SEAHAWKS 23 - 49ERS 17
The events that took place in the fourth quarter of Sunday's NFC title game will be one that will go down as some of the most bizarre moments in NFL history. Not only did the Seahawks complete an improbable comeback to win the game, but the moments that led up to the Seattle victory, and the moments that came shortly thereafter will be talked about for days, weeks, and months to come.
The craziness started as soon as the fourth quarter began with San Francisco holding onto a 17-13 lead. After dominating the first half, there was a sense through the third that it could slip away from San Francisco at any given moment.
The 49ers appeared to have the Seahawks right where they wanted them. Russell Wilson was called for another intentional grounding penalty that cost the Seahawks 16 yards, pushing them back to a third and 22 at midfield.
Wilson was not great. He was erratic with his throws for much of the day, overthrowing receivers, and when he scrambled around in the pocket, there were times he lost so much yardage that it was hard for him to make it up. Not to mention he was stripped of the football the first play of the game that resulted in a Niners field goal that made it 3-0. He even fumbled a couple more times as well, but was bailed out by recoveries.
Wilson has received a lot of undeserved praise since coming into the league, and Sunday was another day that will not quiet down his growing number of critics who see him as an average quarterback.
Yet it was on a desperation fourth and seven that Wilson shut up his critics, albeit briefly. The Seahawks initially planned to kick a field goal to cut the Niners lead to 17-16, but after a timeout by Pete Carroll, reconsidered and went for it on fourth down. The 49ers were totally disorganized defensively on this play and Wilson took advantage, dropping a 35 yard pass into the hands of Jermaine Kearse to give Seattle a stunning 20-17 lead.
Then the game took even more bizarre twists and turns. On San Francisco's ensuing possession, Colin Kapernick was strip-sacked on third and six giving Seattle the football at the niners six yard line. However, the Seahawks couldn't do anything with it.
Kearse fumbled the football while he was going down at the 1 yard line, and Navaro Bowman recovered the fumble for San Francisco. However, the officials didn't see it, and awarded the Seahawks with the football. On that play, Bowman suffered a severe knee injury and had to leave the game. The classless Seahawks fans tossed popcorn at him as he left the field.
On the next play, justice was served as the usually reliable Marshawn Lynch fumbled the football on fourth and one. The niners had life down three points.
But, once again Kapernick killed his team when they needed him to be the guy they have seen bring them back so many times before. He tried to muscle a throw to Anquan Boldin down the sideline, but it was intercepted by Kam Chancellor. Another killer mistake by Kapernick with his team still in the ball game.
The Niners got one last shot, down six points to try to win the game with a touchdown, and it looked like they were well on their way. Kapernick's 16-yard pass to Michael Crabtree, and his 11-yarder to Vernon Davis moved San Francisco inside the Seattle 20 yard line.
However, poor clock management helped doom San Francisco. The 49ers had three timeouts in their pockets, and only used one with :55 to go. They should have called time out after the Davis catch, which would have saved a lot of time. Instead they hurried in a play and Kapernick hurried a throw to the back of the end zone and Crabtree. Richard Sherman made the play on the football knocking it away and into the hands of a Seattle defender for the pick to send Seattle to the Super Bowl.
The entire fourth quarter was a quandary of bad play calling and even worse execution on the part of the 49ers and Seahawks. Kapernick who was so incredible in the first half of the game, couldn't figure things out in the second half. The Seahawks managed to keep him in the pocket, and the young quarterback put together his best Brett Favre impression in crunch time.
As for Seattle, they asked Wilson to do too much in the first half, and he couldn't deliever. Once the Seahawks went back to Lynch at the start of the third quarter, only then were they able to stabilize the game and the take the football out of Wilson's hands.
And last, but not least, let's talk about class!
Richard Sherman, who certainly has the gift of gab for his brash style of trash talking made social media history with his outlandish and tasteless post game comments. Fox Sports' Erin Andrews, probably in a rush to get someone on camera, tried to interview Sherman after the game, and the corner did nothing but spew pure hatred for the 49ers and Michael Crabtree. It was tasteless and gutless and made the Seahawks look like a band of thugs instead of professional football players.
In addition, Sherman made a chocking sign toward Kapernick after deflecting the final pass of the day, and received a 15-yard penalty for it. A fine should be coming soon.
The response to Sherman's actions have exploded all over Twitter with people admonishing him for poor sportsmanship, and even throwing racial slurs his way. The racial slurs are totally out of bounds, but this is the firestorm that Sherman created for himself. He should give a big apology to Andrews for the way he handled himself -- he's a smart guy, a Stanford grad. He's better than that.
The Seahawks may have won the NFC title, but now they come into this Super Bowl as the villain. A label that they may not like, but they earned it.