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Strong Pass Defense, Rushing Lead Seahawks Past 49ers To NFC Championship

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SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19: Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after he tips the ball leading to an intereption by outside linebacker Malcolm Smith #53 to clinch the victory for the Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after he tips the ball leading to an intereption by outside linebacker Malcolm Smith #53 to clinch the victory for the Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field (Credit, Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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By Matthew Asher

Call it poetic justice. Call it fate. Call it whatever you want. But at the end of the day, it was the Seahawks NFL-leading pass defense that won the game against San Francisco and punched Seattle’s ticket to New Jersey where they will take on their old AFC West rival Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Seattle was able to overcome first half of offense, much like their Week 2 match-up against San Francisco, in which they trailed 10-0. In the second half, Seattle’s steady rushing attack and smothering defense were the keys to scoring on four of their five second-half possessions.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was able to lead his team down into the red zone with less than a minute left in the game, trailing by just six points. With 30 seconds to go, Kaepernick threw a pass to Michael Crabtree in the end zone, which was tipped by cornerback Richard Sherman and picked off by Malcolm Smith, sealing the Seattle victory.

What’s even better for Seattle? In college Sherman started out as a wide receiver at Stanford but thanks in part to his head coach, current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, he switched over to the defensive side of the ball.

The Good

Marshawn Lynch gets an A

In the first half, Beast Mode’s numbers were nothing special. He ran the ball 12 times for 33 yards. It was his effort in the second half that led Seattle to the victory. Lynch ran the ball just 10 more times in the game, but picked up an additional 76 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run to start off Seattle’s second-half scoring outburst. It was the first time all season that any individual rushed for over 100 yards against the strong 49er defense. 

Doug Baldwin gets an A

Baldwin may not have scored any points, but he led the team with six receptions for 106 yards. He also did a great job in the return game, picking up 109 yards on three kickoffs including a 69-yard return in the third quarter following a San Francisco touchdown. That return really put the wind back in Seattle’s sails and riled up the 12th Man.  

The Bad

Seattle’s run defense gets a C-

Part of the reason for the run defense’s poor score is that San Francisco only attempted five passes in the first half, but the numbers the 49ers were able to put up on the ground are inexcusable. As a team, San Francisco ran 17 times for 111 yards and one touchdown. The number 17 is also the same number of passing yards Colin Kaepernick threw for in the entire first half on those five attempts.

Kaepernick led the 49ers in the first half with eight rushes for 98 yards including a 58-yard gallop in the second quarter. Frank Gore was kept in check, gaining just 12 yards on seven rushes. Even though Anthony Dixon gained just one yard on the ground in two rushes, that one yard scored the only touchdown of the first half.

Seattle did a much better job in the second half, but the stats for the entire game aren’t very pretty. San Francisco ran the ball 28 times for 161 yards averaging a very impressive 5.8 yards per carry.

The Ugly

Seattle’s ball protection gets a D

Quarterback Russell Wilson fumbled the ball on the very first play of the game. San Francisco was able to recover and get an easy field goal. Late in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse fumbled the ball at the one-yard line on a third and goal play. He was lucky that Marshawn Lynch picked up the fumble.

The VERY NEXT PLAY, Seattle opted to go for a touchdown on a fourth and goal. Wilson and Lynch couldn’t make the handoff and fumbled again, allowing San Francisco to start their next drive at the 15 instead of inside the five. Seattle should consider themselves lucky that a 49ers defender didn’t return the fumble for a touchdown.

With the Super Bowl now featuring the top offense in the league against the top defense in the league, Super Bowl XLVIII has the potential to be one of the more memorable games in recent history. 

For more news and updates about the NFL Playoffs, visit NFL Playoffs Central.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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