The NFC Championship between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers was a dogfight to the very end. An electrifying second half and a brilliant display from Seattle’s defense sealed the comeback to give the Hawks and their 12th man a 23-17 victory.
It couldn’t have been a worse start for the Seahawks. On the very first snap, Russell Wilson was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Aldon Smith in the red zone.
Seattle’s defense held the 49ers to a field goal, and only allowed ten points by the end of the first half. They held firm against the 49ers’ rushing attack, swallowing up Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Colin Kaepernick managed to torch them once for a 58-yarder in the first half thanks to some missed tackles by Seattle. It led to a 49er touchdown to make it 10-0 in the second quarter. Kaepernick would finish with 130 yards on the ground.
The 49ers didn’t try much of anything through the air in the first half, as Kaepernick threw only three passes for minimal yardage.
The Seahawks managed only a field goal in the first half, as they too were trying to establish the run and not really getting anywhere. Wilson put together a scoring drive towards the end of the first half thanks to a wild scramble and subsequent 51 yard throw to Doug Baldwin. Steven Hauschka nailed a 32 yard field goal to make it a one score game.
The Seahawks put together a lot more offense in the second half. Though the running game was stymied in the first half, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell kept at it right out of the gate. Marshawn Lynch found some holes and took a 40 yard sprint into the end zone to tie the game. The run electrified the crowd and warranted a skittles shower.
The 49ers would answer right back, though, as Kaepernick began airing it out and finding success. After Michael Bennett forced a fumble that the 49ers recovered, Kaepernick threw one into the end zone, just out of the reach of Earl Thomas, and into Anquan Boldin’s hands.
But Seattle wasn’t ready to give San Francisco the momentum. On the ensuing kickoff, Doug Baldwin sped 69 yards downfield to set Russell Wilson up on the 49ers’ 33. Hauschka hit another field goal to cut it to 17-13 San Francisco.
After a 49er three-and-out, Wilson marched his offense down the field until the Hawks were stopped at the 49er 35 on a fourth and seven. A period of hesitation on the Seattle sideline led to a timeout. Instead of sending out Hauschka again, Pete Carroll and his staff took a gamble and went for it. Wilson drew a 49er offsides on a double count, resulting in a free play, and Wilson took a shot downfield to young Jermaine Kearse. The huge fourth down risk turned into a stroke of brilliance as Kearse caught the 35 yard strike in the end zone to give Seattle the lead that they would not relinquish.
I said in a previous article that Kearse might be an exciting guy to watch, and he made one of the biggest plays of the game with that grab in tight coverage in the end zone. Russell Wilson raved about the young receiver in his press conference, and I completely agree with Wilson’s comments about Kearse’s ability. Kearse is sure to become a household name in Seattle for seasons to come.
I also said that Doug Baldwin could be Seattle’s x factor, and boy did he contribute on Sunday. Baldwin was dependable all game long for Wilson, grabbing six passes for 106 yards in addition to his stellar kick return. If Percy Harvin makes it back for the Super Bowl, Baldwin will be even more dangerous against the Broncos’ secondary.
Once again, though, it was Seattle’s excellent defense that sealed the win. Seattle forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter, including an epic play by Richard Sherman in one-on-one coverage in the end zone with 22 seconds left. Sherman made Kaepernick pay for his end zone shot by tipping the pass high into the air for Malcolm Smith to intercept and thus seal the win. It was an epic play to topple the 49ers’ dangerous drive that could have given San Francisco the game. Sherman had not been tested all game long, but the one time he was, he came out on top, as usual.
The rest of the defense deserves so much credit for what they did Sunday and what they have done all season. Now, this number one defense will take on Peyton Manning and the number one offense in Super Bowl XLVIII. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m extremely excited to see how that match-up will play out.
Congratulations to both the Seahawks and the Broncos for making it to this year’s Super Bowl. Stay on this page for more Seattle Seahawks coverage.