Seahawks rumble past Saints, 23-15, advance to NFC Championship

SEATTLE — Gold-embossed headphones were clamped onto Marshawn Lynch’s head postgame during another succinct conversation with the media.

Gold chains hung on top of his broad chest. He answered quickly, then left, delivering another full day of what Lynch has come to be known for: ferocious action and few public words.

Lynch ran for a Seahawks franchise-postseason record 140 yards, once again starring as the central figure in a 23-15 grindhouse divisional-round playoff win over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday in a dank and wind-whipped CenturyLink Field.

The Seahawks move to the NFC title game for the first time since the 2005-06 season, also the only Super Bowl appearance in the franchise’s history. Seattle will host San Francisco next Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

Lynch’s coffin-sealing 31-yard touchdown run with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter was the conclusion of a day based in battering.

The Seahawks ran 35 times and threw just 18, choosing not to tango with a brisk wind from the south and instead feed Lynch.

His 28 carries tied a season-high. The 140 yards were five less than his season-best at Atlanta. Just more than three years after he scored an iconic 67-yard touchdown against the Saints which resulted in Earth shaking, Lynch did in the Saints again.

“I don’t know if it’s the opponent or just when we play the Saints we run the ball,” fullback Michael Robinson said. “We wanted to beat them up a little bit. It’s playoff time. We want to chest your chin a little bit.”

Lynch exemplified that with his usual forceful runs. The capper was his 31-yard touchdown around the left side to put the Seahawks in front 23-8. Once he made the corner, Lynch had a clear line to the end zone. He slowed temporarily to add a stiff-arm to the run.

There were times — though rare — during the day Lynch was banged backward. However, thinking of those runs had Robinson shadow boxing at his locker.

“Body blows, body blows,” Robinson said. “The 1, 2 yards. The zero yards. Those are body blows. The 1s and 2s will eventually get going.”

Most of the day was a slog for the Seattle offense. Russell Wilson was not crisp, misfiring slants and completing just 9 of 18 passes.

“Just on me,” Wilson said. “That’s something I can fix. I’m not worried about it.

The Saints at times gamble with cover-zero blitzes. Wilson burned them in the first game when they blitzed multiple players, leaving wide receivers with one-on-one coverage.

Wilson sniffed out the Saints’ intent on third-and-3 from the Seattle 45-yard line with 2:57 remaining in the game. He changed the protection, then lofted a pass up the left sideline for Doug Baldwin.

Baldwin was able to turn back, snag the ball with two hands and get a knee down before he went out of bounds. The 24-yard reception was the Seahawks’ longest and most important catch of the day.

Lynch scored on the next play and any push back from the Saints seemed stifled.

“He just continues to crank it out for us,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said.

With just 2:40 remaining, the Seahawks led 23-8. Just more than two minutes later, the lead was 23-15 after a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston.

New Orleans lined up for an onside kick, which bounced right. Golden Tate slid to the ground and tried to smother the ball. It clanged off his chest, allowing Colston to recover at the Saints’ 41-yard line.

The Saints were out of timeouts. Brees hit Pro-Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, whom the Seahawks silenced throughout the day, for a 9-yard gain. It was Graham’s first catch and came with 24 seconds remaining in the game.

Brees spiked the ball to stop the clock. His next pass was complete to Colston, then, inexplicably, Colston threw a forward pass to the opposite side of the field. The Saints appeared to be attempting a form of throwback, last-ditch play. But, Colston’s botch resulted in an automatic 10-second runoff of the clock and ended the game.

“We’ll look at the film, next question,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said when asked about the play.

Lynch scored a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter to push the Seahawks in fron 13-0. Two first-quarter Steven Hauschka field goals had put the Seahawks up, 6-0. Hauschka was 3-for-3 on the day. He joined Lynch in being able to drive though the rain and the wind.

Lynch hadn’t run for more than 100 yards since since Nov. 10, though he was just short when he finished the regular season finale with 97 yards.

“Whoever is coming here, just be ready to play because we damn sure will be,” Red Bryant said.


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