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Late Mistakes Doom 49ers, Seahawks Claim NFC Crown

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SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19: Strong safety Kam Chancellor #31 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after an interception in the fourth quarter as quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks by during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Strong safety Kam Chancellor #31 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after an interception in the fourth quarter as quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks by during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field (Credit, Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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By Jerrell Richardson

The NFC Championship Game between the Seahawks and 49ers played out just as expected. With two elite defenses on the field, points were hard to come by and it came down to the team that could make the fewest mistakes. The 49ers had the lead late, but committed three costly turnovers in the fourth quarter that ultimately sealed their fate. San Francisco did an admirable job on both sides of the ball, handling the 12th Man and the adverse conditions of the game, but in the end, fell to their hated rival 23-17.

Offense Grade: D

The offense played poorly, even when grading them on a curve because they were against the NFL’s top-ranked defense. Colin Kaepernick was the only bright spot, but was also responsible for all of his team’s turnovers. San Francisco knew that passing the ball was going to be tough, so they asked their dual-threat quarterback to open things up with his legs. Kaepernick obliged, rushing for 130 yards, but that was all the 49er offense could muster.

Kaepernick’s legs helped keep the Seattle rush off his back, so he was not under a great deal of pressure, but the Seattle secondary still took away his receivers. Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 passes for a modest 153 yards and a touchdown, but his two interceptions and one fumble lost (all on the fourth) were all his fault and mistakes that can’t be made in the NFC Championship round. Kaepernick was asked to force things though, as he got absolutely no help offensively.

Anquan Boldin had a team high five receptions and a touchdown, but the usually reliable receiver also had two drops. Michael Crabtree made a few big plays but was only able to pull in four receptions, and Vernon Davis was a non-factor until the team’s final drive. Kendall Hunter on three carries had more yards than Frank Gore who finished with 14 yards and it’s asking a lot for Kaepernick to score points with little production from his teammates.

Defense Grade: B-

The 49er defense did an outstanding job just keeping this game close, but in the end allowed one too many big plays. After holding the Seahawks to three points in the first half, Seattle scored 20 second-half points to come from behind for the win. A lot of these points were set up by short fields though and in hindsight this game could have gotten out of hand if not for the San Francisco defense who kept Seattle (for the most part) out of the end zone.

Russell Wilson, statistically had one of his best games. He passed for 215 yards on 25 attempts for the ‘Hawks and had a 104.6 passer rating but his numbers were more due to defensive breakdowns than anything else. His 51-yard completion to Doug Baldwin and 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse were cases of Wilson capitalizing on mistakes more than anything else. However, that’s part of football and he still had to make read and throw. Carlos Rogers, Eric Reid and Donte Whitner who have been solid all year for the Niners all found themselves out of position a few times and it cost the 49ers points.

Helping Wilson out was Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers finally gave up a 100-yard rusher and it’s no surprise that it was number 24. Lynch averaged five yards per carry and his physical style wore down the 49ers defense over the course of the game. He carried the ball 22 times and his 40-yard touchdown run seemed to shift the momentum back to the home team. NaVorro Bowman did a good job frustrating Lynch for most of the day though, as Bowman recorded a team high 14 tackles before leaving with a gruesome-looking injury. Bowman’s partner in crime, Patrick Willis added seven tackles, but even the best line backing core in the league could not stop Lynch from running wild.

Special Teams Grade: B

The special teams which has been solid all year, also gave up a big play, but was otherwise steady. Phil Dawson was only asked to attempt one field goal which he connected on, and Andy Lee averaged 42 yards on four punts. LaMichael James average 23 yards on his kickoff returns and got away with a muffed punt that his teammates were able to fall on. The lone mistake was a 69-yard kickoff return that got the crowd and momentum back on the side of Seattle.

Silver Lining

Despite the defense giving up 20 points in the second half, and the offense giving the ball to Seattle three times in the final quarter, and the special teams blunder, the 49ers were still in a position to win the game. This is a testament to their will and overall talent. Sure San Francisco was one win away from the Super Bowl, but there is no shame in losing to a favored opponent on the road. What should sting though is that San Francisco knows that if they had protected the ball and played sound football for 60 minutes they would have been the NFC Champions, and not their division rival.  

For more news and updates about the NFL Playoffs, visit NFL Playoffs Central.

Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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