TALLAHASSEE, January 19, 2014 — A pair of nasty defenses led by coaches who despise each other played a slugfest. To quote Coach Dennis Green, the Seahawks and 49ers are exactly who we thought they were.
The defenses were expected to dominate, and they did. On the first play from scrimmage, Russell Wilson scrambled and was stripped of the ball. The 49ers took over at the Seattle 15, but soon met the Seattle defense. The 49ers settled for a 25-yard Phil Dawson field goal to lead 3-0.
In the second quarter with the 49ers facing third and 9 from their own 15, Colin Kaepernick threw incomplete, but benefitted from a very questionable defensive holding call on Richard Sherman. Kaepernick then ran for a 58-yard scramble to set up fourth and goal at the one. Jim Harbaugh went for it and Anthony Dixon went over the top and this time to make it 10-0, 49ers.
Midway through the second quarter, Wilson ran around like Fran Tarkenton before finally heaving a bomb to Doug Baldwin. Baldwin beat two defenders for the 51-yard reception at the San Francisco 11. Again, it was a defensive stand that forced the Seahawks to settle for a 32-yard Steve Hauschka field goal and a 10-3 deficit at the half.
Early in the third quarter, Seattle finally got in the end zone when Marshawn Lynch broke free for a 40-yard touchdown to tie the game 10-10. San Francisco came right back as Kaepernick fired a 26-yard touchdown to Anquon Boldin to put the 49ers back on top, 17-10.
A 69-yard return of the ensuing kickoff by Baldwin led to a 40-yard Hauschka field goal, as Seattle trailed, 17-13. Seattle got the ball back and faced fourth and seven at the San Francisco 35. Pete Carroll decided to go for it. Wilson threw a Hail Mary to the end zone that was caught by Jermaine Kearse as Seattle had its first lead of the day only one minute into the fourth quarter, 20-17.
On third and six from the San Francisco 29, Kaepernick was sacked and fumbled. Michael Bennett recovered the ball and returned it 17 yards to give Seattle first and goal at the six. On fourth and goal from the one yard line, Pete Carroll went for it. Lynch fumbled the handoff, a wild scramble ensued, Seattle lost 14 yards, and turned it over on downs.
Two plays later, Kaepernick fired to the sideline and Kam Chancellor made a leaping interception at the Frisco 40. Again, the 49ers held on defense. Hauschka hit the 47-yard field goal, but the Seahawks only led by six with 3 1/2 minutes to play.
On fourth and two at their own 30 just before the two minute warning, Kaepernick fired to Frank Gore for a 17-yard gain with 1:53 to play. Kaepernick moved the 49ers to a first and ten at the Seattle 18 with 30 seconds separating both teams from the Super Bowl. Kaepernick fired to the corner of the end zone for Michael Crabtree. The ball was deflected by Richard Sherman and intercepted by Malcolm Smith.
A game that began with a defensive turnover ended with a defensive turnover. Two teams expected to put on a defensive slugfest did exactly that. The 49ers are a fine football team. Jim Harbaugh saw his guys five yards from a ticker tape parade last year. This year they were 18 yards from another chance.
After the game on FOX, the always loquacious Richard Sherman had a message for Michael Crabtree. “Don’t you ever talk about me!” The Seahawks talked it. Then they walked it. For the second time in franchise history, the Seattle Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl.
They will face the AFC Champion Denver Broncos and all-world quarterback Peyton Manning. As for the winners of the George Halas Trophy, they will be bringing the 12th man and the Legion of Boom to Super Bowl XLVIII. 23-17 Seahawks