That may have been the most nail-biting, exciting, nauseating, thrilling Seahawks game I have ever been to. The Seattle Seahawks are heading to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. I honestly do not believe I have ever been on an emotional roller coaster quite like the one I rode for just over three hours on Sunday afternoon. Up next, the Denver Broncos and a crazy two weeks preceding it. For now however, this is what I took out of this game and what needs to happen as we move closer to the biggest game in Seahawks history.
They Kept it Clean: One of the worries heading into this game was how the officials would call it. Many including myself thought that the potential chippy-ness would lead the referees to call the game tighter, allowing the Seahawks to possibly be subject to many questionable calls. All in all the game was not officiated as tight as I thought it would, especially in the secondary. No member of the Legion of Boom was called for pass interference. The only Seahawks penalty in the secondary was a holding call on Richard Sherman in the first half which led to an Anthony Dixon touchdown and a 10-0 San Francisco lead. Other than that one holding call no penalties significantly hurt Seattle in this game and there were no plays that could be “questionable” calls for the duration of the game. Gene Steratore and his officiating crew did a great job of letting the players play; the referees did not dictate the shaping of the game.
Taking Shots: And no I’m not talking about Fireball. I wanted to see Russell Wilson take more shots down the field this week and he did a much better job of stretching the field than last week. Although he still seemed confused and indecisive at times, Wilson went deep several times on Sunday. On vertical passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, Wilson went 3/5 connecting with Doug Baldwin on receptions of 22 and 51 yards and Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard touchdown pass. The Seahawks had been playing very conservatively over the past few weeks which is a small part as to why our offense has struggled in my eyes. What seemed to help Wilson in this game on his long throws was to utilize his mobility. On his 51-yard connection with Doug Baldwin, Wilson scrambled for more than 5 seconds before seeing that Baldwin has space down the field to make a play. Although it was not Russell Wilson’s most glamorous performance of the season, some of his throws on Sunday should build confidence heading into Super Bowl XLVIII.
Pass Protection Needs to Improve: There was a glaring negative on offense this week and that was the lackluster protection the offensive line gave Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 4 times for a combined loss of 22 yards. Although pass protection must improve greatly, I will give credit where credit is due. The San Francisco 49ers continue to be one of the best pass rushing defenses in the National Football League and that was evident on Sunday. Aldon Smith recorded 2 sacks while NaVorro Bowman and Dan Skuta added sacks of their own. In addition to the inconsistent pass protection there is one other huge problem I have with our offensive line which is…
Left Guard Shuffle: Last week the Seahawks started rookie Michael Bowie at left guard and James Carpenter was inactive. This week was the exact opposite with Carpenter starting and Bowie standing on the sidelines inactive. I understand that competition is at the heart of the Seahawks philosophy but now, in the most important games of the season, is not the time to play the left guard shuffle. Stick with who has the hot hand. Who’s to say that Paul McQuistan won’t start against Denver in two weeks? The Seahawks must stabilize the left guard position. I do not want to look past the Super Bowl but I think I may know what the Seahawks should target in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Kaepernick’s Wheels Keep 49ers in Game: This game would not have been as close if the Seahawks defense had been able to stop Colin Kaepernick from scrambling in the first half. Highlighted by a 58-yard scramble, Kaepernick led all 49ers rushers with 130 rushing yards, 114 more yards than the next leading San Francisco rusher and 116 yards more than primary running back Frank Gore. The quickness of Kaepernick fooled the Seahawks defense for much of the first half and the Seahawks did a fantastic job of making the necessary adjustments at halftime to shut Kaepernick down in the second half. Aside from Kaepernick’s legs he did not do a whole lot. Kaepernick ended the day 14/24 for 153 yards passing with one touchdown and 2 interceptions, each of tremendous importance and which ultimately cost the 49ers the chance to play in the Super Bowl.
“It Was Only a Matter of Time”: The 49ers led the turnover battle at halftime 1-0 and right before the start of the second half my Dad leaned over to tell me that it was time for Colin Kaepernick to screw up; that we had shut him down through the air in the first half and that it was only a matter of time before he made a mistake. The 49ers made 3 mistakes in the second half and Kaepernick made two of them. The first came with 7:37 remaining in the game when Kaepernick dropped back and tried to get the ball to Michael Crabtree on the far side but instead threw it right into the hands of Kam Chancellor. That turnover resulted in an insurance field goal to make the game 23-17 Seahawks. The second mistake turned out to be the biggest play of the year, and perhaps the most important play in franchise history. With the ball at the Seattle 18-yard line with less than 30 seconds left to play, Kaepernick saw one-on-one coverage in the endzone on a fade route. He threw intended for Crabtree but the ball was tipped by Richard Sherman and hauled in by Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks victory. Like my Dad said, “it was only a matter of time” and that time came with 22 seconds remaining and there was nothing the San Francisco 49ers could do about it.
Random Thoughts: Is it just me or is the general crowd sitting around me becoming dumber and dumber as each game goes on when it comes to “cheering education?” I felt like there was a lot of cheering when the offense had the ball and when the 49ers fans tried to get loud when the Seahawks had the ball, the 12th Man would boo, making the stadium even louder. That is a big no-no and was quite frustrating… Perhaps the Macklemore performance at halftime re-energized the crowd. We were down 10-3 at halftime and the crowd seemed fired up at the start of the third quarter. That was very much needed and maybe it’s not too crazy to think that Macklemore’s impact played a key role in how the second half turned out… It’s too bad not everyone got a rally towel. It was a scattering of white waving around before the game, nothing like what it has looked like in previous games where rally towels were the giveaway… Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag this week which in my eyes was a very safe choice. I still would have loved to see Mike Holmgren raise the flag… We went to the Nest and then over to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch before heading into the stadium. Since this was going to be the last home game of the season I guess we wanted to make the rounds… I may have tried the grossest beer ever on Sunday. Pyramid has a seasonal brew called “Weiss Cream” which tastes like if you sprayed whipped cream into a glass of water. Yuck. The tap handle was really cool though; a waffle cone full of vanilla ice cream… Time to start packing for New York City. I leave a week from Wednesday!
Moving Forward: Over the next week I hope to hop on at least a couple of times with various posts. I am unsure what my computer status will be for the last half of Super Bowl week, Super Bowl weekend, and the two days following the game. If I decide to take my computer with me to New York, my preview of Super Bowl XLVIII will come on its normal day; the Saturday before the game. If not, I may be forced to publish my Super Bowl preview a few days early. I will update with more information when my plan becomes clearer. We are one win away from a world championship. Enjoy this, 12th Man but understand our job is not done just yet. Go Seahawks!