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As if the Brady-Manning rivalry in the AFC Championship wasn’t enough, the NFC Championship game featured arguably the fiercest rivalry in all of sports as the San Francisco 49ers rolled into Seattle to face the Seahawks. Unlike the first game, both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks highlights were plentiful and the game proved arguably the best game of the playoffs.
Although both teams’ defenses are similarly ranked, the Seahawks had outscored the 49ers 71-16 in their last two meetings in Seattle. On the other hand, the 49ers are 4-2 against the Seahawks since Jim Harbaugh took over the team. The Niners have now made it to three straight NFC Championship games but this would be the first time they’d travel to the Pacific Northwest in the postseason to face Pete Carroll’s squad.
With all the talk focused on Seattle’s defense and homefield dominance, the 49ers defense came up huge on the very first play of the game as Aldon Smith sacked Russell Wilson to force a fumble. Smith recovered the fumble himself to give the 49ers the ball on the Seattle 15-yard line.
Despite the great field position, the Seahawks defense stepped up and held the Niners to a field goal. San Francisco 3, Seattle 0.
The matchup quickly lived up to its billing as a defensive battle as the Niners defense was right back at it, forcing a quick three-and-out. Colin Kaepernick tried to get the offense going himself as he broke off a 17-yard run, followed by a quick eight-yard scramble but the Seahawks defense remained unrelenting and forced a punt from midfield. The punt was downed at the Seahawks one-yard line.
Russell Wilson got the ball moving, getting to midfield after a sure interception toward Eric Reid went through his hands for a 22-yard pass to Doug Baldwin but the Niners sacked him on a 3rd-and-9 for a loss of 11 and forced a punt from the San Francisco 48.
The punt return almost turned disastrous for Frisco as LaMichael James muffed the punt and got blindsided by a vicious hit from behind but Darryl Morris was able to jump on top of it to retain possession for the Niners. Instead, Colin Kaepernick did it all himself, breaking off a huge 58-yard run that got them within the ten. That set up an Anthony Dixon touchdown leap that was overturned but the score was overturned. The Niners went for it on 4th-and-Goal and this time, Anthony Dixon leapt over the line for a sure six points. San Francisco 10, Seattle 0.
While Kaepernick got it going with his legs, Wilson, the first ever quarterback to have a 100+ quarterback rating in his first two seasons, got it going with his arm. Wilson completed a huge 51-yard bomb to Doug Baldwin that got the ‘Hawks to the San Francisco 11. Once again, the Niners defense came through and held up, though, and held them to a 32-yard field goal. San Francisco 10, Seattle 3.
Kaepernick got the ball back but didn’t run this time and, once again, the Seahawks defense shut down every other part of their game, forcing a quick three-and-out. On the other end of the ball, Seattle ran eight plays but only managed 25 yards and were stopped on 3rd-and-8 at the San Francisco 38. They opted to go for it on 4th-and-6 and turned it over to send the game into the half.
Colin Kaepernick’s 58-yard run was the difference as he ended the half with just three of five pass attempts for 17 yards and Frank Gore ran seven times for a mere 12 yards. Kaepernick rushed for 98 yards.
On the other side, Russell Wilson completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 112 yards (89 to Doug Baldwin) but Marshawn Lynch rushed 12 times for just 33 yards and the offense just couldn’t get anything going. Wilson was sacked four times in the first half.
Ultimately, the first half was exactly as expected as the Niners combined for just 128 totals yards while the ‘Hawks put up 126 total yards.
On the first drive of the half, the Niners tried to get the running game going but Frank Gore only went backwards and San Francisco was forced to punt. The Seahawks got it back and Marshawn Lynch brought the Beast Mode. Lynch broke off a 40-yard touchdown run after a slow first half to tie the game up as the stadium roared. San Francisco 10, Seattle 10.
Suddenly the game turned into a shootout as a 22-yard pass to Michael Crabtree and a 22-yard run by Colin Kaepernick set up a 26-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to put the Niners back on top. San Francisco 17, Seattle 10.
Things got even more interesting as Doug Baldwin returned the subsequent kickoff for 69 yards to set Seattle up at the San Francisco 33. The ‘Hawks weren’t able to get much as the Niners came strong once again but they settled for a field goal to get within four. San Francisco 17, Seattle 13.
This time the Seahawks defense stood up and didn’t allow a single positive play, forcing a quick three-and-out. The Seahawks were struggling to move the ball too but opted to go for it on 4th-and-7 from the San Francisco 45 and Russell Wilson completed a beauty of a pass to Jermaine Kearse in the endzone for a 35-yard touchdown throw to take their first lead of the game. Seattle 20, San Francisco 17.
The Niners were just starting to get things going on their next possession but Cliff Avril was able to break through the line on a 3rd-and-6 to strip the ball from Kaepernick to force a fumble. Michael Bennett grabbed it and returned it to the Frisco six-yard line. Rather than capitalize, NaVorro Bowman grabbed it out of Jermaine Kearse’s hands just in front of the goal line but the play, for some inexplicable ridiculous reason, wasn’t called a fumble. Instead, Kearse got tackled right into Bowman’s knee and Bowman went down with a horrible looking injury and was immediately carted off the field to an ambulance. The Seahawks went for it on 4th-and-Goal but Marshawn Lynch fumbled the handoff. The Niners didn’t recover but the ‘Hawks turned it over on downs regardless.
After an 11-yard Kendall Hunter run, the best run of the game for either Niners running back, Colin Kaepernick threw a terrible pass toward Anquan Boldin that was snatched out of the air by Kam Chancellor to give Seattle the ball back at the 49ers’ 40-yard line. The Seahawks weren’t able to move the ball this time but got to the 29-yard line to set up a 47-yard Steven Hauschka field goal to extend their lead. Seattle 23, San Francisco 17.
Colin Kaepernick looked like he was ready to lead a crazy last-minute comeback drive. Instead a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the endzone was tipped by Richard Sherman and intercepted by Malcolm Smith to end the game and send the Seahawks to the promised land.
The Seattle Seahawks win 23-17 and will face the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
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