SEATTLE (AP) — After the chaos subsided, Earl Thomas sat in his locker quietly searching for a description.
For a change, the normally chatty Seattle Seahawks’ All-Pro safety had little to say.
“It’s hard to describe what just happened. We were down with 3 minutes left and look what happened. I’m clueless right now,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if I’m drained. I’m grateful.”
By the time Jermaine Kearse caught a 35-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson 3:19 into overtime to give the Seahawks a 28-22 win over Green Bay and a second straight NFC championship Sunday, Seattle was spent.
The Seahawks were down 16-0 at halftime. They trailed 19-7 with 3:52 remaining. They watched Wilson throw four interceptions for the first time in his career. They needed two touchdowns and an onside kick recovery in the final 130 seconds just to reach overtime.
The noisiest venue in the NFL was left on mute for most of the afternoon.
All that made the eruption after Kearse’s TD catch even more meaningful for a team that felt they were counted out a number of times through the season.
“As a true competitor, you can’t have any doubt. You can’t lack any confidence, because if you go out there, you’re already beat if you lack that confidence and that belief in yourself and your teammates,” Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “So, never any doubt. And when it got down to 5 minutes and we were still down by 12 points, we believed that we were going to find a way to pull it out. And obviously we did that.”
Seattle (14-4) already bucked history becoming the first defending champion since January 2006 to win a playoff game when the Seahawks beat Carolina in the divisional round. Thanks to the improbable comeback, Seattle is the first defending champion in a decade with a chance at repeating.
Waiting for them in Arizona: the last team to pull off back-to-back titles, the New England Patriots.
For 56 minutes, it appeared Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers were destined for the Super Bowl. The Packers bullied the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and took advantage of unusual mistakes by Wilson. The 16-0 lead at halftime could have been closer to 30-0 if not for a series of goal-line stands by the Seahawks’ defense.
Even still, Green Bay took possession up by 12 with 5:04 left.
“We have lots to evaluate but the way we lost when we were sitting there with two scores late in the game with the ball you expect to put that thing away,” Rodgers said.
Seattle had been ineffective all day until Wilson finally put a drive together with passes to Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch — initially ruled a touchdown but called back because he stepped out of bounds. Wilson finished with a 1-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:09 left.
The onside kick went high to Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, but he couldn’t gather it, and Seattle’s Chris Matthews recovered at the 50. Lynch sped and powered his way to a 24-yard TD run. On the 2-point conversion, Wilson — about to be sacked — threw a desperate pass hauled in by Luke Willson to make it 22-19 with 1:25 remaining.
Rodgers, limping on an injured calf, calmly led the Packers (13-5) downfield to set up Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal, a 48-yarder with 14 seconds to go to force overtime.
Then Wilson and Kearse struck, with Kearse — the target on all four of Wilson’s interceptions — beating Tramon Williams on the winning pass. Kearse has also caught the winning score in last year’s conference title win over San Francisco. Instead of a postgame television moment like last year with Richard Sherman shouting, Wilson was in tears.
“I’m usually pretty calm. But I just think that going through that game and going through the ups and the downs of the game, a lot of downs, more so than normal, that’s for sure,” Wilson said. “But just staying the course and continuing to believe in the guys I have around me.”
Here are other things that stood out from Seattle’s remarkable comeback:
BEAST MODE: Lost in the chaos of the final minutes was Lynch setting a new career playoff high with 157 yards rushing. Lynch averaged 6.3 yards per carry and had 120 yards rushing in the second half and overtime.
LOST LACY: Eddie Lacy helped Green Bay control possession for much of the first half, rushing for 57 yards. He was limited to 16 yards on eight carries in the second half and overtime. Green Bay had just 28 offensive plays after halftime.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Seattle’s special teams lifted them back into the game after falling behind 16-0. Their first touchdown came on a fake field goal when holder Jon Ryan threw 19 yards to tackle eligible Garry Gilliam in the third quarter. And Matthews’ onside kick recovery kept the Seahawks alive.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Wilson had a 0.0 passer rating and only two completions in the first half. He completed 12 of 20 pass in the second half and overtime. Wilson was exceptional on Seattle’s final three possessions, completing 6 of 7 for 134 yards and the winning TD. He also rushed for 20 yards and a touchdown.
COMEBACK COMPLETE: The 16-point comeback was the largest in the second half in a conference title game. The Colts defeated the Patriots after trailing 21-6 in 2006. Seattle is the first defending champion to reach the Super Bowl the following season since New England won consecutive titles in 2003-04.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)