SEATTLE -- Russell Wilson is not a seer, and he did not arrive at CenturyLink Field for Sunday's NFC Championship Game in Doc Brown's DeLorean. Yet the Seattle Seahawks' third-year quarterback does believe fervently in the power of visualization, and last week, as he played through scenarios surrounding his impending showdown with the Green Bay Packers, Wilson spoke like a man who'd gotten a sneak peek at the future.
During a sitdown interview Thursday that would air three days later on "NFL GameDay Morning," Wilson talked excitedly about the prospect of facing presumptive league MVP Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team coming off a dramatic Divisional Round victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
"It's gonna be an all-out battle," Wilson predicted. "It's gonna come down to the fourth quarter. It may go to overtime. I'm expecting something great to happen, some amazing play to win the game, or amazing drive, or a back-and-forth two-minute drill. You know, I look forward to those moments."
And in retrospect, as amazing as it might sound, Wilson was underselling the drama.
In one of the more stunning and entertaining conference-title games in NFL history, the Seahawks rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation, then roared to a 28-22 victory on Wilson's gorgeous, 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse. The improbable triumph affords Wilson and the Seahawks the opportunity to become the first team to repeat as champions since Tom Brady guided the New England Patriots to back-to-back titles a decade ago -- and it will be Brady and the Pats, 45-7 winners over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, standing between Seattle and history in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1.
Even a soothsayer like Wilson, after all, couldn't have foreseen an NFC Championship Game like this.
Consider that Seattle didn't record a first down until seven minutes remained in the second quarter -- and Wilson's first pass completion came fewer than four minutes before halftime. Actually, that's not totally accurate (nor, for that matter, was Wilson) -- by then, he had completed two passes to Packers defenders, with Green Bay also forcing and recovering a Doug Baldwin fumble on a kickoff return. And Wilson then added another pick before the break.
When Wilson threw his fourth interception with 5:04 left in the game, the Packers seemed so certain of victory that safety Morgan Burnett went down on his own at the Green Bay 43, rather than risk a possible fumble. The 'Hawks trailed 19-7 at the time, their only points having come on a fake field goal, with punter/holder Jon Ryan hitting backup tackle Garry Gilliam for a 19-yard third-quarter score.
Yet somehow, a quarterback who had already won an unprecedented 41 games over his first three NFL seasons pulled off his most incredible victory of all.
"I just believed," Wilson said as he stood at his locker, taking in the emotion of the moment. "We all just kept believing in each other, and I just believed we were going to make the plays that we needed to make -- that somehow, we would get it done. I believed we could overcome the turnovers and the mistakes and the adversity.
"And when you do all that, and overcome the odds, it makes the game that much sweeter."
For neutral fans who cherish fantastic finishes, the game's final four minutes were heaven -- and positively surreal.
Given that Seattle had just one timeout remaining, the Packers could have all but clinched the game by recovering Steven Hauschka's onside kick. But backup tight end Brandon Bostick, whose assignment was to block -- and allow teammate Jordy Nelson, the Packers' top receiver, to field the kick -- instead tried to catch it himself. Bad decision: He failed, and when the ball caromed off his chest and into the air, the Seahawks' Chris Matthews seized it at the 50.
Four plays later, running back Marshawn Lynch (25 carries, 157 yards) rambled into the end zone from 24 yards out with 1:25 remaining, sending 68,538 fans into cacophonous hysterics.
The drama, however, was just getting started.
Up 20-19, the Seahawks went for two, and Wilson was immediately chased to his right by Packers linebacker Julius Peppers, who leaped to cut off the quarterback's passing lane. Wilson started briefly toward his left before drifting toward the right sideline and backpedaling to avoid linebacker Sam Barrington. At the last minute, Wilson contorted his body, took a hit from Barrington and heaved a rainbow across the field -- and across his body -- toward the left pylon.
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"That ball seemed to stay in the air forever," said tight end Luke Willson, who somehow caught it at the 1, just in front of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and lunged into the end zone. "I'm never an option on that play. I'm supposed to block on the back side. But when I realized he hadn't thrown it, I just thought I should give him an option. I turned around, and there it was."
