Monday, January 20, 2014

Takeaways: Seahawks Are NFC Champs

By Jackson Safon

In an unbelievable game, the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the NFC Championship and are now headed to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII. First of all, props to the Niners on a great season and a great game, they battled hard and were close to winning that game. As much as Seattle hates Kaepernick, he played an outstanding game through three quarters and isn’t going away any time soon. The Seahawks however closed the game much better than the Niners, forcing three turnovers in the fourth quarter and outscoring San Francisco 10-0 in the final frame. So many contributors on both sides of the ball, so many big plays, and so many lucky bounces for both teams: unbelievable game that 100% lived up to the hype.

1. Seahawks’ biggest strength holds true
Seattle’s defense was its staple all year and it showed through when it mattered most, the fourth quarter. Zero points and three turnovers. That is dominance in the clutch. So many players came up big it’s hard to quantify and hard to name them all, but a few that come to mind are Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, and Michael Bennett. Those three guys played out of their minds, and did so at all different levels of the defense. Bennett was the most consistent pass-rusher the ‘Hawks had today and came up with a strip sack as well as the fumble recovery on the ASS (Avril Strip Sack, credit to @HawkBlogger). Wagner was a run stopper extraordinaire throughout the whole game, helping hold Frank Gore to 14 rushes on 11 carries, and Chancellor laid the wood a few times as well as came up with a big interception. Kaepernick played great for most of the game and was virtually unstoppable when pulling it down and running, but the defense was too much for him in the end and Sherman’s tip to Malcolm Smith (reminiscent of his tip to Earl Thomas earlier in the year) sealed the game.   

Kam Chancellor came up with a huge interception in the fourth quarter.

2. Three offensive stars
Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and Marshawn Lynch led the offense to its best showing in weeks. Wilson struggled a bit early, but eventually hit the big play to Baldwin down the field and most importantly, didn’t turn the ball over after the first play where he was stripped by Aldon Smith. Baldwin was my prediction for offensive player of the game and he didn’t disappoint with six catches for 106 yards as well as 109 return yards. Marshawn Lynch however was truly the best offensive player on the ‘Hawks, as he has been all season. While I didn’t think his late touchdown run against the Saints deserved the title “BeastQuake 2.0”, his 40 yard touchdown run yesterday absolutely can claim that title. It was the longest run against the 49ers in the Jim Harbaugh era and Lynch broke the Niners streak of 22 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. While 23 points will probably not be enough to beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl, the offense took massive steps to get back to where we are accustomed to seeing it.

Doug Baldwin had the best game of his career on Sunday night.

3. Ten Stats/plays that stood out
-Frank Gore: 11 rushes for 14 yards

-Colin Kaepernick 11 rushes for 130 yards

-Three turnovers in the fourth quarter for the 49ers.

-51 yard completion to Baldwin relatively early in the game: I thought this gave the offense confidence it hadn’t had in weeks.

-Marshawn Lynch 22 rushes for 109 yards (4.95 yards per carry).

-Russell Wilson 5 rushes for 0 yards, Darrell Bevell needs to let him loose in the Super Bowl.

-Decision to go for it on 4th and 7 instead of kick a 52 yard field goal. Not the call I would’ve made but had faith in Carroll once it was made.

-Both teams had the exact same number of total yards: 308.

-Luck factor seemed to be even, both teams had weird bounces and plays go their way (fumbles bounced the Niners way until Bowman injury/strip).

-Percy Harvin is coming back.

4. Initial Super Bowl Thoughts
The Seahawks will face Peyton Manning and the Broncos in two weeks and they will have to try and slow down the best offense in the history of the NFL. Peyton Manning had more passing touchdowns than any other team had TOTAL touchdowns. He broke the passing yardage record. They had five position players with double digit touchdowns. The gap between their offense and the second best offense (Bears) in points per game was about the same gap as between the second place offense and the second worst offense (Texans). Their offense is ridiculous and can score on you in any and every way imaginable. Yet all that being said, I think the Seahawks match up PERFECTLY to stop them. They have a shutdown group of defensive backs to slow down the electric set of receivers the Broncos have, they can put pressure on the quarterback with just four rushers, and they have the ability to stop the run as well. The offense will have to perform a bit better, but the Broncos haven’t faced a defense even close to what they are going to see in the Super Bowl.

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