6:30 PM ET, January 19, 2014
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
SEATTLE -- Richard Sherman did a CenturyLink Leap.
Golden Tate grabbed a 12th Man flag and circled the field with it.
Even team owner Paul Allen made an appearance and gave a victory speech.
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• Clayton: Peyton is the storyline
• Sando: Defense still key to title?
• Radio: Mike & Mike weigh in
• Stats & Info: Keys to victory
• Betting: Broncos favored | Lines
• Super matchup | Super Bowl Central
• SN: Who wins Super Bowl? | Weather?
• Gallery: Title games in photos
• History: Previous NFC title games
The Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Big Apple for the Super Bowl.
"To see all our work that we put in -- the mornings, the nights, the weights, all your life, as a young player and in the NFL," Malcolm Smith said after his end zone interception with 22 seconds remaining clinched the 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. "It's amazing."
Seattle's top-ranked defense forced three fourth-quarter turnovers, and Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down for the winning points. Seattle will meet Denver (15-3) for the NFL title in two weeks in the New Jersey Meadowlands. It's the first trip to the big game for the Seahawks (15-3) since they lost to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season.
The conference champs had the best records in the league this year, the second time the top seeds have gotten to the Super Bowl in 20 seasons. It also is a classic confrontation of Denver's record-setting offense led by Peyton Manning against the NFL's stingiest defense. Denver opened as a 1-point favorite over Seattle on the Glantz-Culver Line.
"It will be a great matchup," coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it's an extraordinary opportunity to go against a guy that set all the records in the history of the game."
Moments after Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick's pass to Smith for the interception, the All-Pro cornerback jumped into the stands behind the end zone, saluting the Seahawks' raucous fans. With 12th Man flags waving everywhere, and "New York, New York" blaring over the loudspeakers, CenturyLink Field rocked like never before.
"That's as sweet as it gets," said Sherman, who also went into several rants about 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree, whom he called a "sorry receiver."
"This is really special," added Carroll, who has turned around the Seahawks in four seasons in charge. "It would really be a mistake to not remember the connection and the relationship between this football team and the 12th Man and these fans. It's unbelievable."
"This feels even sweeter, with the amazing support we have had from the 12th Man," Allen said, comparing this Super Bowl trip to the previous one.
Until Seattle's top-ranked defense forced a fumble and had two interceptions in the final period, the game was marked by big offensive plays in the second half. That was somewhat shocking considering the strength of both teams' defenses.
Youth Is Served
Seattle's Russell Wilson will become just the sixth quarterback to start a Super Bowl in his first or second season in the NFL.
1st Or 2nd Year QBs
To Start In Super Bowl
|Russell Wilson (XLVIII)*||N/A|
|Colin Kaepernick (XLVII)||0-1|
|Ben Roethlisberger (XL)||2-1|
|Tom Brady (XXXVI)||3-2|
|Kurt Warner (XXXIV)||1-2|
|Dan Marino (XIX)||0-1|
|*- Wilson: 2nd season in NFL|
--ESPN Stats & Information
And those plays came rapidly.
Marshawn Lynch, in full "Beast Mode," ran over a teammate and then outsped the 49ers to the corner of the end zone for a 40-yard TD, making it 10-10.
Kaepernick then was responsible for consecutive 22-yard gains, hitting Crabtree, then rushing to the Seattle 28. His fumble on the next play was recovered by center Jonathan Goodwin, who even lumbered for 2 yards.
Then, Doug Baldwin, who played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, stepped up -- and through San Francisco's coverage -- on a scintillating 69-yard kickoff return that made the stadium shake for the first time all day.
That set up Hauschka's 40-yard field goal. And a frantic finish.
Seattle took its first lead on Wilson's throw to Kearse with 13:44 left, and CenturyLink rocked again.
The place went silent soon after when Niners All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman sustained an ugly left knee injury midway and was carted off. Bowman, who was having a huge game, had forced a fumble at the San Francisco 1, but Lynch recovered.
"I never heard him yell like that, or even stay down for a moment," teammate Patrick Willis said of Bowman.
Harbaugh said after the game it appeared Bowman suffered a torn ACL.
The Seahawks had gotten their first turnover moments earlier when Cliff Avril stripped Kaepernick and Michael Bennett recovered. But Lynch and Wilson botched a handoff on fourth down on the play after Bowman's injury.
It took only two plays for Chancellor to haul in Kaepernick's underthrow to Boldin, and Hauschka's 47-yarder ended the scoring.
But not the excitement.
Kaepernick, who rushed for 130 yards, got San Francisco to the Seattle 18 with his arm. But his pass for Crabtree was brilliantly tipped by Sherman to Smith.
