Seahawks reach 2nd Super Bowl in franchise history
SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks dispatched their NFC West nemesis to earn the franchise’s second Super Bowl trip, rallying to beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
Seattle rallied from a 10-0, first-quarter deficit and didn’t take its first lead until the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks pulled ahead 20-17 on a 35-yard Jermaine Kearse touchdown reception of a pass from quarterback Russell Wilson with 13:44 remaining. Steven Hauschka’s 47-yard field goal with 3:37 remaining extended the lead to six.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown and added 130 rushing yards, but his three fourth-quarter turnovers ended up costing the 49ers a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Kaepernick’s second turnover, an interception by Seattle safety Kam Chancellor at the 49ers’ 40-yard line with 7:37 remaining, set up Hauschka’s final field goal.
Kaepernick also was intercepted on his final pass of the game. The throw toward wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the Seattle end zone was broken up by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith with 22 seconds left, sealing the outcome.
The Seahawks, who will face the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J., will make their second Super Bowl appearance in a span of eight years. The 49ers fell to 1-2 in NFC Championship Games under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, but he was also stopped short of what could have been the clinching touchdown when he fumbled the ball on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
The 49ers lost linebacker NaVorro Bowman midway through the fourth quarter. The Pro Bowler suffered a significant leg injury after stripping Kearse of the ball near the goal line. Bowman appeared to have possession of the ball as he fell to the turf with Kearse on his leg, but the Seahawks were given back the ball at the San Francisco 1-yard line. A fourth-and-goal play resulted in Lynch’s fumble on the exchange with Wilson, leaving the Seahawks without anything to show for the possession.
The Seahawks took their first lead of the game on the second play of the fourth quarter. Wilson’s pass to Kearse came on fourth-and-6.
That play came after the Seahawks had initially sent Hauschka onto the field for a 53-yard field goal attempt, but the Seahawks were forced to take a timeout with the play clock running out. Coach Pete Carroll then opted to send the offense back onto the field.
A defensive first half was followed by a third quarter of offensive fireworks, with the teams combining to score on three of the first four possessions of the second half.
Lynch broke a 40-yard touchdown run on third-and-1 to tie the score 10-10 five minutes into the third quarter.
San Francisco responded with a Kaepernick touchdown pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin from 26 yards out to give the 49ers a 17-10 lead.
Hauschka hit his second field goal of the day, from 40 yards out, with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter to cut Seattle’s deficit to 17-13.
The 49ers took advantage of a quick Seattle turnover and a long Kaepernick run to take a 10-0 lead before going into halftime ahead 10-3.
A fumble by Wilson on the first snap of the game helped San Francisco get on the scoreboard on its first possession. Defensive end Aldon Smith sacked Wilson, causing a fumble that Smith recovered at the Seattle 15.
The 49ers failed to pick up a first down, but Phil Dawson’s 25-yard field goal gave San Francisco a 3-0 lead with 12:45 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, San Francisco running back Anthony Dixon had an apparent 1-yard touchdown run wiped out by instant replay. Dixon went over the top again on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1 to score on the following play. Dixon’s 1-yard run, which came after Kaepernick broke off a 58-yard scramble, gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead with 10:03 remaining in the half.
The Seahawks scored their only first-half points on a 32-yard Hauschka field goal, which came after a 51-pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin. The kick cut Seattle’s deficit to 10-3 with 5:47 to play before halftime.
During the first half, the 49ers lost two key players due to what appeared to be significant injuries.
Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati (ankle) and return man/running back LaMichael James (neck) were helped off the field early in the second quarter.
Two teammates helped carry Iupati off the field after the guard got hurt on Dixon’s touchdown run. The 49ers announced just before halftime that Iupati’s ankle injury would keep him out for the rest of the game.
James took a big hit from the Seahawks’ Ricardo Lockette while attempting to field a punt three minutes into the second quarter. James returned to action after halftime.