Call it the Beast Package for Beast Mode.
After a stagnant first half on offense, the Seahawks began their first drive of the third quarter in a “heavy set” — using an extra offensive lineman to block for running back Marshawn Lynch in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against San Francisco.
That extra blocker, rookie Alvin Bailey, didn’t play a single snap in Seattle’s divisional round victory over New Orleans a week earlier. But the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Bailey, lining up as a sixth lineman, had a key block in the middle of the field to spring Lynch for a 40-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, tying the score 10-10.
Bailey wound up playing about a dozen snaps in the Seahawks’ 23-17 victory over the 49ers, sending Seattle to its second Super Bowl in franchise history. It was the most Bailey had played since the Seahawks’ Week 10 victory at Atlanta.
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“It’s a blessing, man. It’s a blessing,” Bailey said. “I’ve been playing football my whole life and I haven’t been on a team this close, ever. The way we go about our work, the way we handle our business, we fight for each other. … I’m just ecstatic right now. It’s an amazing feeling to play for a Super Bowl.”
The Seahawks had used the jumbo package on occasion this season — mostly in goal-line situations — but never as much as they did Sunday. Bailey had his number called as much as anyone at CenturyLink Field: “Number 78 reports as eligible,” referee Gene Steratore announced nearly every time the rookie from Arkansas entered the field.
Bailey chuckled. “After a while, (Steratore) kind of realized what was going on. Once I’d run on the field, I’d point at him.”
Another rookie lineman, Michael Bowie, was inactive Sunday — a surprise after he had started at left guard for Seattle’s victory over New Orleans.
Former Husky Super Bowl bound
Jermaine Kearse was a freshman when the Washington Huskies went 0-12 in 2008. “Thanks for the reminder,” he said.
Now, Kearse is going to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2.
“It’s crazy (coming from) 0-12 in college,” he said. “But that season taught me a lot. It taught me how to deal with adversity, to continue to push through that adversity no matter what’s going on.”
The second-year receiver from Lakes High School, who went undrafted out of UW, hauled in the go-ahead touchdown reception from Russell Wilson on fourth down at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter.
After the game, in a celebratory Seahawks locker room, Kearse posed for pictures with Seattle pop star Macklemore.
Kearse is part of an oft-criticized Seattle receiving corps. He said he had heard one critic call the receivers “pedestrian” last week.
“Which is cool,” Kearse said. “I mean, I’ll be a pedestrian walking my way to New York.”
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is most dangerous when he’s able to use his legs to slice up defenses. The Seahawks knew that going in, but he still gashed them for 98 yards on just eight carries in the first half of Sunday’s game.
“The way our pass rush was, he was just picking gaps and trying to hit the hole,” defensive end Chris Clemons said. “We missed a few tackles on him, and we knew in the second half that we just had to make tackles for him and not let him run all over the field. Same thing he did against Green Bay. Same thing he did against Carolina. We knew going into the second half that was something we were going to have to stop.”
So the Seahawks started playing more zone in the second half. They’re usually more of a man-to-man team, but playing zone allowed them to keep a better eye on Kaepernick when he decided to take off. They also eliminated his ability to take off up the middle, which is where he did his most damage in the first half. Instead, they tried to collapse the pocket and force him to take off outside.
“He can’t run to his right,” Clemons said. “He’s more of a left-side runner, which is different for us for a right-handed quarterback. They normally escape to their throwing hand, but he escapes with his opposite hand. That’s weird for us. The biggest thing for us was just trying to close the gap and not getting so far up field and letting him escape up that gap. In the second half we did a pretty good job of keeping him contained. We got a couple of sacks, couple of strip sacks, and once those hits started tolling on him, he had to start throwing the ball.”
And once he had to start throwing the ball, the Seahawks liked their chances of winning. Kaepernick rushed for 32 yards in the second half and threw two interceptions.
“We felt like all we had to do was stop him from running and it was going to be our game to win,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
Said Clemons: “We didn’t change up anything we did. We had a plan for him going into the game. We knew once he got to the point where he was going to have to run, we knew we had to put somebody on him. That second half, it was just different. We could feel the difference coming out of halftime, knowing where our mistakes were. That’s the only thing we had to stop: him scrambling.”
• Macklemore performed a six-minute set with his producer, Ryan Lewis, during halftime, then raced down from the suite to the field in the final minutes, cursing at a television outside the Seahawks’ locker room during the 49ers’ final drive.
“Get him!” he yelled at the TV, as San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick scrambled away from the Seattle defense.
Macklemore ended up with a close-up view near the southwest end zone when Kaepernick’s pass was tipped by Richard Sherman and intercepted in the end zone by Malcolm Smith, sealing the Seattle victory in the final minute.
“It didn’t look like a touchdown to me — it looked liked Sherm was going to do his thing, which he did,” Macklemore said in the Seahawks locker room. “I know this is a celebration. We are a city that rallies around local talent, and there’s no better definition of that than these Seattle Seahawks. I’m just so proud of these dudes.”
Macklemore said he will postpone a planned trip to India with his fiancée to attend the Super Bowl. “She’s going to hate me,” he joked.
• Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, 37, will be trying for his second Super Bowl victory.
“I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity to go against a guy that set all the records in the history of the game, and the incredible production that they put up this year,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “What a great challenge. He deserves to be there because of what he’s done this year with his team and that whole club, but we’re not going to take this challenge lightly.
“We’re going to go after this thing, and we’re not going into this game any other way but thinking that we’re going to win.”
Staff reporter Jayson Jenks contributed to this report.