What we learned from the Seahawks’ title-game win

Jan 20, 2014, 2:35 PM | Updated: Jan 21, 2014, 1:28 pm

Marshawn Lynch is responsible for four of the six 100-yard rushing games allowed by the 49ers since 2011. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Three things we learned:

1. Richard Sherman is nothing if not consistent.

If you expected him to blow kisses at the opposition, you haven’t been paying attention to Sherman and the way he prepares. He feeds off confrontation and doubt, working himself up into a lather over the perception that he is not given the respect he deserves. It’s the reason he still carries a grudge over being selected in the fifth round. It’s also why Sherman admitted he seeks out negative critiques and thanked those with negative opinions for helping to inspire him. And while you might be turned off by the confrontational level of his postgame interviews, you can’t say they came out of nowhere. This is how Sherman has operated since he became a starter, and when he was asked after the game if he’s going to continue to say whatever comes to his mind in the lead up to the Super Bowl, here was his response: “Pretty much. Pretty much. Why not? I mean, it’s a game.”

2. The run game is the foundation of Seattle’s offense.

No doubt about the Seahawks’ intentions in the second half. They brought in the extra beef with rookie Alvin Bailey lining up as the third offensive tackle and handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch three times in their first four plays in the third quarter. And when Lynch took that third carry 40 yards for a touchdown on third-and-1, it made quite a statement about what Seattle planned to do in the second half. Lynch rushed 12 times for 33 yards in the first half, and carried 10 times for 76 yards in the second half. In the past three seasons, San Francisco has given up six 100-yard rushing games. Lynch is responsible for four of them.

3. Colin Kaepernick was the reason the 49ers were in the game – and the reason they lost.

Kaepernick rushed for 98 yards in the first half, including a 58-yard run in which he evaded three different tacklers. The rest of the 49ers’ offense gained 30 yards from scrimmage in the first two quarters. But while Kaepernick was the only reason San Francisco held a halftime lead, he was also the reason the 49ers couldn’t rally in the fourth. He committed turnovers on all three of the 49ers’ fourth-quarter possessions, two coming in San Francisco’s half of the field. Kaepernick had his team 18 yards away from victory in the final period, but ultimately gave in to the moment, lobbing a first-down pass to Michael Crabtree that wound up being his team’s only shot into the end zone.

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. What would Seattle have done if Jermaine Kearse hadn’t caught that touchdown pass?

That play proved pivotal, giving the Seahawks a lead they never lost. But say Kearse had dropped the ball. Or it had been tipped. Or even picked off. Then Seattle would have accepted a 5-yard penalty for San Francisco jumping offsides, the Seahawks facing a fourth-and-2 and coach Pete Carroll facing a heck of a decision. Attempt a 47-yard field goal that would cut San Francisco’s lead to a point or go for it on fourth-and-2? Instead, Kearse caught the touchdown on what amounted to a free play and Seattle took the lead for good.

2. How do you measure Russell Wilson’s performance?

More coverage of the Seahawks’ win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

Recap | Stats | Photos | Interviews | Pete Carroll Show
O’Neil: Seahawks’ win validates Carroll’s approach
Henderson: Carroll revels in Super Bowl berth
Henderson: Sherman pops off after game-saving play
Henderson: Chancellor makes his presence felt
Moore: Seahawks’ maligned receivers come up big
Stecker: No redemption for Kaepernick | Notebook

On the one hand, he avoided mistakes after the abomination of a fumble on Seattle’s first play of the game. He also made the most of opportunities, whether it was the 35-yard touchdown pass to Kearse on the free play in the fourth quarter or scrambling to create the 51-yard pass to Doug Baldwin in the first half. There were also a couple of throws he airmailed, choosing discretion over valor and failing to put a dagger into San Francisco’s chances in the fourth quarter. While he followed Carroll’s formula for a winning quarterback, his 215 yards passing isn’t going to erase the tendency of some people to characterize Wilson as more of a game manager. Still, with a victory in the Super Bowl, he will have won more games – including the postseason – in his first two years than any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

3. Is it possible Kam Chancellor is underrated?

Earl Thomas is considered one of the top safeties in the league, and deservedly so. But Thomas’ unique role at the back end of the defense has actually marginalized the impact Chancellor has over the middle. Extra emphasis on the word impact. One of the biggest hitters in the league, Chancellor has adjusted his style to stop hitting opponents in the head and still make a crushing impact as he did in the third quarter against tight end Vernon Davis. Wonder why Crabtree ducked out of a third-and-2 catch on the 49ers’ final drive? Well, Chancellor’s presence had something to do with it. While Chancellor was a Pro Bowl selection in his second season in the league and an alternate this season after getting a multi-year extension, the truly unique presence he provides doesn’t get recognized often enough.

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What we learned from the Seahawks’ title-game win