The Seattle Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history, preserving a 23-17 NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers in the closing seconds, as Seattle corner Richard Sherman tipped a pass away from San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone, and created an interception to seal the game. Here’s the Notebook Nine takeways from the San Francisco-Seattle game…
- *Seattle trails 17-13 and has 4th-and-7 from the San Francisco 35-yard line in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. I have no idea what possesses Seahawk coach Pete Carroll to go for it, rather than try and cut the lead to one. I don’t know even know to this day if it was a good idea. All we do know is that Russell Wilson’s strike down the middle to Jermaine Kearse for the go-ahead touchdown is the kind of play that legends are made from.
- *I didn’t like the final 49er play call, the throw down the sideline and into the end zone to Crabtree. San Francisco had the ball just inside the Seattle 20-yard line, they still had a couple timeouts left and Colin Kaepernick was running wild. I would have preferred that San Francisco avoid the temptation to go for the quick strike and look for either short passes, or to roll Kaepernick out. This was not a play call that ever made me feel like it was going to work.
- *Kaepernick will catch some heat for this three fourth-quarter turnovers, but I thought the San Francisco quarterback played a good game. I would actually use the adjective “excellent”, if not for the turnovers. But the final interception was not his fault. It was a combination of a big-time defensive play by Sherman and a little bit of bad luck off the tip. The 49er quarterback ran for 130 yards and had to carry the entire offense by himself against the NFL’s best defense. Rather than blame Kaepernick for the turnovers, we should be acknowledging that he was the only reason his team even had a chance in the end.
- *Seattle’s defense completely shut down Frank Gore and the conventional San Francisco running attack. Gore carried 11 times for 14 yards. We know teams aren’t going to run successfully against Seattle, but you at least have to give a little bit of something to take the pressure off the quarterback. The Niner running attack, solid all year, was outmanned by Seattle.
- *For the first half, San Francisco’s defense was returning the favor, and held Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 16 yards. Then Lynch got rolling and got 109 for the game. Even as he got his yards, it still never felt like Lynch was in a real running groove, but he was at least able to give his team something and it did seem like Seattle had momentum most of the second half.
- *Doug Baldwin is the unsung hero for the Seahawks. There were two points in this game where it seemed like San Francisco was about to get control. The first was in the second quarter, when the Niners went up 10-0. Baldwin got open deep, caught a 51-yard pass from Wilson, and set up a field goal. Then, after Kaepernick had rifled a magnificent third-quarter touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to put San Fran up 17-10, Baldwin returned the kickoff deep into 49er territory and set up a field goal. Baldwin ended the game with six catches for 106 yards.
- *Russell Wilson just has the clutch gene in his body. You never get the feeling he’s in control of a game the way you might with Peyton Manning, but Wilson always seems to make the big throw, the plays to Baldwin and the 4th-and-7 being most prominent. As a college fan of Wisconsin, it will always remind of Wilson facing fourth down in the 2011 Big Ten Championship Game, rolling left and throwing a cross-field strike for a touchdown that put the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. Some guys just have “it” and Russell clearly does.
- *The officials dodged a major bullet. San Francisco linebacker NaVarro Bowman had stripped Kearse at the one-yard line in the fourth quarter and recovered the ball. Replays clearly showed Bowman recovering the ball and being down by contact before the scrum ensued. A Seattle player ended up with the ball and officials kept possession with the Seahawks. This play was not reviewable, and my question is why not? How come everyone watching on TV can see that it should be 49er ball, but the officials are not allowed to go to the cameras, or the Niners to challenge? Fortunately, Seattle fumbled on the next play, but the league should revisit this silly notion of certain calls being unreviewable.
- *Seattle’s win, combined with Denver’s makes this only the second time since 1993 that both #1 seeds have made the Super Bowl (2009, Indianapolis-New Orleans being the other). San Francisco’s loss ended a run of one team that had to play the first round winning the Super Bowl seven of the last eight years.