SEATTLE — Marshawn Lynch overpowered the New Orleans Saints in the postseason — again.
Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Steven Hauschka kicked three field goals in blustery conditions and Seattle’s defense flustered Drew Brees and New Orleans in a 23-15 victory Saturday in the NFC divisional playoff game.
The top-seeded Seahawks advanced to the NFC championship game for the second time in franchise history and will host San Francisco or Carolina next Sunday. Seattle last reached the conference title game in the 2005 playoffs.
Seattle shut out the Saints in the first half, got Lynch’s first 100-yard game since Week 10 of the regular season and received a spark from the brief return of Percy Harvin before he left with a concussion. Lynch scored on a 15-yard run in the first half and capped the victory with a 31-yard scoring run with 2:40 left that coach Pete Carroll celebrated by jumping into offensive line coach Tom Cable’s arms. Lynch stiff-armed Keenan Lewis on his way to the end zone for the clinching score that left CenturyLink Field swaying.
While the clinching score lacked the stunning explosiveness of Lynch’s “Beast Quake” touchdown run against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs, this one was more important. It ensured Seattle would not be the latest No. 1 seed to get upset by a No. 6 seed in the divisional round.
Lynch finished with 28 carries and made up for another shaky day passing by Russell Wilson. Seattle’s offense was a concern heading into the postseason and, outside of Lynch, did little to quell those worries.
Wilson missed on five of his first six pass attempts to start the second half but came through with a vital 31-yard completion to Doug Baldwin with 2:57 remaining. On the next play, Lynch got a key seal block on the edge from Jermaine Kearse and raced down the sideline for his second TD.
Wilson finished 9-of-18 for a career-low 103 yards. His leading receiver was Harvin, making his second appearance of the season after nearly getting put on injured reserve less than two weeks ago. Harvin had three receptions for 21 yards in the first half and one rush for 9 yards, but left the game late in the first half with a concussion.
Hauschka hit field goals of 38 and 49 yards with the windy, rainy conditions at his back and hit a 26-yarder into the wind late in the third quarter.
Brees finished 24-of-43 for 309 yards and put a scare into Seattle in the closing seconds. After Lynch’s touchdown, Brees took the Saints 80 yards in nine plays, capped with a 9-yard TD pass to Marques Colston with 26 seconds left that made it 23-15.
Colston then recovered the onside kick when it caromed off the chest of Golden Tate and directly to the Saints’ receiver.
Brees took over at his 41 with 24 seconds left and Jimmy Graham caught his first pass of the game on an 8-yard completion. Brees spiked the ball to stop the clock, then found Colston near the sideline. Instead of stepping out of bounds to have one more play, Colston tried to throw across the field to Darren Sproles. The pass was forward and the penalty for an illegal forward pass ran off the final 10 seconds of the clock giving Seattle the victory.
Patriots 43, Colts 22: At Foxborough, Mass., LeGarrette Blount ran the Patriots into their third straight AFC championship game.
The 250-pound back had four touchdown runs and New England kept Indianapolis and Andrew Luck from a second straight comeback.
Blount scored on three 2-yard runs in the first half, then burst through the right side of the line and rambled 73 yards into the end zone, where he placed the ball gently on the ground made soggy by a game-long rain. He finished with 166 yards on 24 carries.
On the next series, Luck threw his third interception and the Patriots capitalized with Stevan Ridley’s second touchdown run, a 1-yarder that finished the scoring with 11:12 left.
The Patriots (13-4) will face the winner of the game Sunday between the Broncos and Chargers. It will be in Denver if the Broncos win, and New England will host it if the Chargers win. The Colts (12-6) never led.
Blount joined Ricky Watters, who had five touchdowns for San Francisco on Jan. 15, 1994, as the only players with four or more in a playoff game. And the six rushing touchdowns by the Patriots tied the 49ers’ total in that game for second most in playoff history. Blount’s big rushing performance came two weeks after he ran for 189 yards and returned two kickoffs for 145 yards in a 34-20 victory over Buffalo in the regular-season finale.
Billed as a matchup between quarterbacks — long-time great Tom Brady and second-year star Luck — the Patriots’ leader was content to hand off while Luck threw an interception on his second pass and never found consistency. He threw two touchdown passes to LaVon Brazill but also threw four interceptions.
Luck threw three interceptions a week earlier but led the Colts from a 38-10 deficit early in the third quarter to a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild-card game.
The Colts trailed 21-12 at halftime against the Patriots and cut it to 29-22 on a 35-yard pass to Brazill with 5:01 left in the third. The Patriots dominated the rest of the way.
Blount’s first touchdown came on New England’s first offensive play after Alfonzo Dennard intercepted Luck’s pass and returned it 27 yards to the 2.
Blount scored again on the Patriots’ second series in which Brady completed all four of his passes.
But Luck responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive capped by his 38-yard touchdown pass to Brazill, who was guarded closely by Dennard as he made the catch on the left side a few yards from the end zone. Former Patriot Adam Vinatieri set an NFL record with his 59th post-season extra point, making it 14-7.
Blount got his third touchdown with 4:06 gone in the second quarter on a drive in which the Patriots converted all four of their third downs.
Vinatieri cut it to 21-10 with a 36-yard field goal 5:35 before halftime.
The Colts got a break late in the first half when Danny Aiken’s snap sailed over punter Ryan Allen’s head. Allen ran back, recovered the ball at his 3, but fumbled into the air. Indianapolis’ Jeris Pendleton slapped it out of the end zone for a safety, cutting New England’s lead to 21-12 with 2:12 remaining. Allen hurt his shoulder and placekicker Stephen Gostkowski punted the rest of the game.
Indianapolis got the ball on the free kick, but the drive ended with Luck’s second interception, to linebacker Donta’e Hightower.
Vinatieri’s 21-yard field goal early in the third quarter made it 21-15.
Then the Patriots took a 29-15 lead on Ridley’s 3-yard touchdown run and his carry for a 2-point conversion with 6:18 to go in the third.
But Luck came right back with his second touchdown pass to Brazill.