The Seahawks will collide with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field for the NFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. The national media already are weighing in, with some calling it the NFL’s best rivalry. Others focus on two great young quarterbacks facing off and the rivalry between coaches Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh. The 12th Man and home-field advantage, Seattle’s sputtering offense and imposing defense are also mentioned prominently.
Here’s a two-minute drill of what the media say, with links to each story.
This is the best rivalry in the NFL today and one of the best in professional sports. Most players on both teams will deny it all week, but the truth is these teams can’t stand each other, and that goes for the head coaches, as well. The two fan bases do everything they can to berate each other, and all of that animosity adds to the intrigue and hype for a title game. These are two of the most physical teams in the league. They are going to pop each other right in the mouth on every snap. It won’t be an easy game to officiate, having to find a balance between letting them play with so much on the line and knowing when a player’s actions get out of hand.11
In the happy but almost business-like San Francisco locker room, talk of top-seeded Seattle and the looming test ahead drowned out most of the chatter about the recently vanquished No. 2-seeded Carolina Panthers, who the 49ers drilled 23-10 in a tough and at times ultra-chippy divisional round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium. It felt as if the 49ers had just checked this very big game off their season to-do list, and had no hesitancy in looking ahead and beginning to face the demons that have tormented them at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field the past two years.
After a slow start to the year, Colin Kaepernick is the hotter quarterback entering the game. Russell Wilson‘s pass protection has been poor all season, and he’s developed some bad habits of late. He didn’t pull the trigger on throws to some open receivers Saturday against New Orleans.
The Seahawks have the deeper defense overall. At least five or six of their players can take over a game at any time. This is the game that Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been building toward for four years. They want an ugly game. That’s how they thrive.
It’s fitting that immediately following Brady-Manning will be Kaepernick-Wilson. Meet the new rivalry, same as the old rivalry, except with more Beats by Dre. Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson’s showdown isn’t quite as nuanced and prolific as Brady-Manning but considering the frequency at which they play and the dominance of both, it will soon prove to be a worthy successor.
The Kaepernick-Wilson (and 49ers-Seahawks rivalry by extension) matchup doesn’t have the same conservative reserve as Brady-Manning. It’s loud. Everything about it is deafening. Their coaches are loud, their fans are loud, their teams are loud, and even their press conferences are loud.
In the NFC, Seattle plays host to San Francisco in Round 3 of what suddenly has become the league’s most bitter rivalry. …
This much the Seahawks know: the 12th Man will be jet-engine loud. Seattle has the loudest stadium in the league — in fact, the world record for loudest crowd was set (twice) at CenturyLink Field this season — and the crowd might not sit for a moment of this one.
Seattle is the trend story, the sprightly spawn of NFL Next, the cool arrival at the party. If Nickelodeon gave out a Kids’ Choice Award for favorite football team, the Seahawks would easily win and get slimed. It looks so fun, the atmosphere at their games, the crowd support, the uniforms that are clearly the most modern and stylish in the game (carbon fiber!). The Seahawks don’t look like a football club. They look like a motocross team.
And while Seahawks Fever has a layer of cuteness, make no mistake: They’re a tough outfit, aggressive, grabby, confrontational. … Throwing downfield against the Seahawks is like sticking your face into a swarm of bees.
It’s a beautiful menace, earning raves for Seattle’s coach, Pete Carroll. Pete Carroll is 62 and looks like he just surfed to work. He has the energy of a coach who wants very badly to treat all of the guys to postgame Dairy Queen. Years ago, Carroll used to take some grief about this abundant enthusiasm. Not anymore. The sunny exterior obscures a coach and motivator who has transformed a franchise. What Carroll does is win.
They (49ers) will have a harder time repeating the feat next week in Seattle, at one of the noisiest stadiums in the league, where the 49ers were soundly beaten in September.
“It’s tough to play up there; the crowd is loud,” Patrick Willis said. “But it’s the game to get to the Super Bowl.”
Expecting Lynch to be able to grind Seattle to a win, even at home, against this tough 49ers defense, may be asking too much as well. Of the final four teams still alive in the playoffs, the Seahawks are most in need of another offensive reincarnation. However, in a season that has been anything but short of such changes, it might just tell the story of the NFC Championship Game.
The Seahawks’ offense hasn’t been great of late. They weren’t very good in Saturday’s playoff victory over the Saints. Seattle is averaging just 20 points per game in its last five games. But lucky for the Seahawks, they’re playing the NFC title game at home. That’s a huge advantage. The Seahawks have won their last two meetings with the 49ers in Seattle by a combined score of 71-16. That makes the NFC’s No. 1 seed favorites in my book to be playing in the Super Bowl, where they no doubt have a good chance to beat either the Broncos or Patriots.
San Francisco 49ers
If the 49ers were playing the Seahawks on a neutral field, it would be a completely different story. But unfortunately for them, the game is in Seattle. That’s going to make it really tough to reach the Super Bowl, no matter how well the 49ers’ defense is playing.
Hide the women and children. The Seahawks hate the 49ers. The 49ers hate the Seahawks. This enmity is such that this one now rivals, if not exceeds, Ravens-Steelers.
And we’re not even counting the postgame handshake between Carroll and Harbaugh, which could be as physical as the game itself.
The bookies in Vegas are laying odds — as they have all season long — that the Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But even they wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it was New England against the San Francisco 49ers or any combination in between. …
Forget that the 49ers were outclassed their last two trips to Seattle, losing by a combined margin of 71-16. It’s doubtful they’ll be intimidated by the rain or a raucous crowd that sends tremors through the earth (Saturday’s foot stomping win over New Orleans was recorded as a small earthquake) in a game that figures to be both bruising and bitterly contested.
While the 15th Brady-Manning heavyweight fight in the AFC will likely dominate conversation ahead of Championship Weekend, the young quarterbacks in the NFC could be in the early stages of a rivalry that will be talked about for years to come.
The Super Bowl is being held two weeks early this season.Not really, of course. They’ll still hold the annual week-long, bajillion-dollar festival of pro football while the calendar changes from January to February.The best game of the postseason, though? The one that features the matchup everyone’s been waiting to see, the one that will arguably determine who the best team in the NFL is? That game will be played at CenturyLink Field on January 19.