How the Packers Beat the Seahawks to Advance to the N.F.C. Championship Game

Thanks to Aaron Rodgers, and some plucky defense, Green Bay will play San Francisco next week for a shot at the Super Bowl.

How the Packers Beat the Seahawks to Advance to the N.F.C. Championship Game
Aaron Rodgers was 16 of 27 with 243 yards and two touchdowns in the Green Bay Packers’ 28-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.Credit...Dylan Buell/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers, the Packers quarterback, turned 36 last month, which has led him to speak openly of his inevitable athletic mortality.

It has been nearly a decade since Rodgers and the Packers won a Super Bowl to ratify the 2010 season. Before Sunday’s 28-23, heart-in-the-throat playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks, he said that winning another Lombardi Trophy for this storied place known as Titletown was “on my mind every day.”

He is one step closer as the Packers (13-3) advanced to face San Francisco on the road next Sunday in the N.F.C. championship game. Against Seattle, Rodgers completed 16 of 27 passes for 243 yards, played brilliantly on third down and threw touchdown passes of 20 and 40 yards to receiver Davante Adams (eight receptions, 160 yards).

Still, victory withheld itself from Green Bay until the final moments. Seattle had won eight of its nine road games this season and, after falling behind, 21-3, at halftime, the Seahawks nearly prevailed. Quarterback Russell Wilson (21 of 31 for 277 yards and a touchdown; seven carries for 64 yards) seemed to play dodgeball as much as football in whirling and darting and magnificently to elude the Packers’ pass rush.

The outcome was not settled until the final three minutes, when, on consecutive third-down plays, Rodgers nestled a 32-yard pass to Adams between a Seattle cornerback and safety, then withstood a blitz to hit tight end Jimmy Graham across the middle for hardly an inch more than a needed nine yards. All told, Green Bay converted 9 of 14 third downs.

“Winning is always satisfying, but there are moments in a season that rank higher than others,” Rodgers said. “Based on the way their offense was moving the ball, I knew I was going to have to make some plays.”

In victory, Green Bay’s rookie coach, Matt LaFleur, validated an offense that has Rodgers operating more under center, to facilitate Green Bay’s play-action passing. LaFleur has also incorporated elaborate pre-snap motion and a scheme that often relies on calling two plays at once, with Rodgers making a decision based on the defensive coverage and calling fewer audibles.

“I’m 36, I know what this is all about,” Rodgers told reporters before Sunday’s game. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of really good years left, but you never know. I want to make the most of this opportunity.”

Here is how the Packers beat the Seahawks:

Given a chance to ice the game, Green Bay took advantage, chewing up the final 2 minutes 22 seconds of the game and beating the Seattle Seahawks, 28-23.

Conservative approach? Not so much for these Packers.

Needing a first down early in the drive, Aaron Rodgers eschewed the running game and threw deep to Davante Adams on third-and-8, connecting for a 32-yard reception. Later, on a third-and-9, he connected with Jimmy Graham for a 9-yard reception that slammed the door on Seattle’s season.

So much of this Packers season was about Aaron Jones’s emergence as a major scoring threat, but when Green Bay needed him the most, Rodgers was Rodgers and Seattle simply could not stop him.

And now Rodgers will take his team into San Francisco next weekend with a chance at earning his second career trip to the Super Bowl.

Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith — no relation — have been Green Bay’s twin towers of quarterback pressure this season, and Preston came up absolutely huge on a vital drive for Seattle, sacking Russell Wilson on a third-and-5 play and taking away an opportunity for the Seahawks to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.

It looked good at first for Seattle when Wilson’s first pass of the drive went for 14 yards to Tyler Lockett.

Malik Turner then dropped what would have been a second huge gain, and a nice catch by Jacob Hollister was limited to 5 yards thanks to a solid tackle by safety Kevin King, who returned from an earlier injury.

That set up the huge third down play in which Preston Smith came around the edge and crushed Wilson to the turf at the Seattle 36-yard line, forcing a punt.

Green Bay now has the ball with a 5-point lead and less than three minutes remaining.

Russell Wilson has been given the ball back, trailing by just one score, with 4:33 left in the game. What had once seemed like a blowout in Green Bay’s favor is suddenly a wide open game.

