SEATTLE — Finish.
With the NFC Championship Game looming Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, that’s exactly what the Seattle Seahawks hope to do. It hasn’t always been easy.
As good as the Seahawks’ defense has been, Seattle occasionally has struggled to close out games. That issue almost popped up again in Saturday’s divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field against the New Orleans Saints.
The Seahawks held a 15-point lead with 2 minutes, 40 seconds remaining after Marshawn Lynch’s rumbling 31-yard touchdown run. But the Saints weren’t done.
New Orleans answered with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to trail by eight points. After the Saints secured an onside kick with 26 seconds left, the game was still up for grabs until an illegal forward pass from receiver Marques Colston ended it.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised the Saints’ offense.
“We gave up a couple of plays on their scoring drive that were really nice plays by them, nice throws and catches,” Carroll said. “That’s (quarterback) Drew Brees, and he’s going to do some of that.”
Others have done the same.
Seattle’s final two losses of the 2012 regular season came when the Seahawks relinquished fourth-quarter leads to Detroit and Miami.
In the divisional playoff game a year ago against Atlanta, quarterback Russell Wilson led a thrilling comeback as the Seahawks grabbed a one-point lead with 31 seconds left. Three plays later, the Falcons kicked the winning field goal.
In all three losses this season, including a 19-17 defeat at San Francisco on Dec. 8, Seattle held a lead in the fourth quarter, only to see it evaporate.
The Seahawks, who finished the season ranked No. 1 in the NFL in fewest yards and points allowed, also protected late leads this season against Carolina, Tennessee and St. Louis.
And Seattle held Houston and Tampa Bay without a touchdown in the second half and into overtime, allowing the Seahawks’ offense to rally for wins.
Perhaps that’s the nature of today’s high-octane NFL. In an era in which Dan Marino’s 1984 single-season passing record has been eclipsed five times in the past three seasons, it’s not easy to slow down any top-tier quarterback.
“(Brees) is going to fight all the way through until the clock hits zero,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “If we give him a window of opportunity, he always capitalizes. But fortunately, we didn’t give him too many.”
Seattle will look to minimize those opportunities again this weekend against the rival 49ers.
ROOKIE WARE ARRESTED
Seahawks rookie fullback Spencer Ware was arrested and charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) on Sunday morning, according to King County Jail records.
Ware, who is not part of the active roster, was booked into King County Jail at 1:56 a.m. and released at 4:23 a.m.
Ware appeared in two games this season for the Seahawks and has not played since Week 2. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve Oct. 22 because of an ankle injury.
BEST OF THE BEAST
After setting the franchise playoff record with 140 rushing yards Saturday, Lynch holds three of the top four spots in Seattle postseason history.
Lynch ran for 132 yards in last season’s playoff win over Washington, tying Shaun Alexander’s previous record set in the Seahawks’ NFC title win over Carolina in 2006.
Lynch’s 131 yards against the Saints in 2011 rank fourth all time.
Speaking of the 2011 playoff game against the Saints, seismologists said that CenturyLink shook again with the ball in Lynch’s hands Saturday.
A small, fan-generated earthquake during Lynch’s second touchdown run was likely greater than the one that was recorded during his famous “beast quake” touchdown run three years ago against New Orleans, scientists said. They’ll know for sure in a few days.
On Saturday, Lynch succinctly summed up his beastly running style.
“I don’t run to get tackled,” he said.
BUCKING THE TREND
The Seahawks avoided a recent trend in the NFC, becoming just the third No. 1 seed in the past seven seasons — along with the 2012 Falcons and the 2009 Saints — to advance out of the divisional round.
In the previous 17 seasons (1990-2006), the NFC’s No. 1 seeds were undefeated in the divisional round.
FOR THE RECORD BOOK
Saturday’s win over the Saints was Seattle’s sixth consecutive home playoff victory. Overall, the Seahawks improved to 8-2 at home in the playoffs. ... The Hawks are 10-12 all- time in the playoffs, which means if they win the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J., they’ll even their postseason record in style. ... With the win, the Seahawks (3-6, .333) also broke a tie with the Chiefs (2-6, .250) for the second-worst all-time record in the divisional round. The Cardinals’ 1-4 record (.200) is the worst in NFL history.
Staff writer Todd Dybas and The Associated Press contributed to this report firstname.lastname@example.org