What We Learned - In the First Half  

 

Seahawks stun Packers in OT, headed to Super Bowl

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After throwing four interceptions in Jermaine Kearse's direction during regulation, Russell Wilson dialed up the seemingly star-crossed receiver in overtime for a game-winning 35-yard touchdown, sending the Seattle Seahawks back to the Super Bowl on the strength of an improbable 28-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

1. The Packers flat-out blew this one, as the football gods demonstrated once again that fortune favors the bold. Green Bay's utter first-half domination produced a 16-0 halftime lead that could have been a 30-point advantage if not for a pair of interceptions in field-goal territory and coach Mike McCarthy's decision to settle for three points on a pair of fourth-downs from the Seahawks' 1-yard line. The Packers managed to convert Wilson's four interceptions into just six points and failed to attack a one-armed Richard Sherman in the fourth quarter. Had McCarthy's game management and play-calling matched his defense's aggressive effort, Green Bay wouldn't have needed tight end Brandon Bostick to come up with a key onside kick that bounced off his helmet and into the hands of Seattle's Chris Matthews.

2. Down 19-7 with less than three minutes remaining, Wilson led a pair of touchdown drives in 44 seconds, extending the Seahawks' streak of enjoying a lead in all 55 of the quarterback's starts. Wilson couldn't have done it without Marshawn Lynch, who churned out a postseason career-high 157 yards while taking over the game in trademark tackle-breaking fashion late in the fourth quarter. If Lynch ends up in the Hall of Fame, he will be riding the wave of this 2014 season in addition to the definitive "Beastquake" touchdown run.

3. Starting with Julius Peppers picking on replacement right tackle Alvin Bailey in the first quarter, the Packers' defense played their most impressive game of the season through three-and-a-half quarters. Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had as many interceptions as the Seahawks had receptions in the first two quarters. Wilson authored the worst half of his three-year career, going 2 of 9 for 12 yards, three interceptions, two sacks and a 0.0 passer rating at halftime. Seattle gained more than three yards on just one of seven first-half possessions. That swarming performance was undone by an inability to stop Lynch and Wilson with the game on the line.

4. Aaron Rodgers generated the lowest postseason passer rating (55.8) of his career against the first defense since the 1985-86 Bears to lead the NFL in points and yards in consecutive seasons. His calf strain didn't limit him as much as it did through three quarters in last week's victory. To Rodgers' credit, he came through in the clutch with a game-tying field-goal drive in the one-minute drill to send the game to overtime. Due to the NFL's overtime rules, the MVP candidate never got an opportunity to match the Wilson-to-Kearse touchdown.

5. The Seahawks aren't without red flags heading into Super Bowl XLIX against the Patriots. Sherman was forced to play with his left arm dangling in the second half after taking errant friendly fire from bone-jarring strong safety Kam Chancellor on a sideline tackle. Sherman injured his left elbow on the play and X-rays taken after the game were negative, according to NFL Media's Steve Wyche, per a source close to Sherman. He will undergo further examinations but Sherman said he will be on the field for the Super Bowl, per Wyche. Fellow All-Pro Earl Thomas also missed time with a shoulder issues. Injuries aside, the Packers exposed the Seahawks' porous pass protection and the wide receivers' inability to gain separation against man coverage. No matter the outcome of the Super Bowl, a prototypical No. 1 receiver should be high on the offseason shopping list.

6. Peppers was one of last offseason's best signings. Credit Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who has built a talented homegrown roster poised to compete annually. Decisions will have to be made on the futures of slot receiver Randall Cobb, right tackle Bryan Bulaga and cornerback Tramon Williams -- the team's key free agents. With Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson at the height of their powers, though, McCarthy's squad will reload for another season as an NFC superpower.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps Championship Sunday, and breaks down the Seahawks' historic comeback against the Packers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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