This opportunity for Wilson to lead his team back from what had been an 18-point deficit came courtesy of Seattle’s defense coming up huge on Green Bay’s previous possession. The promising drive short-circuited on a third-and-9 from Seattle’s 40-yard line when Shaquem Griffin sacked Rodgers for an 8-yard loss, forcing a punt.

It was Griffin’s first sack of his professional career.

Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to score touchdowns for the Seattle Seahawks, and he is doing just that. His 1-yard run into the end zone has Seattle trailing Green Bay, 28-23, with 9:33 left in the game.

After Seattle’s defense forced a punt, ending a streak in which Green Bay scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives, Russell Wilson went right to work. He took advantage of a free play caused by a penalty to throw deep down the field to Tyler Lockett, who pulled in a 19-yard catch even as Packers safety Kevin King delivered a blow so hard that King had to leave the game with an injury.

Wilson took a sack from Preston Smith, then hit DK Metcalf for a 14-yard gain. Two plays after that he hit Jacob Hollister for 19 yards.

He got some help from Travis Homer when a desperation toss to the rookie running back turned into a 16-yard catch-and-run.

Lynch then bulldozed his way 4 yards to Green Bay’s 1-yard line to set up his own goal line score.

Seattle’s attempt at a 2-point conversion failed when Wilson was sacked by Jaire Alexander.

Green Bay’s Preston Smith was injured on the drive, which would be a huge loss for the Packers if he cannot continue.

A sleepy first half has given way to something of a shootout in the third quarter, as Russell Wilson slowly and surely marched his troops down the field, gaining 84 yards on 12 plays. Seattle scored when he threw to a diving Tyler Lockett in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown.

No play on the drive went for more than 13 yards, and Wilson repeatedly got himself out of trouble thanks to his otherworldly mobility. It’s a performance that has to be madding for Green Bay’s front-seven, which has pressured him repeatedly to no avail.

While Seattle still trails Green Bay, 28-17, this is far more of a game than it was at any point in the first half.

In a performance worthy of his terrific season, Wilson has 190 passing yards and 64 rushing yards, and he is single-handedly keeping his team alive.

Aaron Rodgers apparently didn’t like having the Seahawks score a touchdown. He answered their score with one of his own, connecting with Davante Adams for a 40-yard touchdown, concluding a drive that went 75 yards in 2 minutes 35 seconds.

Green Bay now leads, 28-10.

While Green Bay loves to run the ball, this drive was all about Rodgers. He threw deep down the middle of the field to tight end Jimmy Graham for a 27-yard gain early in the drive, and then found his favorite target, Adams, for their second long touchdown connection of the game. This one came courtesy of a beautiful move by Adams, who caught the ball on the left sideline and proceeded to dash back across the field, evading a pair of defenders.

Making a statement that they are still in this game, Seattle marched 69 yards on 10 plays, scoring when Marshawn Lynch pushed the ball in from the 1-yard line. The Seahawks now trail the Packers, 21-10.

The running play was set up by the previous play, in which Lynch served as a perfect decoy.

Seattle had gotten to Green Bay’s 5-yard line, but was facing a fourth-and-1. Everyone in the stadium expected Lynch to get the ball, but Russell Wilson rolled out and threw to Tyler Lockett for a 4-yard gain that set the table for Lynch’s touchdown.

The drive got the Seahawks back into the game, but initially it looked like it would be a three-and-out after its first two plays went for a combined 4 yards. On third down, facing intense pressure, Russell Wilson shot up the middle for a drive-saving 22-yard run.

Two plays later, Wilson connected with the rookie DK Metcalf for 24 yards that put Seattle in the red zone for the first time today. The rest was history.

At halftime this game is all Green Bay, with the Packers leading by 21-3 in a game that has not felt that close.

The dominance has come in all facets of the game, with the Packers outgaining the Seahawks in total yards, 201 to 135, and winning in time of possession with 18:05 to Seattle’s 11:55.

Aaron Rodgers has been efficient — especially on throws to Davante Adams — and has completed 10 of 15 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Jones, meanwhile, has carried the ball 13 times for 46 yards and has run the ball in for two scores.

