The Seahawks won, but won ugly.
Russell Wilson fumbled away the football on the first offensive play. That was a pretty fun moment. The Niners only got a field goal out of it but had the lead almost immediately, which was huge to take the crowd down a notch, providing San Francisco with a little breathing room to stay out from that corner that a lot of teams can find themselves in early at the CLink.
Seattle trailed at the half, and the offense didn't really get on track until the the third quarter. Quite frankly, there were times along the way where it didn't look like a Super Bowl berth was in the cards for Seattle. Three fumbles fell to the turf, three times the Niners recovered, and none were more devastating than a strip sack at the 7:22 mark of the third quarter. San Francisco recovered it, because of course they did, then naturally grabbed touchdown on the next play. Because of course they did.
It was that moment that I almost gave up hope. Earl Thomas had position on Anquan Boldin in the endzone, timed his leap perfectly, deflected the goddamn ball, and Boldin still managed to corral it in. It was a sick-ass throw by Colin Kaepernick but one that Earl really should've knocked down. Sometimes that's just the way it goes. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. Sometimes the enemy makes a bigger play. Demoralizing. Somehow though, Seattle stuck with it and kept themselves within striking distance.
There were other times where it literally looked like Russell had the yips - fumbling, mishandling snaps, overthrowing receivers, tentative in the pocket, hesitant to throw it, slow to run it. He ended up with a reasonable line - 16 of 25 for 215 yards, a touchdown and no picks, but this was not a great performance.
That said, like the dime he threw to Doug Baldwin on an all-out Cover-0 blitz by the Saints last week to help Seattle put the game away, Wilson made the one throw he needed to tonight. In a crucial moment, on an off-sides aided free play, Wilson threw an arcing, perfectly lofted dime into the endzone to Jermaine Kearse and with that touchdown, Seattle finally grabbed their first lead.
He handed the keys to the Super Bowl to the defense.
San Francisco's next three drives: fumble, interception, interception.
Seattle's league-best pass defense, one of the best pass defenses in NFL history, showed up when they needed to to preserve the win. Because the Seahawks love to stress out their fans, of course they were only up six. Of course, the game came down to the final 30 seconds, and of course, the Niners somehow put themselves in position, 18 yards away, to steal back the lead and get the win.
For some reason that I'll never really be able to figure out - not kidding, I was almost mad at them for being so dumb -they threw at Richard Sherman, who leaped up, twisted his 6'3 frame, and with his left hand, tipped the ball to Malcolm Smith. Game over. The story this week will be about Sherm's postgame tirade and shenanigans, which is to be expected, but that was a big-time play by a big-time player. Period.
A few notables:
My offensive players of the game are easy - Marshawn Lynch and Doug Baldwin. Baldwin again played great against his former college coach and when the Seahawks desperately needed big plays, it seemed like Baldwin was always the target. Sherman heaped praise on Baldwin after the game - calling him one of the best receivers in the NFL, and in today's game, Angry Doug came up huge. 6 catches, 106 yards.
For his part, Marshawn Lynch again looked spritely-yet-beastly carrying the football, making brilliant cut after brilliant cut to move the chains and his 40-yard scamper for a touchdown early in the third was an all timer. Dude stumbled the final 45 feet into the endzone, somehow defying normal physics like he does regularly. Lynch became... wait for it, because this is actually pretty insane ... the first player to rush for 100 yards on the Niners this year, dropping 109 yards on 22 attempts. Tough, resilient, physical.
Huge, huge win. Next stop New York. I'm going to go grind tape, and hope to have some more analysis up on the site soon.