Take 2 is going with hurry-up posts all week looking at what national media are saying about the Seahawks’ NFC Championship showdown Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Here’s Tuesday’s two-minute drill looking ahead to the game.
There’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike about both teams. Even if you don’t pick a team, the good news is that the NFC is guaranteed a worthy Super Bowl participant no matter who wins. There will be a great defense, fun offense with a young quarterback and great storylines and soundbites representing the NFC West. But if you still need a rooting interest, pull for Seattle. San Francisco was on the biggest stage last year and has multiple Lombardi trophies. Let’s give Seattle a chance to bring the championship to the Pacific Northwest.
Think how far these two teams have come in 22 months, since Pete Carroll sat on a runway in Denver, hoping to somehow plead his case to get (Peyton) Manning to come play in Seattle (Manning didn’t take the meeting), and Niners coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew cross-country to work out Manning (he picked Denver). They’ve developed under-the-draft-radar quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson since. They’ve built tremendous defenses, the kind that made Pittsburgh-Baltimore the most must-see TV games in the league in the final years of the Ray Lewis era. The coaches are major rivals, dating back to USC-Stanford. And the venue. It changes teams. Seattle’s 0-2 in San Francisco in the last two years, and 2-0 at home—by a combined score of 71-16. “The stadium will be a factor in the game for sure,” Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell, who knows both teams well, said from Phoenix last night. “You have to play in it to understand. It’s going to be important for San Francisco to play well early, because you don’t want that crowd to get hold of the game.”
It should be something to see. It will be physical. It will be nasty. Players will play to the whistle, and players will play through the whistle. The coaches? They’ll be fired up and demonstrative and emotional, even more so than usual.
Want more? This NFC Championship Game on Sunday night in Seattle, where the Seahawks have lost just one game in two seasons, will have it all, and it will make the Niners-Panthers game look tame, even though it was not.
To Harbaugh’s chagrin, officials have let the players play in the first eight playoff games. The Seahawks play an aggressive man-to-man defense that can draw flags, but, so far, referees have called interference only six times in the first two rounds of the playoffs. There have been only two illegal contact calls. But expect a few more flags because both teams will do a lot of extra things after plays. As mentioned, they don’t like each other.
The brash-talking, quarterback-mocking San Francisco 49ers are coming to town on Sunday, aiming for revenge and retribution and respect.
The equally brash-talking, tight end-taunting Seattle Seahawks and football’s most earth-shaking home-field advantage aren’t planning to care.
If you thought the Seahawks and Niners showed swagger in their NFC divisional playoff wins, wait until you see them in this Sunday’s NFC Championship showdown at CenturyLink Field. It’s a game that should be overflowing with bad blood, even if that’s the thing Seattle coach Pete Carroll wants least.
If the Seahawks are to beat the 49ers, they need more out of Russell Wilson. He has been ordinary the past five games. He threw for 107 yards against the Saints, and looked out of sorts. He missed a wide-open receiver in the middle of the field for a sure touchdown and instead took off and ran, even though he took a peek at the receiver before he took off. He is better than that.
The good news for San Francisco is that the Seahawks didn’t look quite so dominant against the Saints on Saturday, which could give the 49ers hope of getting to Super Bowl the same way the 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants, and 2010 Packers did: Winning three road games.The best news for the 49ers? The other three teams that pulled that off in the past decade won the Super Bowl, too.
The 49ers have won consecutive road playoff games in Green Bay and Carolina. Plus, the 49ers finished the regular season in a playoff-type atmosphere against the Arizona Cardinals, who entered the final game with a chance at a postseason berth.“Our team has been in a lot of good primers, been through a lot of situations, tough environments, whether it’s weather or opposing stadiums,” Harbaugh said. “This team has been in a lot of situations – been everywhere, man – like the Johnny Cash song.”
The noise will be even louder, naturally, at raucous CenturyLink Field. The 49ers understand this all too well, in the wake of absorbing a cumulative 71-16 whipping on their two previous visits (29-3 on Sept. 15 and 42-13 last season).
Head coach Jim Harbaugh made no attempt to minimize the noise his team will confront (at CenturyLink Field), with one clever caveat.
“I’d say it’s the loudest venue, but everything seems louder to me,” Harbaugh said Monday during his weekly news conference in Santa Clara. “I’m older. Music seems a lot louder.”
At CenturyLink Field, they monitor decibels as closely as passing yards. When a Kansas City Chiefs crowd set a world noise record for a sporting event Oct. 13, the Seahawks fans turned around and reclaimed the title by Dec. 2. Against the New Orleans Saints that night, the crowd’s roar reached 137.6 dB. (The level at which pain begins is 125 dB.) The readings are more than just a curiosity: Savvy fans know just when it’s most disruptive to pump up the volume. Since 2005, the Seahawks have coaxed 1.83 false-start penalties per home game, tops in the NFL.
It’ll be Kaepernick vs. Wilson, young, cutting-edge quarterbacks who have in many ways transformed their position. They can throw and they can run, and they do both so well that they’ve been to the playoffs two years running.Super Bowl championships almost always are reserved for pocket passers (Roger Staubach and Steve Young could scramble out of danger, but they made their living inside the pocket). But Kaepernick and Wilson, who have been terrific at the read-option trend that has grown increasingly more important, might be about to change the conversation.
This is the showdown everyone was waiting for since camps opened. They’re probably the two most complete teams in the NFL. They know each other inside and out. Coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have a long history. Harbaugh’s 49ers enter as the hotter team, having won eight in a row, including the past three on the road. They’re also more experienced in this position, with three straight NFC title game appearances. But the Seahawks have won the last two meetings in Seattle by a combined 71-16.
It will be the 19th game of Kaepernick’s first full season as an NFL starter. And thanks to that season under his belt, we all have a clearer picture of who Colin Kaepernick is as a quarterback and what the 49ers can expect going forward.
They can expect poise under pressure. They can expect a fiery competitor who doesn’t back down. And they can expect some uneven play, at times.
No one is laughing now. The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have become two of the league’s true powerhouses. They will meet Sunday in Seattle in the NFC title game, with a trip to the sport’s first New York-area Super Bowl at stake.
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