"We knew it would come down to us in the back end to win this thing," Sherman said.
The final play was similar to last year's Super Bowl ending, when Kaepernick missed Crabtree in the end zone from the 5 and Baltimore survived.
"It's tough. Any time you get this close to the Super Bowl and lose, it's pretty upsetting," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We just didn't get it. We've been down this road before in the same kind of situation. It's hard."
Whether it was nerves or just a great play by Aldon Smith, Wilson fumbled on Seattle's first snap. Smith got credit for a sack and a recovery, too -- a defender's dream -- at the Seahawks 15.
More staunch defense followed, this time by Seattle, which held and only gave up Phil Dawson's 25-yard field goal.
Seattle simply had no answers for Kaepernick's runs, looking either flat-footed or plain-out lost when he took off. He gained 98 yards on the ground in the first half, including a 58-yard second-quarter run, the longest of his three-year career and the longest Seattle's defense allowed all season.
But he was less effective in the second half and was plagued by turnovers.
Wilson came up with a huge improvisation of his own moments after Kaepernick's long jaunt. Wilson avoided the rush with some nifty scrambling before spotting Baldwin behind the defense for a 51-yard pickup.
All it resulted in was Hauschka's 32-yard field goal, making it 10-3.
Baldwin finished with six receptions for 106 yards.
And now it's on to New Jersey, where Carroll once coached the Jets for a season. That didn't end well -- he was fired so the team could hire Rich Kotite. He heads back with a chance to add a Super Bowl crown to two national titles as coach at Southern California.
"It's quite a magical moment," Carroll said. "You can't really grasp the moment. Did we really do this?"
Yep -- the Seahawks and their 12th Man.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19: A fan stands out in front of CenturyLink Field before the Seattle Seahawks take on the...(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.7||5.3|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||1-3||0-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|FG||12:45||Phil Dawson 25 Yd||3||0|
|TD||10:03||Anthony Dixon 1 Yd Run (Phil Dawson Kick)||10||0|
|FG||05:47||Steven Hauschka 32 Yd||10||3|
|TD||09:51||Marshawn Lynch 40 Yd Run (Steven Hauschka Kick)||10||10|
|TD||06:29||Anquan Boldin 26 Yd Pass From Colin Kaepernick (Phil Dawson Kick)||17||10|
|FG||03:55||Steven Hauschka 40 Yd||17||13|
|TD||13:44||Jermaine Kearse 35 Yd Pass From Russell Wilson (Steven Hauschka Kick)||17||20|
|FG||03:37||Steven Hauschka 47 Yd||17||23|
Marshawn Lynch ran for 107 yards inside the tackles Sunday, including a 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Lynch has rushed for more than 100 yards in between the tackles in both of the Seahawks' playoff games this season, after not reaching 100 in any regular-season game. Lynch picked up 74 of his yards inside the tackles in the second half. --Lynch has rushed for at least 100 yards in four of his last six games against the 49ers.[+]
Marshawn Lynch Rushing Inside the Tackles, Sunday
Colin Kaepernick ran for 130 yards Sunday, the second-most rushing yards by a quarterback in a postseason game in NFL history (Kaepernick - 181 against Packers in 2012 Divisional Round). The Seahawks held Kaepernick to 32 rushing yards in the second half, including 4 scramble yards.[+]
Colin Kaepernick Rushing, Sunday
--The 49ers blew a 10-point lead for the first time this season and the first time with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. The Seahawks have won all three games this season when trailing by 10 or more points. --In the first half, Russell Wilson was pressured on 53% of his dropbacks, including four sacks. In the second half, Wilson was pressured on 23% of his dropbacks with zero sacks. - "Under pressure" is defined as under duress, hit while throwing or sacked. --Russell Wilson was 6-of-7 for 106 yards (15.1 yards per attempt) when targeting Doug Baldwin. On all other throws, Wilson was 10-of-18 for 109 yards (6.1 yards per attempt).