Those two points turned out to be huge when Rodgers (19 of 34, 178 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions), gutting out a painful calf injury that severely restricted his mobility, drove the Packers from their own 22 to the Seattle 30, at one point scrambling 12 yards in what looked like slow motion.
When the Seahawks won the toss, Wilson -- once again -- forecast the future with incredible precision.
"I told (offensive coordinator) Darrell Bevell I was going to get the look I wanted, make the check we'd practiced and hit Jermaine (Kearse) for the winning touchdown," Wilson said.
Said coach Pete Carroll: "True story. We had something in mind all game, and were just waiting for the look, and Russell told Darrell that's what was gonna happen. Even when things were rough, he was in it the whole way. He never doubted that he could get it done. He never hesitated, never flinched. We talked the whole time, and he kept saying that we were gonna find a way."
In the end, Wilson found his A-game when it mattered most.
Facing a third-and-7 from his own 30, Wilson threw a gorgeous, 35-yard pass to Baldwin, setting up first-and-10 from the Green Bay 35. It was so good, he followed it up with an indelible encore.
The Packers, clearly expecting a run, came out in "cover zero," meaning there would be no safety in the middle of the field. That was the look Wilson had been waiting for -- and Kearse, running a post from the right side of the field, was the guy he knew he'd target.
"I know the game's gotta be slow to Russ, for him to see that and make that call in that situation," said Earl Thomas, the Seahawks' All-Pro safety. "When I saw them line up that way, I said, 'That's it, man.' And the two-point conversion? That's Russ. Russell does all kinds of stuff you never think of. It just works.
"He faced every bad situation in the book today -- and he overcame all of it."
To All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, "This game was like a microcosm of our season. Everything's going bad. You think we're done. You count us out. You close the door. You stop watching the game. And somehow, we find a way.
"We were 3-3 and 6-4 and supposedly falling apart, and we persevered. And I tell you what -- Russell's a mental giant. When the ball didn't bounce his way, he didn't go in the tank and say, 'Woe is me.' He stepped up when we needed him most and he won the game for us. I'm not sure people get how great he is. I hope they get it now."
Yet for all of his cool under fire, the emotion of the moment got to Wilson, causing him to shed tears in the game's aftermath. He had his reasons. As he said in the GameDay Morning interview, Wilson regards his late father, Harrison, as a "guardian angel," and that's who was on his mind as blue and green confetti fell at CenturyLink.
On Thursday, Wilson had spoken of the moment that Harrison, then 55, passed away from complications due to diabetes -- the morning after Wilson had been drafted by the Colorado Rockies. When asked if his father had been coherent enough to appreciate the moment, Wilson replied, "I believe so. You know, he couldn't speak back to me. He had a breathing mask and everything. But I believe he could hear me.
"I left the room and my mom and I were talking out in the hallway for about an hour. And the nurse came back in to get us. And we went back in -- and this is why I believe he could hear me, because I went back into the room and the EKG was moving perfectly fine. And I stepped one foot into the room. I said, 'Dad, I'm here.' About three seconds later the line went flat.
"So I think that he just knew that, you know, things were going in the right direction. I think it was his time to go. God took him when he was ready to take him. And he's smiling. He's my guardian angel, watching me every day."
As he stood at his locker after the game, Wilson said he felt his father's presence throughout Sunday's instant classic -- during good times and bad.
"He's just right there with me," Wilson said, getting choked up as he spoke. "He just taught me so many lessons -- how to compete, how to fight, how to never give up. So when things weren't going my way, I knew what I had to do."
Wilson knew what he had to do, and -- at least in some sense -- he knew how Sunday's fateful climax would play out, one way or another. Obviously, he couldn't have predicted how close the Seahawks' dreams of a Super Bowl encore would come to being squelched, or how narrowly they would escape defeat and overcome a determined and accomplished opponent.
All he knew -- or at least visualized, as he'd confided on Thursday -- was that there would be an amazing play to win the game, and that he was betting on himself to make it.
Against all odds, he did. And that's now something a whole lot of football fans can visualize happening on Super Sunday.