Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Lynch leads Seahawks past Saints and into NFC Championship game


Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Seahawks to the NFC Championship game for just the third time in franchise history.

Lynch’s 140 rushing yards are a new franchise postseason-record.

Seattle knocked off the No. 6 seed New Orleans Saints, 23-15, in front of a sold-out CenturyLink Field and will play the winner of the Panthers-49ers game next week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

The Seahawks had a dominant first half and used it to get past the Saints for the second time in two months.

The Saints had opportunities but couldn’t get a lot going against the Seahawks at CenturyLink, where they are now 16-1 in their past two seasons.

In the first quarter, Steven Hauschka kicked two field goals to give the Seahawks an early 6-0 lead. Saints kicker Shayne Graham missed a field goal in the first quarter that would have put New Orleans on the board.

In the second, the Seahawks defense forced a Mark Ingram fumble and recovered to give the ball back to the offense well into Saints territory. Seattle responded by scoring a touchdown as Marshawn Lynch ran 15 yards for a the score. He had 69 rushing yards at the half and finished the game with 140 yards on the ground.

Later in the quarter, Hauschka kicked his third field goal of the game to give the Seahawks a 16-0 lead heading into halftime.

Percy Harvin, playing for the first time since Nov. 17, had three catches for 21 yards and a 9-yard rush before leaving the game just before halftime with a concussion. He did not return and his status for next week’s NFC Championship is unknown.

Seattle’s defense dominated similarly to the way it dominated the last time the Saints visited CenturyLink Field. Drew Brees was limited to 34 passing yards in the first half and Jimmy Graham didn’t have a catch in the first half of the game.

One of the few weak points in the Seahawks defense was its run defense. Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram combined for 78 rushing yards in the first half and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. That could easily be overlooked though as the Saints were shutout in the first half.

At halftime, the Seahawks ran more plays (32-27), had more total yards (163-113), and had more total possession (17:16-12:44).

In the third quarter, the Saints figured a few things out on both sides of the ball. They shut down the Seahawks offense while putting together plays on the offensive side of the ball. Russell Wilson did not have a single completion in the third quarter.

At the end of the quarter, the Saints had more total yards (204-188) than the Seahawks, but still had no points to show for it.

New Orleans put together their best drive of the day late in the third and into the start of the fourth where they got the ball all the way to the Seahawks 1-yard line.

Robinson scored the first points of the day for the Saints early in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run. The Saints successfully completed the two-point conversion and the game became 16-8 with 13:14 left in the game. Robinson finished the day with 57 rushing yards and the touchdown.

Brees was 4-for-4 for 63 yards on the drive after throwing just 34 yards in the first half.

The fourth quarter saw a poor offensive performance from the Seahawks until late in the game when Marshawn Lynch rushed for his second rushing touchdown of the game to make it 23-8.

The 31-yard score came after Shayne Graham missed his second field goal of the game for the Saints. Both kicks went wide left.

Though the Seahawks had a comfortable lead with just over two minutes left in the game, the Saints didn’t give up.

With 32 seconds left in the game, Brees found Marques Colston for a 9-yard touchdown that made it a 23-15 game. Colston finished with 144 receiveing yards and the touchdown.

The Saints recovered the onside kick which made things very interesting with 24 seconds to go and the ball at the Saints own 41-yard line. An illegal forward pass later and the game was over.

Brees finished the day 24-for-43 for 309 yards and the touchdown.

Not the prettiest way to end the game, but the Seahawks will take it. They are that much closer to the Super Bowl and will have home-field advantage in the NFC Championship game.

Wilson finished the day 9-for-18 for 103 yards. Doug Baldwin had two catches for 30 yards, leading Seattle receivers.

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