The Seahawks sent four or fewer pass rushers on all 30 of Colin Kaepernick's dropbacks Sunday, the most dropbacks a quarterback has had in a game this season without being blitzed. Kaepernick has found success against standard pressure in his career, just not against the Seahawks. Entering Sunday, Colin Kaepernick had been the most blitzed quarterback in the NFL over the last two seasons (including playoffs), facing five or more pass rushers on 39% of his dropbacks.[+]
Colin Kaepernick Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers, Career (Inc. Playoffs)
Kaepernick completed 2-of-9 passes for 33 yards when throwing outside the painted numbers Sunday, including both of his interceptions. The Seahawks defense leads the league in most categories outside the painted numbers this season.[+]
Seahawks Defense Outside Painted Numbers, This Season (Inc. Playoffs)
Including Sunday, there have been 503 postseason games in NFL history which means 1,006 quarterback starts. In 6 starts, Colin Kaepernick has rushed for 100 yards twice, the same number as in 1,000 starts by all other quarterbacks. Starting Quarterbacks In NFL Postseason History Kaepernick All Others Starts 6 1,000 100-yd rush games 2<< 2 >>Includes Sunday
After being held to a FG on their opening drive, the 49ers now have one touchdown in six red zone trips against the Seahawks this season.
Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson enter the NFC Championship Game headed in opposite directions. Wilson hasn't posted a Total QBR greater than 50.0 in any of his previous 5 games, while Kaepernick's lowest Total QBR in his last 5 games is 68.6 in Week 17.[+]
Last 5 Games (Including Postseason)
"Beast Mode" was in full force Sunday as Marshawn Lynch racked up 107 of his 109 rushing yards between the tackles. The 107 rushing yards between the tackles are the most by any player against the 49ers over the last 5 seasons including both the regular season and playoffs.[+]
NaVorro Bowman was a 1st-team All-Pro last season and made his 1st Pro Bowl, and then did everything better this season. He's in the top 5 in tackles and forced fumbles among LBs, and showing off his versatility, he's up there in pass breakups and interception return yards.[+]
NaVorro Bowman During Regular Season
Much has been made about Colin Kaepernick's struggles against the Seahawks four-man pass rush, but Russell Wilson hasn't been able to solve the 49ers four-man rush either. Wilson is completing less than 50 percent of his passes against the 49ers standard pass rush in his career, compared to more than 65 percent against all other teams.[+]
Russell Wilson Facing 4 or Fewer Rushers - Career (Including Playoffs)
Marshawn Lynch has the 3 longest TD runs in Seahawks postseason history. This one-- 40 yards-- was 2nd-longest (67-yards vs Saints in 2010)
Russell Wilson was sacked or under duress on 9 of his 17 first-half dropbacks (53%).
The 49ers and Seahawks are very familiar with one another, especially the past 3 seasons since John Harbaugh took over in San Francisco. The Niners have won 4 of the 6 meetings, and the Seahawks have outscored San Fran by about 5 points per game, but they've played each other about as even as two teams can.[+]
Head-to-Head Past 3 Seasons - Under Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll
The 49ers' 86-yard TD drive against the Seahawks is San Francisco's 2nd-longest TD drive on the road this season, and the 4th-longest overall.
The Broncos and Seahawks both won at MetLife Stadium during the regular season. This is only the 2nd Super Bowl in which both participants won at that year's Super Bowl venue in that same regular season. In 2009, the Colts and Saints each won at Land Shark Stadium against the Dolphins.
Colin Kaepernick posted a Total QBR of 6.2 in the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship, down from 93.2 in the first three quarters and the second-lowest Total QBR in any quarter in his playoff career.[+]
Lowest Total QBR in Quarter - Colin Kaepernick Playoff Career
Colin Kaepernick now has three of the four longest postseason rushes by a quarterback since 2001.[+]
The 49ers have sacked Russell Wilson 4 times in the 1st half. That already matches the 49ers' season high of 4 sacks against Russell Wilson on Sept. 15. And that matches the Seahawks' season-high for sacks allowed in a half (done twice, at the Rams in Week 8, vs the Cardinals in Week 17).
Including the playoffs, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both rank in the top 10 in Total QBR in the 4th quarter and overtime this season. However, the quarterbacks in the NFC Championship have not had the same success late in games.[+]
Combined QB in Championship Games - 4th Qtr/OT This Season (Including Playoffs)
Russell Wilson becomes the 6th quarterback to start in a Super Bowl in his first or second season. 1st Or 2nd Year QBs To Start In Super Bowl Career W-L In SB XLVIII Russell Wilson ?? XLVII Colin Kaepernick 0-1 XL Ben Roethlisberger 2-1 XXXVI Tom Brady 3-2 XXXIV Kurt Warner 1-2 XIX Dan Marino 0-1 >>Wilson: 2nd season in NFL
Colin Kaepernick has gotten off to a fast start in his brief NFL career, but the Seahawks have given him far more trouble than any other team he's faced. Three of the 5 worst games of his career by Total QBR have come against Seattle.[+]
Colin Kaepernick NFL Career - As Starting QB (Including Playoffs)
ESPN Stats & Information