Wilson attempted five passes to Kearse, who caught none of them. The first four throws were intercepted by the Green Bay Packers, two of which deflected off Kearse’s hands.
But Wilson gave Kearse one more opportunity, a 35-yard pass completion for a touchdown that won Sunday's NFC Championship Game 28-22 on the first possession in overtime.
Seattle comeback marked the largest halftime deficit (16-0) overcome in a conference championship game and the third-biggest deficit overcome at any point in a conference title game since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970.
“I had no doubt in my mind I was going to come down with that play,” Kearse said. “Even though I had a rough game early on, Russell just kept giving me a chance and I made one.”
Kearse's big play sends the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl. From zero to hero in one memorable moment.
When it was over, the normally stoic Wilson went to the players prayer circle in the middle of the field, looked up and cried.
“Yeah, I’m usually pretty calm,” said Wilson, now 10-0 over the past three seasons as a starter against quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl, including 3-0 against the Packers' Aaron Rodgers. “But I was thinking about the game and, I don’t know, just the ups and down of life in the past year and people doubting us and what we could do. I was thinking about my dad and wishing he was here, but he was watching from the best seat in the house. It was an emotional time for me.”
It was the 15th time in Wilson's career that he brought the Seahawks back in the fourth quarter or overtime to win a game, but never like this one. Not in such an important game and not on a day in which he couldn’t do anything right for three and a half quarters.
Wilson didn’t complete a pass until the 3:58 mark of the second quarter -- well, he didn't complete a pass to a Seahawk. Wilson completed two passes for 12 yards to Seahawks players in the first half. He completed three passes for 53 yards to the Packers in the first half.
The fourth pick came in the fourth quarter, a crossing route to Kearse in which the ball bounced off his hands and to Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett.
“Four interceptions when the ball was thrown my way,” Kearse said. “I was like, ‘What is going on?’ But I never really felt sorry for myself. It’s a tough game and you’ve got to be mentally tough and learn how to push through it.
“Everything’s not going to be perfect. Life’s not going to be perfect. There’s always going to be downs. You are going to be tested and it’s how you respond to that adversity. When things aren’t good, it really tests your character.”
The Seahawks trailed 19-7 with less than three minutes to go in regulation. Their only points came on a fake field goal attempt, a perfect 19-yard pass from holder Jon Ryan to backup tackle Garry Gilliam.
The offense hadn’t done a thing. But Kearse said Wilson never lost faith in him.
“Throughout the game, he kept coming up to us and being positive,” Kearse said of Wilson. “He said, 'We're gonna win this game. There’s no doubt in my mind and I’m going to keep coming to you guys. I’m going to stay aggressive.' Things weren't going well for the offense, but he led us back.”
As Wilson has shown so many times, he is at his best when things appear to be at their worst. First was a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:09 to go in the fourth quarter to make it 19-14. After a perfectly executed onside kick, Wilson put the ball in the hands of Marshawn Lynch, who raced to a 24-yard touchdown that gave Seattle the lead at 20-19 with 1:25 to go.
But the Seahawks would not have won the game if not for another improvised, incredible throw by Wilson on a two-point conversion. He rolled to his right, had nobody open and was about to be sacked. He turned and looked back to his left, then heaved the ball across the field toward tight end Luke Willson, who made a leaping catch in the front of the end zone.
"That’s not even part of the play,” Willson said. “That’s just a made-up thing. If we ran that play 100 times, that would be the only time I would get the ball. I just looked up and the ball was in the air and was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ It seemed like five minutes went by in those two seconds.
“Between the onside kick, the fake field goal and the two-point conversion, it was like destiny today.”
And it still took one more miraculous play in overtime after Green Bay kicked a tying field goal with 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks won the toss and Wilson was ready. Two passes to Doug Baldwin, including a 35-yarder, set up the TD throw. Kearse was lined up to the right and saw his chance. So did Wilson, who changed the play once he saw the Green Bay defensive alignment.
“It was cover zero,” Kearse said. “So I knew I was one-on-one with [Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams] with no one in the middle. Once I saw the coverage, I had a feeling Russ was going to check to that play. I knew if I could just beat my man, Russ would give me the opportunity. That play was installed this week and Russ threw a great pass.”
Wilson said he told offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell at the start of overtime that he was going to throw to Kearse for a touchdown.
“We practiced that all week,’’ Wilson said. “I just had a feeling and sensed we would have that chance.”
Kearse took off on a post and Wilson hit him in stride at the 2-yard line. Williams was one step too late, tackling Kearse in the end zone. Kearse stood up and tossed the ball in the stands before his teammates swarmed him. One of those was Baldwin.
“Today, my man had the mental toughness to bounce back,” Baldwin said of Kearse. “We wouldn’t be going to the Super Bowl again without him and a lot of plays he made this year. So it’s time the local media and the national media started giving my man some respect.”
Wilson never gave up on Kearse on Sunday. They didn’t give up on each other, and in the end, they found a way to win.
“I’ve seen him make so many plays before,” Wilson said of Kearse. “I was going to keep coming back to him.”