A classic NFC Championship slug fest that harkens to the days of old in the NFL where physical prowess dominated the landscape
By Ryan Fox -- @Spider_Fox87
All week we heard about the big match up between Tom Brady and the New England Patriots against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. While each city's media market tried to build tension between the two teams, there was little to no animosity between players on both sides. But out west, the atmosphere for the NFC Championship game was a complete 180*.
Unlike the Broncos/Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks rivalry is a rivalry where both teams that are built so similarly (smash mouth, physical defense, powerful running game, mobile quarterbacks, coached by former Pac-10 college) but hate each other so much. Even during regular season games, the trash-talking and hard hits are a plenty when these two teams meet. Seattle drew first blood in Week 2 with a 29-3 blowout over at CenturyLink Field. San Francisco had to wait 12 weeks before getting revenge in Week 14 with a 19-17 over at Candlestick Park. So what a better way to settle the season series than in the NFC championship game with the winner going on to Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The games started off in the way nobody could have predicted. On Seattle's opening series, 49ers DE/LB Aldon Smith blitzed Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and stripped him of the ball. Smith was able to recover the ball on the Seattle 15, giving the 49ers terrific field position. However they could only manage to get a field goal out of that possession, which was the only score in the 1st quarter.
But during that moment of madness occurred one of the tensest moments as well as the most controversial moment of the game. On Seattle's drive in the 49ers red zone on 3rd down, Wilson dumped a pass to Lynch as he ran towards the end zone. He was stopped short at the 1-yard line by LB Navarro Bowman and in the process, stripped the Seattle running back of the ball. But as he went to the ground, Bowman's left leg was caught under Lynch's body and was dog piled on. However the controversial moment was the fact that even though Bowman had possession of the football was on the ground with Lynch landing on his leg, the refs deemed that play would continue. Lynch ended up getting the ball back and though 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to review/challenge the call, the refs said he couldn't because the play was 'un reviewable'. Though the 49ers got the ball back eventually, Bowman had to be carted off the field where later on it was revealed he suffered an ACL injury.
After Hauschka's third field goal, the 49ers got the ball back with 3:37 left in the game. Kaepernick drove his team down the field for the game winning score like he did against the Green Bay Packers on WildCard weekend. However the results were different this time around. Seahawks DB Richard Sherman batted a pass away from WR Michael Crabtree in the end zone and into the arms of teammate LB Malcolm Smith, sealing the victory for Seattle.
Overall it was another classic NFC Championship that many football fans would appreciate and another exciting mark in the Seattle-San Francisco rivalry. Kaepernick finished the game 14-for-24 with 153 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, while his 130 yards led all rushers. Running back Frank Gore was limited to 14 yards on 11 carries while receiver Anquan Boldin led all 49ers receivers with 5 catches for 53 yards and 1 TD. On the Seattle side, Wilson finished the day 16-for-25 with 215 yards and 1 TD. Marshawn Lynch led all Seahawks running backs with 109 yards on 22 carries and 1 TD, becoming the first running back in 22 games that the 49ers defense allowed to rush for over 100 yards (Last time that happened was back on 12/23/12 against Seattle where Lynch rushed for 111 yards on 26 carries). Wideout Doug Baldwin led all Seahawk receivers, as well all receivers, with 6 catches for 106 yards.
Now the game has been set as Seattle will join Denver in Metlife Stadium in Super Bowl XLVIII. This would mark only the 2nd time since the 1993-94 season where two #1 seeds met in the Super Bowl (Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints were both #1 seeds in Super Bowl XLIV in the 2009-10 season). It'll be a classic showdown between the #1 offense in Denver versus the #1 defense in Seattle. Assuming that the weather will hold up, we will be all in for a treat.
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