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12th Fan View - NFC Championship vs 49ers
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The Seattle Seahawks hosted the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field last Sunday, with the NFC Championship on the line. The matchup was seemingly preordained, being the fashionable preseason pick by most pundits.
It was pretty obvious who the best teams in the NFC were, and they both played in the NFC West. It was clearly visible both of these teams were head and shoulders above the competition. All season. The 49ers came into the game riding a wave of confidence and an 8-game winning streak. The Seahawks came in with the confidence of a division champion and the hearty voice of the team’s 12th Man pushing them ever onward. Two of the best defenses in the league battling two of the young phenoms at QB. Strength against strength. Smash-mouth football.
The game got off to a rocky start for the Seahawks when Russell Wilson fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. The 49ers turned that into 3 points and an early lead. They built on their lead with an early second quarter touchdown, making it 10-0. Colin Kaepernick’s legs provided the impetus for the touchdown, gaining 70 of the 86 yards in the drive on two consecutive plays.
The Seahawks battled back with a second-quarter Steven Hauschka field goal and Marshawn Lynch reviving his role as Beast Mode during a 40-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. Lynch was on his game this night, rushing for more than 100 yards against a very tough 49ers defense that simply doesn’t allow 100-yard rushers.
Doug Baldwin stepped up big all night long, catching 6 passes for 106 yards. After the 49ers’ final score, a 26 yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin, Baldwin also contributed a big 68-yard kickoff return. The return set up another Hauschka field goal to cut into the 49er lead, 17-13.
The Seahawks took the lead for good on a rather bizarre sequence on the second play of the fourth quarter. The Seahawks faced fourth down and 7 from the 49ers 35 yard line. They lined up for a 53-yard field goal attempt. I was convinced Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was trying to draw them offsides with the field goal team, but there was no kicker on the field!
The Seahawks called time out, apparently after Hauschka informed head coach Pete Carroll he did not think it was a prudent move attempting the kick. After the timeout, Carroll sent Wilson and the offense back out to go for the first down. This time, the 49ers did jump offsides, giving the Seahawks a free play. Wilson threw a pass to the end zone and Jermaine Kearse ran under it and made a nice catch to give the Seahawks their first lead of the game.
It was a lead that would hold up, thanks to the defense creating havoc, as they have all season long. The Seahawks missed a golden opportunity to ice the game after sacking Kaepernick, forcing a fumble, recovering it and returning it inside the 49ers ten yard line. A fumble on 4th and goal from the one yard line killed any hope of ending the game prematurely.
The Legion of Boom made its presence known two plays later, as Kam Chancellor intercepted Kaepernick in front of Boldin at the 49ers forty yard line. This lead to Hauschka’s third field goal of the game, providing a six point lead, 23-17, with 3:37 to go in the game.
Kaepernick led the 49ers down the field relatively quickly, setting up one of the greater defensive plays to end a championship game in the history of the game. Kaepernick aired out a fade pattern towards the corner of the end zone for Michael Crabtree, only to see Richard Sherman reach up and tip the ball back towards the field of play, and into the waiting hands of Malcolm Smith. Interception. Game over.
The Seattle Seahawks are the 2013 NFC Champions, vanquishing their division rivals and 2-time defending division champions. It is often said to be the champ you have to beat the champ, and the Seahawks did just that with their legendary “Legion of Boom” defense providing the final word.
The Seahawks’ 23-17 victory sealed the blood pact between these teams. This is now a rivalry on par with the best in the league. When you play your division rival in the championship game, it simply does not get any more heated than that.
The Seahawks won the right to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. I see this matchup as “The Old Man and the Sea(Hawks).” The young and brash Seahawks are the antithesis of the staid blandness of Manning.
Congratulations to you, Seahawks, on winning the conference championship. There is still unfinished business to attend to, though. Now for my Super Bowl XL story that I promised last week. I know, I know...please, try to bear with me. I did not buy “my seat” in 2005. A friend purchased the ticket that I foolishly passed on. As it came to pass, the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl, and the seat that I sat in was pulled in the lottery for tickets to the big game. I was beside myself, as that game was also played on my birthday.
After watching that debacle at home, I was very glad I didn’t go to Detroit. I’m quite certain I would have done a brief stint in the local constabulary's charge following that. Because I didn’t renew, I missed the Super Bowl. The reason I didn’t renew was because it had never rained in that stadium, and I figured we had pressed our luck as far as we could in that regard. Basically, I missed the Super Bowl because I didn’t want to get wet. Silly me...my seat is generally protected by the roof. It took sitting in the rain to learn this.
When I was able to re-take my seat in 2007, I swore if I ever had the opportunity again, I had to attend the Super Bowl. When I learned early in the week my seat didn’t get pulled in the lottery, I was tremendously disappointed. Fortunately for me, a very kind soul sits in front of me at every home game. His seat WAS pulled in the lottery, and he offered me the seat. Thanks, Waldorf!
Needless to say, after the previous big game disaster from NOT attending, I simply must attend this one. My 50th birthday is February 5, and I feel much more confident without the game being associated with my birthday.
I’d like to say “thank you” to those at the Seahawks that allow me to keep doing this. I’d also like to say “thank you” to all those who recognize me at the game and say, “Hi!” One of the best things in my life is hearing what you guys think of what I do. So if you’re ever at a Seahawks game and you see me, I’ll always have a smile for ya.
Let’s hope the Seahawks give us a Groundhog Day to remember. One with six more years of winning...Super Bowl championships.