After clinching home-field advantage in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks took advantage of a golden opportunity to make a Super Bowl run. With its win against NFC West rival San Francisco on Sunday, Seattle won the NFC Championship and will move on to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Seattle trailed the 49ers heading into the second half, but they put up 20 points to take a 23-17 lead once the San Francisco offense started to stall out. Colin Kaepernick couldn't run the ball anymore, and Marshawn Lynch started to get the running game going for Seattle. In the end, it was the defense coming up with two huge plays to seal the win, with Kaepernick getting intercepted on both of San Francisco's final two possessions.
The game ended at 23-17, with Wilson kneeling out the remainder of clock.
Seattle came up just short in the playoffs last year, blowing a lead in the final 30 seconds against Atlanta. Had the Seahawks held on, they would have played San Francisco for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Despite the missed opportunity, the Seahawks returned one of the most talented rosters in the NFL this season. Unlike last year, when Seattle lost a few games it probably shouldn't have, the Seahawks took care of business during the 2013 regular season, clinching the NFC West and the No. 1 seed. That meant that NFC foes would have to advance through the playoffs by beating Seattle at CenturyLink Field, a very tough place for opponents to win as New Orleans found out last week and San Francisco this week.
Although the run to the Super Bowl shouldn't come as much of a surprise, it is still a rarity for the Seahawks and Seattle fans. The game on Sunday was just Seattle's third appearance in a conference championship, and the franchise will advance to its second Super Bowl. The 2005 Seahawks rode home-field advantage to Super Bowl XL, eventually losing to Pittsburgh. That loss still aggravates Seattle fans nearly 10 years later. The current crop of Seahawks will have a chance at redemption and an opportunity to bring the city its first major sports championship since the Seattle SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA Championship.
The Seahawks made the playoffs in eight of the last 11 seasons. This season, however, is only the second time they have advanced past the Divisional round during that stretch. While making the playoffs isn't anything new for Seattle, having success -- and being favored to win -- is a drastic change. This season was just the fourth in franchise history that the Seahawks won more than 10 games. The 2005 team was often regarded as the best in franchise history, but the 2013 team may have already taken that mantle. It has advanced as far as any team, won as many games and has the opportunity to finish with the Super Bowl victory the 2005 team couldn't capture.
There will be a bit of history on the line in the Super Bowl. Seattle hired Pete Carroll away from USC, and he and general manger John Schneider have assembled one of the deepest and most talent-laden rosters in the league. With one more win, Carroll will join Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to win an NCAA and NFL championship.
While they had the benefit of playing at home, the Seahawks' path to the Super Bowl was not an easy one. Nine of their 18 games came against teams with at least 10 wins. Seattle beat San Francisco twice, New Orleans twice and Carolina once. In total, the Seahawks won six games against teams with double-digit wins. The Seahawks now need just one more such win to cap the season with the Lombardi Trophy.