Bad to brilliant: Russell Wilson keeps Seahawks' playoff hopes alive

SEATTLE -- Russell Wilson overcame a lousy start with an excellent finish to send Green Bay packing.

Sound familiar?

No, Wilson wasn't as bad in the first half this time as he was in the NFC Championship Game in 2015, nor was he as brilliant Thursday night as he was at the end of that epic Seattle Seahawks rally over the Green Bay Packers, when he threw four interceptions, then the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

But Wilson and Seattle's defense needed the finishing touch that has escaped them in some of their close losses this season. They found it Thursday night, with Wilson leading the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown drive, the Seahawks getting one last stop against Aaron Rodgers and then running out a 27-24 victory at CenturyLink Field.

"You look at the last couple weeks and games were right there and ready to win, [and we] find ways to lose them," left tackle Duane Brown said. "It was good to find a way to win this one."

In a game the Seahawks needed to keep any realistic playoff chances alive, things didn't start so well. Running back Chris Carson lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, setting up an easy Packers touchdown. Wilson missed Doug Baldwin wide-open in the end zone, then missed what might have been another touchdown when he overthrew Tyler Lockett deep down the sideline. Wilson even needed Baldwin to make a one-handed catch on a poorly thrown bubble screen, highlighting how off he was early in this game.

Four false starts in the first half -- of a home game, no less -- added to what was some of the sloppiest football the Seahawks (5-5) have played all season.

It didn't help that Rodgers was picking apart their young defense on the way to a pair of first-half touchdown passes and a near-perfect quarterback rating.

"At 14-3, it didn't look very good," coach Pete Carroll said of early hole the Seahawks found themselves in.

Seattle's defense buckled down after giving up a touchdown drive at the end of the first half, which put the Packers up 21-17. It allowed just a field goal in the second half while forcing punts on four of Green Bay's final five possessions, an impressive finish against any quarterback but especially so against perhaps the best one on the planet. The Seahawks sacked Rodgers five times and tightened up against the run to hold Green Bay to only 48 rushing yards.

"We had to turn it around," Carroll said. "We were off. We were not getting the stops that we needed early on. I was upset about that. Guys rallied, though. They rallied and we stuck with the plan and we went back to some stuff that we needed to do in the second half. [Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.] did a great job of making the adjustments in the second half and the guys responded really well, and we needed it. We needed every bit of it."

Carroll wondered aloud if Wilson's early overthrows were a product of being too amped up.

"I said something to him, and he said, 'I'm going to be all right. I'm going to be all right,'" Carroll said. "And he was exactly right. 'Shut up, Coach,' is what he could have really said, but he didn't."

Wilson drove the Seahawks 72 yards on 13 plays for a fourth-quarter field goal that cut the Packers' lead to one. When Rodgers answered with a 57-yard completion to Davante Adams, who got behind Shaquill Griffin to set up a Green Bay field goal, it looked as if he was going to prevail in this quarterback duel.

But Wilson led a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by two long completions to Lockett. Wilson capped it with a 15-yard go-ahead touchdown to Ed Dickson.

"Short memory," guard J.R. Sweezy said of Wilson's ability to quickly flush mistakes.

Wilson put it another way: "Sometimes you shoot and you miss. Sometimes it bounces off the rim. But you keep shooting."

The Seahawks forced a three-and-out, then iced it with their four-minute offense, rushing for 24 yards before kneeling out the victory. Their 173 rushing yards marked the seventh straight game in which they've gone for at least 150 on the ground, the longest streak in the NFL since 2004.

How badly did the Seahawks need this one after two straight losses dropped them to 4-5 and further down in the wild-card standings?

According to ESPN's Football Power Index, Seattle's postseason chances would have dropped to 13 percent with a loss, making this a virtual must-win. That number is now 40 percent as the Seahawks head into a mini-bye before playing the Panthers in Charlotte.

"It was a must-win game for them as well and we knew that going in," Brown said. "We knew we were going to get their best shot, and it's a very talented team, well-coached team. We found a way to win. It was a must-win game for us, for sure. We try to win every week, but no week was more important than this one."