Seattle survived a strong test by the New Orleans Saints on Saturday to win 23-15 to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks will host the conference title for the second time in team history, facing either Carolina or San Francisco next Sunday.
This was an ugly game, but that's what Carroll likes. The Seahawks battled all season to earn home-field advantage for a game just like this is in windy, rainy conditions. Russell Wilson was spotty throwing the ball. Unlike most teams, the Seahawks don't need to throw the ball to win.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards and two scores, including the decisive 31-yard score with 2:48 left in the game. Wilson struggled all day, but connected on a gutsy 24-yard toss to Doug Baldwin on a late third down. Talking about the Seattle offense seems beside the point.
The Seahawks have one of the best defenses we've seen in many years because they have playmakers at every level. Defensive end Michael Bennett forced a pair of fumbles, recovering one. Linebacker Bobby Wagner had a monster day, blowing up multiple screen passes and tracking down defenders.
Safety Kam Chancellor destroyed a number of running plays, and Earl Thomas limited tight end Jimmy Graham to only one catch. We didn't hear from cornerback Richard Sherman much because Brees was afraid to throw at him.
This wasn't the blowout we saw when these teams faced off in Week 13. New Orleans had the ball, down only one score two different times in the fourth quarter, including after they recovered an onside kick with under a minute left. The Saints outgained Seattle by 132 yards, but the Saints' offense couldn't finish drives. Brees missed too many passes all day in the rough conditions.
This is Seahawks football. Carroll and general manager John Schneider have built such great depth over the last four seasons that any number of players can win the game for them. Sunday was the culmination of Carroll's vision when he first took the job.
The record-breaking offenses and the high-flying quarterbacks still rule in the AFC, but the Seahawks are the symbol of the NFC's different style. One more "ugly" win at home, and the Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl.