SEATTLE -- Awesome. Incredible. Fantastic.
Seahawks fans called Sunday's NFC Championship Game victory just about anything but easy.
"It's amazing. I'm at a loss for words," shouted Mikel Abraha, 18, of Seattle, holding his cellphone up to record video of the closing moments of Seattle's 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. "This is what we've been waiting for."
A sampling of the team's "12th Man" fans said they were confident, but never comfortable, as the Seahawks took until the fourth quarter -- 2--1/2 hours after the kickoff--to gain their first lead.
"My stomach hurts, but I knew we could do it," said season-ticket holder Jason Ronish of Ephrata, with his 16-year-old son, Jason Ronish Jr. "I can't imagine a more awesome experience with my son."
Ronish said he hopes to win the opportunity to buy Super Bowl tickets in a lottery the Seahawks will hold, and he has a prediction ready: Seattle 26, Denver 20.
Another season-ticket holder, Terry Kogane of Anchorage, Alaska, summed up Sunday's game. "We got down. We fought back. We just kicked butt, and it took the whole team."
Gov. Jay Inslee, who took credit for the team's success in a tongue-in-cheek comment at his state of the state address last week, was thrilled at the outcome.
"They got the 12th Man revved up," said Inslee. "Pete Carroll has got these guys to the point that every play and every game is the height of joy and that's why they're winning."
Gene Hushak, president of the Sea Hawkers Booster Club, said, "It's been an unbelievable run ... the Seahawks and their fans stuck together and earned this as a team."
A Russell Wilson fumble that opened the game drew an audible gasp from fans who had barely settled into their seats, but many were relieved that the gaffe resulted only in a 49ers field goal.
Even with Seattle down 10-3 at the half, Hawks fans refueling at the concession stands said they believed a comeback was in the works.
"I think we're going to start putting some points up," said Jeff Dolan, a season-ticket holder since the 1990s. "We've been a second-half team all year, so I'm really not worried about it."
All Seattle needed to do differently, he said, would be to stop 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from running so successfully.
Dan Lister of Sand Point, Idaho, echoed that point. "We always come out and play a weak first half and then play a really strong second half."
Several fans made it clear that as thrilling as a conference championship is, they see this team poised to win it all against the Broncos in New Jersey on Feb. 2.
"It's our time," said Sean Rhodes of Seattle. "We are an awesome team. We've earned the right to be talked about."
Though they tried not to think about it, the possibility of losing to the 49ers in this high-stakes game at home might have haunted the franchise for a long time.
"It would have hurt. On a scale of one to 10, about 10--1/2," said John Ryan, a 10-year Seahawks season-ticket holder who drives from Vancouver, B.C., with friends for each game.
Ryan said he and his friends have regarded the Seahawks as a potential Super Bowl team all season.
"Seattle deserves a championship. The city really pulls together for this team," said Mark Caputo of Mercer Island.
San Francisco fans, some of whom drove 13 hours or more to get to the game, arrived with confidence. Before the game, at least a dozen took up a position on the corner of First Avenue and South Washington Street, waving their red flags at passing Seahawks fans.
"We are on roll, man. There's no stopping us," said Gary Cruz, holding a 49ers banner.
At the game's end, some 49er fans appeared stunned, heading silently toward the exits.
Sunday's game was the final game of the season in CenturyLink Field, where the team has lost just a single game the past two years.
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