The Packers quarterback seemed vulnerable this season. He was sometimes erratic, overthrowing receivers and running a step slow. Now he looked young again, navigating messy pockets and flicking his wrist to put passes just where they needed to be. He connected twice on third down — once to Davante Adams deep down the right sideline on third and eight, once to Jimmy Graham across the middle on third and nine — to exhaust the Seahawks’ stash of timeouts and send the clock dripping toward zero. The Packers’ offense sidelined Wilson and the Seahawks for the final 2:41, securing a 28-23 victory and a date with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game next week.
“He’s been doing this all year,” linebacker Blake Martinez said of Rodgers. “People look at it [like] he’s not making a lot of plays, but he’s making plays to win the game. And that’s all we need [from] him.”
This divisional round was one of the wildest in recent memory — the weekend’s biggest underdogs smacked the Super Bowl favorites, and the reigning NFL MVP erased a 24-point deficit to earn a 20-point win — and yet the second-half chaos in Green Bay belied a soothing predictability. The Seahawks haven’t won at Lambeau Field since 1999. That was true at the tailgate and on the drive home.
The Packers’ win potentially bodes well for the top-seeded 49ers, who throttled the Packers, 37-8, at Levi’s Stadium in late November. The Niners match up well with Green Bay and will play at home, and they get an extra day of rest before the game Sunday afternoon. But Packers players asserted this time would be different, that they could keep “winning ugly,” as they have all season.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty,” Rodgers said, “but what we’ve done [this year] is closed out games the right way.”
The players were emboldened not only by Rodgers’s final drive but the ones that preceded it. The Packers’ diverse, dangerous offense displayed why they no longer relies on superhuman throws by Rodgers. They leaned on a balanced approach with him under center and Aaron Jones out of the backfield. They found their best playmaker, Adams, again and again while mixing in unexpected twists like reverse pitches or a quarterback sneak. They barred star Seattle pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney from wrecking the game with creative protection schemes.
The Packers built a 21-3 halftime lead as Wilson looked battered by the Green Bay pass rush and the past; He has never won at Lambeau, and his numbers here rank among his career worsts. Then the Seahawks abandoned the run, and their quarterback roared back.
On Seattle’s first possession of the second half, Wilson marched his team 69 yards for a touchdown. The Packers responded with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Adams — their second scoring connection of the game — but Wilson looked unfazed. He mounted a second consecutive lengthy touchdown drive. Then a third.
The quarterback, an MVP candidate, was becoming a version of himself the Packers are intimately familiar with, the one who robbed them of a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2014 season with a frantic comeback in Seattle. Darnell Savage, Green Bay’s rookie safety, had watched those moments on TV, and he couldn’t believe Wilson was now doing this to him.
“It’s just like, there’s no way,” he said. “Then it’s like … He really…” Savage trailed off, eyes wide, head shaking.
Tramon Williams, the oldest cornerback in the league, knew better.
“The way that first half went, I could’ve wrote that script for the second half,” he said. “That’s why Russell Wilson is Superman.” Then he grinned. “Luckily, we brought a little kryptonite.”
Past Packers teams have had dominant offenses dragged down by sagging defenses, but this season was supposed to be different. Green Bay had used high draft picks on defensive players, signed two free agent outside linebackers, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, and found a balance that allowed it to create pressure without blitzing. The Packers needed the change to show late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when Wilson ran onto the field looking to lead a fourth consecutive touchdown drive.
And on that final drive, the Smiths emerged. They took turns bottling up the quarterback who had left a sour taste in their teammates’ mouths not so long ago. Za’Darius Smith hurried Wilson on first down, and Preston Smith sacked him on third down. Getting to Wilson was a relief more than anything.
“It was like chasing a chicken in a field with no fence,” Preston Smith said.
The game left the Packers’ locker room tired and quiet. They still had a long way to go. Then a figure appeared in the entryway. It was Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks running back. Several Packers did double-takes, and long snapper Hunter Bradley whispered he had never seen an opposing player come to another team’s locker room before.
Lynch was here to see a fellow University of California alumnus. Rodgers grinned when he saw Lynch and grabbed a jersey from his locker. They hugged and walked down a side hallway. Lynch looked tired, like he was once again in the twilight of his career. Rodgers didn’t. The old quarterback, for one night at least, seemed as if he still might have a lot of football left to play.
Read below for our in-game updates.
