49ers vs. Seahawks: Takeaways from Seattle's 23-17 Win over San Francisco
In what is sure to be seen as an instant classic, the Seahawks held on to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the NFC Championship Game. It was a very entertaining contest that saw the teams trade big plays, as the lead went back and forth between them.
In the end, it was the Seahawks that made the plays in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
Now the Seahawks head to New York with just 60 minutes of football and the team from Denver standing between them and a championship.
Here are eight takeaways from Sunday's NFC Championship-winning performance by the Seahawks.
It Is Not How You Start, It Is How You Finish
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson fumbled the football on the team's first offensive play and the defense couldn't seem to tackle San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick early in the game. This allowed the 49ers to jump out to an early 10-0 lead.
It didn't matter. The Seahawks weathered the storm. They made the plays that needed to be made. They won the game.
The Seahawks were clearly the better team in the second half of the game and pulled out a much-deserved win. It wasn't always pretty, but there are no style points in the NFL.
Marshawn Lynch Is the Best Player on Offense for Seattle
The Seahawks offense has little depth at receiver, a quarterback that isn't playing his best football and an offensive line that is well below average. What the team does have is a running back that is playing some amazing football.
Marshawn Lynch finished the game with 109 yards on 22 carries. He also added a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that triggered another earthquake to be measured at the University of Washington across town.
Lynch ran over and through defenders, powering Seattle's offense to 23 points against a very good San Francisco defense.
Tackling Was a Major Problem Early in the Game
The Seahawks were one of the best teams in the NFL this season at being sure tacklers on defense. That changed once the playoffs began. The Seahawks struggled at tackling the running backs against the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round and then couldn't seem to get Colin Kaepernick to the ground early in the game on Sunday.
Seattle cannot afford to make similar mistakes in the Super Bowl against the Broncos. The Seahawks will need to clean up their tackling over the next two weeks as they get ready for the big game.
Russell Wilson Is Still Russell Wilson
There is a growing sentiment that Russell Wilson has regressed recently. After more than a year of being one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, he has suddenly looked more ordinary than fans have come to expect in recent weeks.
The problem is that this narrative is untrue.
Sure, Wilson looked indecisive at times on Sunday. He made some bad decisions and ran himself into some sacks. However, he also made plays when they needed to be made.
The Seahawks have been holding the offense back by being ultra-conservative in their play-calling and game-planning. They've been winning with their defense, just wanting their offense to not turn the ball over.
On Sunday, with his team behind, Wilson repeatedly made plays and helped his team battle back to win the game. Wilson finished the game completing 16 of 25 passes for 215 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions.
Those might not be great stats, but they were what the Seahawks needed to come away with the win.
Decision to Play Carpenter over Bowie Was Dubious
In an unexpected move, offensive line coach Tom Cable decided to leave Michael Bowie inactive this week and go back to James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan at left guard.
Bowie played well when he started the divisional-round game against New Orleans and the move back to Carpenter this week did not pay off for the Seahawks.
Both Carpenter and McQuistan, who split time at the position, struggled throughout the game. The result was no consistency for the running game when running left and a quarterback that was constantly under pressure.
For a team whose philosophy is that the best players play, regardless of contract or draft position, this decision made little sense. The Seahawks have a dilemma that must be addressed between now and the Super Bowl in two weeks.
Doug Baldwin Was Huge This Week
Six catches for 109 yards: Those were the stats for wide receiver Doug Baldwin on Sunday. He accounted for just over half of the team's passing offense. He also added a 69-yard kick return that set up a Seattle score.
Doug Baldwin says of those who call receivers pedestrian. "We're walking to the Super Bowl."— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) January 20, 2014
Baldwin did most of that after suffering a hip injury that he told Todd Dybas of The News Tribune was "significant." The Seahawks have to hope that Baldwin's injury is of the type that will heal in time for the Super Bowl. They are certainly going to to need him.
Baldwin called his hip injury "significant" and said he wasn't feeling it after the game, but will said he'll be hurting later.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) January 20, 2014
Teams Need to Stop Throwing at Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman was the NFL's least targeted cornerback this season and yet he led the NFL in interceptions. Somehow, opposing quarterbacks continue to test him with deep passes and then are surprised when the Seahawks end up with the football.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is the most recent player to make that mistake.
With the game on the line at the end of the fourth quarter, Kaepernick threw the ball toward receiver Michael Crabtree in the corner of the end zone. Sherman tipped the ball back to linebacker Malcolm Smith, clinching the win for the Seahawks.
Seahawks fans have to be hoping that Denver's Peyton Manning is willing to make a similar mistake in two weeks. A couple of key turnovers might be all the Seahawks need to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
What a Super Bowl Clinching play by Sherman!— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) January 20, 2014
Next Stop: New York City
The Seahawks are going to finish their season right where most analysts thought they were going to be: playing in the Super Bowl. It wasn't always easy, but the Seahawks showed they were the best team in the NFC and deserved the trip to the big game.
Now they will travel to New York, where they will try and concentrate on preparing for the Denver Broncos while also dealing with all the distractions the Super Bowl week brings.
To borrow from Russell Wilson's mantra, all they have to do is go 1-0.