversion throw by a harried Wilson to put Seattle up 22-19 after Marshawn Lynch’s 24-yard TD run.

There were the undrafted free agents:

**Baldwin caught six passes for 106 yards, including a 29-yarder on third-and-19 that set up the fake field goal.

**Kearse scored the winner — his only catch on six targets.

**Garry Gilliam, who shares a Nov. 26 birthday with Ryan, caught the punter’s 19-yard TD pass on the fake.

**Alvin Bailey filled in at right tackle and, aside from one sack by Julius Peppers, held his own. “I know I was a little tentative,” Bailey told reporters, “but as the game went on I got comfortable over there at right tackle. That was my first time playing over there all year, but that’s not an excuse.”

And there were the usual suspects:

**Lynch ran for a franchise playoff-record 157 yards (120 in the second half), topping the 149 he had against New Orleans last year.

**Wilson led the Hawks to three touchdowns in less than six minutes, scoring one himself from a yard out and then checking to the pass play to Kearse for the winning TD.

**Michael Bennett, who led Seattle with 12 penalties this season, jumped offsides twice more. But he disrupted the Packers’ running scheme throughout the game.

**Earl Thomas was in on two early third-down stops near the Seattle goal line, forcing the Packers to kick field goals. Thomas left with a shoulder injury in the second quarter but came back and almost immediately thundered into Eddie Lacy with that shoulder, knocking the big running back out of bounds.

“Earl hurt his shoulder today and came back and he hits Lacy on the sidelines with the harnessed shoulder as hard as you could possibly hit the guy and knocked him out of bounds,” Carroll said. “That’s just total guts. It’s just guts.”

**Richard Sherman picked off a pass in the end zone on the first series. He suffered an elbow injury in the fourth quarter chasing down James Starks on a 32-yard run. Kam Chancellor went in for the hit while Sherman was trying to swipe at the ball on the sideline, and Sherman’s elbow was hit hard by Chancellor’s shoulder pads.

“I don’t know how (Sherman) could have played,” Carroll said. “How do you play bump-and-run with one arm? But he did. He hurt his elbow, and he knew he could make it, and somehow he was doing it, so it was a fantastic feat by him to get through that and hang out there and keep competing.”

Sherman reportedly was set for an MRI on Monday, but he and Thomas both declared they would play in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

In the end, the Hawks stayed together and weathered the storm — both literally and figuratively.

“We were strong,” Carroll said. “We were talking the way we needed to talk at halftime (down 16-0). There was some frustration that it wasn’t quite happening, but we corralled the frustration and turned it into the juice that we needed and played really aggressive, tough football in the second half, a fantastic second half of not letting them score and getting enough to win it.”

And now the Seahawks are on the way to the Super Bowl again, this time to face Carroll’s one-time team, the New England Patriots.

“To have a chance to go back to the Super Bowl is extraordinarily fun for us, and I hope for everybody else, too,” Carroll said. “We’re going to do everything we can to go get it done when the time comes, but today was about a bunch of guys joining together.”

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