January 12, 2020 at 9:50 PM EST
Packers close out victory, advance to NFC title game
The Packers gained a first down on a third-and-nine play on a pass from Aaron Rodgers to tight end Jimmy Graham, effectively icing the game for Green Bay, which will travel to face the San Francisco 49ers in next Sunday’s NFC championship game. Rodgers completed a 32-yard pass to Davante Adams earlier in the drive, also on third down, to keep Seattle from getting a final chance to take the lead. (Packers 28, Seahawks 23, end of game)
January 12, 2020 at 9:35 PM EST
Seattle is forced to punt
Green Bay will take over with 2:32 remaining and a chance to run out the clock after forcing Seattle into a punt. The Seahawks have all three of their timeouts. (Packers 28, Seahawks 23, 2:32 left in the fourth quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 9:30 PM EST
Seahawks sack Aaron Rodgers, have a chance to take lead
Seattle’s Griffin brothers, Shaquem and Shaquill, combined to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a pivotal third-down play, and after a Green Bay punt, the Seahawks now take over possession with the chance to take the lead. Russell Wilson and the offense will start at their own 23-yard line. (Packers 28, Seahawks 23, 4:54 left in the fourth quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 9:21 PM EST
Marshawn Lynch TD gets Seattle within five
Russell Wilson is reaching his most dangerous form. The Seahawks have now scored three consecutive touchdown drives and Wilson looks nothing like the constrained quarterback he was in the first half. Marshawn Lynch capped a nine-play, 79-yard drive with another one-yard touchdown run. The Packers’ only saving grace: They sacked Wilson on the two-point conversion, so the Seahawks still need a touchdown to take the lead. (Packers 28, Seahawks 23, 9:33 left in the fourth quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 9:04 PM EST
Seattle forces a Green Bay punt
The Seahawks got a much-needed stop, forcing an Aaron Rodgers incompletion on third down, and now will take over possession on their own 21-yard line with the aim of further cutting into Green Bay’s lead. (Packers 28, Seahawks 17, 14:01 left in the fourth quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 8:54 PM EST
Seahawks cut into Packers’ lead again
The Seahawks are slowly building into peak Wilsonian form. They responded to the Packers’ quick score with a methodical drive of their own. Russell Wilson directed them 79 yards in 12 plays, throwing a seven-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett to keep the Green Bay crowd hushed here at the end of the third quarter. (Packers 28, Seahawks 17, 0:39 left in the third quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 8:42 PM EST
Aaron Rodgers throws another TD
The reports of Aaron Rodgers’ steep decline appear to have been exaggerated. The Packers quarterback put a dime on former Seahawk Jimmy Graham for a 27-yard completion on a key third-down play, and then he followed it up moments later with a bullet to Davante Adams, who then scooted in for a 40-yard touchdown. The Seahawks might put up a fight, but the Packers won’t let it go unanswered. (Packers 28, Seahawks 10, 7:09 left in the third quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 8:36 PM EST
Seahawks score TD on opening drive of second half
If the Seahawks are to mount a comeback, if they are to keep their season alive, they need quarterback Russell Wilson at his best. He was on the opening drive of the second half, marching his team 69 yards in 10 plays and converting a crucial fourth down with a play-action pass to wide receiver Tyler Lockette. Marshawn Lynch punched in a one-yard score to cut into Green Bay’s lead. (Packers 21, Seahawks 10, 9:44 left in the third quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 8:12 PM EST
Packers lead, 21-3, at halftime
Seattle is in serious trouble, and no one should be surprised. The Seahawks have not scored a first-half touchdown at Lambeau Field since Russell Wilson became the team’s quarterback in 2012. The team has not won here since 1999.
The Seahawks are making it more difficult on themselves by not being able to stop the Packers’ offense, as they have gotten little impact out of their defense beyond a few plays by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and safety Bradley McDougald. Green Bay has leaned on one of Aaron Rodgers’ better first halves of the year and an array of offensive weapons, highlighted by receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones.
The Seahawks now have to not only stop the Packers and jump-start themselves, they also must overcome a double-digit deficit for the fourth time this year to keep their season alive. (Packers 21, Seahawks 3, halftime)
January 12, 2020 at 8:05 PM EST
Aaron Jones rushes for another Packers TD
The Packers offense was as diverse and dangerous on that drive as any team this postseason. The team mixed play calls, Aaron Rodgers dished to a bevy of receivers and Aaron Jones stayed slippery on long runs. Jones punctuated the 11-play, 46-yard, clock-chewing effort with a one-yard touchdown run. (Packers 21, Seahawks 3, 1:30 left in the second quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 7:47 PM EST
Seahawks miss a field goal
The Seahawks, stalled almost single-handedly by Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, were forced to try a 50-yard field goal to bring them back to within single digits after an eight-play, 50-yard drive. Jason Myers pushed the try wide right, and Seattle remains behind by 11 points with just a few minutes remaining in the first half. (Packers 14, Seahawks 3, 5:43 left in the second quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 7:37 PM EST
Green Bay extends lead with TD run
The story of the game so far: The Packers have gotten the ball to their best playmaker, Davante Adams. The wide receiver has caught five balls for 78 yards — three for 44 on that drive alone — and set up the final score by drawing a defensive pass interference on second and long. The Seahawks battled for a goal-line stand, stopping two runs and forcing Rodgers to throw it away after targeting Adams. Yet the Packers plunged forward anyway, and Aaron Jones broke the plane on a 1-yard touchdown. (Packers 14, Seahawks 3, 9:49 left in the second quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 7:22 PM EST
Seahawks cut into Packers’ lead with a field goal
The Seahawks were fortunate the first play of their drive wasn’t intercepted. Packers corner Kevin King dropped it, and Seattle took advantage. Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for 28 yards so that, even when the drive stalled, the Seahawks remained in field goal range. Jason Myers nailed a 45-yard field goal for his team’s first points of the game. (Packers 7, Seahawks 3, 0:28 left in the first quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 7:02 PM EST
Fumble replay ruling goes in Seattle’s favor
The Seahawks wanted to march down the field and score one themselves, but on the first play, tight end Jacob Hollister fumbled after a hit by Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander flipped him over. The referees ruled no fumble, but Green Bay challenged. Then they said Hollister did fumble, but there was no clear evidence of a Green Bay recovery, so it remained Seattle ball.
Lambeau Field, electric already, howled just as the video replay showed a Packers player emerging from the pile with the ball in his hand. Seattle would eventually punt.
After a sack, Green Bay edge rusher Za’Darius Smith let everyone know about the fact he wasn’t selected for the Pro Bowl, revealing a shirt under his jersey that read “Snubbed.” (Packers 7, Seahawks 0, 8:03 left in the first quarter)
January 12, 2020 at 6:51 PM EST
Packers strike first
The Green Bay Packers are usually aggressive on second and short. They like attacking as much as any team in the league. But after Aaron Jones got stuffed on 2nd-and-3, the Packers needed a big gain for a first down. They decided to go for it all instead. Davante Adams won in single coverage on the outside, snagged Aaron Rodgers’ floating pass and jogged into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. (Packers 7, Seahawks 0, 10:37 left in the first quarter)