Heat is on Kaepernick as Seahawks, 49ers meet in title-game rematch

Nov 25, 2014, 1:07 PM | Updated: 1:46 pm
Colin Kaepernick committed three straight turnovers at the end of last season's NFC title game, including an interception that sealed the Seahawks' win. (AP)
(AP)

He wasn’t a footnote to the most important play in Seahawks history so much as the punchline.

While Richard Sherman slapped receiver Michael Crabtree on the butt and said, “Hell of a game,” it was quarterback Colin Kaepernick that he looked to on the 49ers’ sideline, both hands around his neck in a move that drew a penalty but not an apology from the Seahawks cornerback.

“These are rivalries, right?” Sherman said five days later when asked if he regretted it.

No doubt about that. The one between San Francisco and Seattle is the best in the NFL by most measurements, and on Thursday we’re about to find out how big of a shadow that the decisive play of the NFC Championship Game casts down in the Bay Area in general and upon Kaepernick specifically.

Kaepernick is the one who has seven interceptions compared to three touchdown passes in the four games he has started against Seattle, including the playoffs. It’s Kaepernick who turned the ball over on each of San Francisco’s final three possessions in the NFC title game, and it’s Kaepernick who was asked Tuesday whether he’s motivated either by what Sherman did to clinch that Seahawks victory or what he said after it.

“We’re not worried about that,” Kaepernick said. “We’re worried about trying to win this game.”

Well, we’ll see about that on Thursday because no one has more at stake in this game than Kaepernick as he tries to turn the page on his epically disappointing finish against a team that has been especially problematic for him.

Kaepernick is a good quarterback, no doubt about that. In fact, his coach, Jim Harbaugh, emphasized after last week’s game that Kaepernick was great with a capital “G.” The highest category of great, he said.

Yet each of San Francisco’s past two seasons have ended with Kaepernick failing to complete a pass toward the corner of the end zone, first in the Super Bowl against Baltimore and then at CenturyLink Field on a play that may wind up spawning a statue here in Seattle.

And after that, Sherman put the weight of that moment squarely on Kaepernick’s shoulders.

“I really appreciate that, Kaep,” Sherman said. “I appreciate you ending it like that, you try me like that, I hadn’t gotten many opportunities all game, and I’m happy. I’m happy about that. I’m sure if our team knew the game was going to come down to a play like that, they’d be pretty confident going into it.”

It wasn’t particularly gracious. It was, however, a piece of gamesmanship. We’re about to see whether San Francisco’s quarterback can stand up to it.

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Heat is on Kaepernick as Seahawks, 49ers meet in title-game rematch