A wild NFC Championship Game ended in the most fitting way possible: On an historic defensive play by an historically good pass defense.
The Seattle Seahawks are headed to Super Bowl XLVIII after a thrilling 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos in Seattle's second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.
Colin Kaepernick made a number of crucial fourth-quarter mistakes, but he still had a chance to win the game after driving the 49ers into the red zone with under 30 seconds remaining. A pass intended for Michael Crabtree looked like it could be the game-winning touchdown, not unlike the final play of last year's Super Bowl. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman appeared to be out of position on the play, but he showed off his incredible recovery skills by deflecting the pass with his left hand into linebacker Malcolm Smith's waiting arms.
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman told Fox Sports after the game, nearly frothing at the mouth. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're gonna get."
Sherman's play was only the final blow in a scintillating second half for the Seahawks. They outscored San Francisco 20-7 after halftime, including the final 13 points of the game, following a dizzying array of big plays. Marshawn Lynch busted out a classic Beast Mode run for a 40-yard score. Colin Kaepernick answered with an electric drive including a ridiculous jump-pass 26-yard fastball for a touchdown. (Yes, you read that right.)
Seattle had a long touchdown to Jermaine Kearse on a fourth-and-7 call, and fumbled the ball on a fourth-and-goal on the goal line. And the Seahawks' defense ended up forcing three Kaepernick turnovers in the final frame.
This was a game worthy of all the NFC West hype this season. It featured two young quarterbacks that still are developing, but are fascinating to watch. (Kaepernick finished with 130 yards on the ground.) It featured two defenses constantly dislodging the ball from receivers' hands with big hits. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady was just a warm-up act for the main event in the NFC.
Seattle battled all season to get home-field advantage, and that helped put them over the top. A delay of game penalty led directly to one late 49ers fumble. Aided by the crowd noise, Seattle's pass rush picked up late in the game and forced difficult throws from Kaepernick.
Sherman never stopped talking this year, and the Seahawks have backed it up with an incredible season. The Seattle defensive unit closed in style. San Francisco's final four drives: three-and-out, sack-fumble, interception, interception.
On the biggest stage and through the biggest plays imaginable, Sherman and the Seahawks' defense made sure that everyone keeps talking about them for the next two weeks.