Things have not been nearly as smooth for Russell Wilson, who has never won a pro game at Lambeau Field. Seattle’s quarterback has completed just 6 of 13 passes for 105 yards and has received almost no support from his running game, with Marshawn Lynch and David Moore combining for just 20 yards on the ground — Wilson is leading the team with 16 rushing yards.

The good news for the Seahawks: They will receive the ball to start the second half.

Side note: During the Fox halftime show, it was announced that Jimmy Johnson, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Dallas Cowboys, had been named to this year’s class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A visibly emotional Johnson struggled to speak after being told, and was still in tears when the station came back from a commercial break.

It may not look like the high-flying Packers offenses of previous seasons, but this version of the team is absolutely deadly near the goal line. So even when it took a few tries, it was fairly clear that Aaron Jones was going to keep getting the ball. He rewarded that faith with a 1-yard rushing touchdown — his second of the day.

With Jones’s latest score, the Packers are leading, 21-3, with 1:30 left in the first half. While nothing is certain, this game has been all Green Bay so far.

The Packers’ latest drive had gotten off to a hot start with an 18-yard carry by Tyler Ervin, who stepped out of several tackles on the run. But the biggest play came on the sideline when Jadeveon Clowney — who was able to return from an earlier injury — tackled Jace Sternberger by whipping the tight end to the ground by his helmet at the end of a play.

A flag was thrown, and the ruling on the field was that Clowney had grabbed at Sternberger’s helmet opening — basically a face mask penalty — but it did not appear on replays as if Clowney’s hand entered the helmet in any way.

Green Bay had gotten the ball back with decent field position thanks to a promising Seattle drive stalling out with a great deal of help from Za’Darius Smith’s second sack of the game. Russell Wilson was sacked an N.F.L.-leading 48 times this season, and Smith seems highly motivated to keep that trend going in the postseason.

Green Bay is up 14-3 in the second quarter after Aaron Jones plowed his way into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.

Until that run, the drive had belonged to Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

The Packers started the possession with Rodgers finding Adams for an 11-yard completion. He then went Adams for 18 yards. And to Adams for 15 yards.

The pairing took two plays off, with Rodgers giving the ball to two other players, but the quarterback then looked for Adams again on another deep pass. While that one fell incomplete, Green Bay picked up 18 yards thanks to a pass interference penalty against Seattle’s Shaquill Griffin.

But once the drive got near the goal line, going to Jones was automatic — the running back didn’t score 19 total touchdowns this season by mistake.

Something to keep an eye on: Jadeveon Clowney left the field during the drive and appeared to be in quite a bit of pain on the sideline.

Seattle got on the board with a 45-yard field goal by Jason Myers that narrowed Green Bay’s lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The Seahawks went 32 yards on six plays, with the biggest gain coming on a 28-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett. Otherwise, Seattle managed very little against Green Bay’s defense.

Thus far this game has seemed almost eerily quiet compared to the barn burner in Kansas City earlier in the day.

After Green Bay opened the game with a quick touchdown, the teams traded punts, and midway through the first quarter it is still, 7-0, Packers.

Despite Seattle’s first possession not coming with a score, it had some notable action. Defensive end Za’Darius Smith sacked Russell Wilson — celebrating by pulling down his undershirt which read “Snubbed” in reference to his not making the Pro Bowl — and the Seahawks appeared to get away with a turnover on another play when tight end Jacob Hollister fumbled the ball. The officials said no clear recovery could be determined on a review, and the failed challenge cost Green Bay its second timeout of the half.

The Packers’ second possession was nowhere near as interesting. They went just 1 yard on three plays.

The Green Bay Packers methodically went 75 yards on eight plays, with Aaron Rodgers lofting a 20-yard pass over the defense and into Davante Adams’s arms in the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.

The game started exactly as the Packers would prefer. Coach Matt LaFleur called an Aaron Jones run on the first play, and the explosive back sliced through the Seahawks defense for 23 yards. From that point forward, Seattle was on its heels, allowing Rodgers to pick them apart for 47 passing yards and the touchdown.

The only negative to the drive was the Packers having to burn a timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.

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