SEATTLE -- The wind was howling and the rain was pouring. The game was close. And explosive receiver Percy Harvin was out after the first half.
So the Seattle Seahawks got back to basics. They did what they do best and let Marshawn Lynch run over people. They let the defense come up with some big stops when it mattered most. And made a big play at the end to seal it.
It was classic Seahawks football, the way they've won in most games this season. Not always pretty, but good enough.
Seattle advanced to the NFC Championship Game with a hard-earned 23-15 victory over the New Orleans Saints on a nasty Saturday at CenturyLink Field where Dorothy could have clicked her heels and ridden the wind all the way back to Kansas.
And as the Seahawks have done so many times in their 14 victories this season, they did just enough to escape with a win. Even as Russell Wilson had a career-low 103 yards passing in the gale-force winds.
"We knew it would be a tough battle with the wind and rain, going against a great team," Wilson said. "It was really hard to throw the ball. And we knew it would come down to a few big plays at the end. We knew we had to run the football."
And run it, they did. Apparently, all those exhaustive interviews the past two weeks (two for a total of about four minutes) didn't wear out Lynch. He was back in a beastly mode, rushing for 140 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. His 31-yard run around the left end late in the fourth quarter, stiff-arming his way into the end zone, proved to be the difference.
Lynch spoke again after the game, briefly. When asked about his final touchdown run, Lynch said: "I don't run to get tackled."
It was pure Lynch, a man of few words, but the workhorse of a hard-nosed team.
"He embodies everything we are all about," fullback Michael Robinson said. "He's tough and gritty and a grinder. He finds a way and so do we."
The Seahawks had to get it done without Harvin in the second half. He had another impressive return, catching three passes in the first half, including a leaping 16-yard grab on third down.
But he left the field twice for concussion evaluations. He was not allowed to come back the second time.
"That poor kid," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Harvin. "He finally gets to play and he bangs his head on the turf really hard. He was OK the first time, but the second one really rocked him. He was just sick about it."
The Seahawks won without him, as they've done all season. Someone makes a play that makes a difference.
Lynch's touchdown run in the fourth quarter wouldn't have happened without another miraculous sideline catch by Doug Baldwin, his specialty.
Seattle led 16-8 and faced a third-and-3 at its own 45. The Saints loaded the box to stop Lynch and went to their Cover 0 scheme, with no one deep. Baldwin got a step on cornerback Corey White, made a lunging grab and managed to stay in bounds for a 24-yard reception.
Baldwin, who says he always plays with a chip on his shoulder, had a new chip this week after losing some of his practice time to Harvin.
"I didn't get as many reps at my position, so my head was spinning," Baldwin said. "But I'm blessed to be able to have the opportunity to make a play when it counted."
New Orleans would score again, then get an onside kick and have one last chance to force overtime. It made the end dramatic, but the Seahawks held on and moved on.
This is what they do. The Seahawks end up with a victory when it looks like they just might end up with a loss.
All that matters is the win, no matter how you get it. At halftime, leading 16-0, it looked like this one might be as easy as the first matchup with the Saints six weeks ago, when Seattle won 34-7 on a Monday night.
That was uncharacteristic of how the Saints typically play, and it wasn't representative of how the Seahawks usually win.
This game was more their M.O. The defense was rock-solid in the first half. Saints quarterback Drew Brees did not complete a pass past the line of scrimmage in the first two quarters.
But you had to know it wasn't going to be that easy. Brees threw for 275 yards in the second half and led the Saints on two long scoring drives.
"Brees is an elite player in this league," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. "He's going to fight until the clock hits zero. "
So will the Seahawks, week after week, overcoming injuries and mistakes and suspensions and bad weather. They find a way. It's the theme of this team.
"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing," Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril said. "But I feel like we're a good team that keeps trying to get better. And we've made it this far. We'll be all right."