It came down to one play for the NFC Championship Sunday evening at Century Link Field. If Colin Kaepernick's pass had found Michael Crabtree with less than a minute to go the 49ers were going to the Super Bowl for their seventh time. But Malcolm Smith, 3rd year linebacker out of USC, snatched the tipped pass out of the air and the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship game 23-17. The Seahawks will take on Denver (who defeated New England earlier Sunday afternoon) in New Jersey's Meadowlands at Super Bowl XLVIII. It is Seattle's second trip to the Super Bowl all time and first since they were beaten by Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL February 5th, 2006.
In a game led by San Francisco most of the way, the Seahawks had a chance to ice it with five minutes left and fourth and goal at the one. Instead, Russell Wilson muffed the handoff to Marshawn Lynch and the 49ers recovered for one last drive. Kaepernick completed two late down passes to move the Niners into position for the win. But, due to Malcolm Smith's heroic effort, it was not to be for San Francisco. Russell Wilson knelt on the ball as time expired and confetti flew from the rafters.
Russell Wilson was hardly spectacular but stayed away from the big mistakes that Kaepernick could not avoid. Wilson, the second year pro out of the University of Wisconsin, completed 16 passes in 25 attempts for 215 yards and one touchdown. Kaepernick, electrifying on the ground, threw two second half interceptions that ultimately cost his team the victory.
Neither team had success on the ground save for one big play each. Kaepernick had the longest run of the game, a 58 yard dash in the first half. Lynch scored from 40 yards out in the second half completing Seattle's best run of the game and the longest rush against San Francisco all year.
For the 49ers its home to ponder what might have been for a team listed among the preseason favorites. For Seattle, and the league's best defense, it's Denver's record setting offense two weeks hence. The Super Bowl, rotated through the three national networks who have games every week, will be televised by FOX on February 2nd.