Lynch carried 28 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns and Seattle's defense flustered Drew Brees and New Orleans in a 23-15 victory Saturday in the NFC divisional playoff game.
"You just don't know how many more opportunities you're going to have," Brees said. "That's what makes it so tough standing up here and talking about it."
Steven Hauschka added three field goals in blustery conditions and the top-seeded Seahawks advanced to the NFC title game for the second time. They will host San Francisco or Carolina next Sunday after last reaching the conference title game in the 2005 playoffs.
Seattle shut out the Saints in the first half, got Lynch's first 100-yard game since Week 10 of the regular season and received a spark from the brief return of Percy Harvin before he left with a concussion.
Lynch scored on a 15-yard run in the first half and capped the victory with a 31-yard scoring run with 2:40 left that Carroll celebrated by jumping into offensive line coach Tom Cable's arms.
"I don't run to get tackled," Lynch said.
While the clinching score lacked the stunning explosiveness of Lynch's "Beast Quake" touchdown run against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs, this one was more important. It ensured Seattle would not be the latest No. 1 seed to get upset by a No. 6 seed in the divisional round.
Lynch's clinching TD was a similar to that 2010 play. Lynch read the blocking perfectly and cut to the outside using two blocks from tight end Zach Miller and Jermaine Kearse. Lynch's only contact was a stiff-arm of Keenan Lewis that allowed him free passage to the end zone and left CenturyLink Field swaying.
"It's all want with him," Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate said. "He's blessed with tremendous athleticism and body control and power. But right there he wanted that. He just wanted it and he went and got it."
Lynch set a franchise playoff record for yards rushing. His running made up for another shaky day passing by Russell Wilson. Seattle's offense was a concern heading into the postseason and, outside of Lynch, did little to quell those worries.
Wilson missed on five of his first six pass attempts to start the second half but came through with a 31-yard completion to Doug Baldwin with 2:57 remaining. The Saints blitzed and Wilson and Baldwin connected. Lynch scored on the next play.
"At the end of the game I knew they were going to bring everybody," Wilson said.
Wilson finished 9 of 18 for a career-low 103 yards. His leading receiver was Harvin, making his second appearance of the season after nearly getting put on injured reserve less than two weeks ago. Harvin had three receptions for 21 yards in the first half and one rush for 9 yards, but left the game late in the first half with a concussion.
Carroll said they won't know Harvin's status for the NFC championship game until later in the week as he goes through the league's concussion protocol.
"He was electric. He made some awesome plays today," Wilson said about Harvin.