The 49ers third consecutive trip to the NFC Championship game ended in another bitter defeat. The Seattle Seahawks narrowly outlasted the 49ers 23-17 to earn the right to play in the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Their opponent will be Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos as they defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Let’s talk about the team that fell just short of their second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers will have to deal with another long offseason. An offseason that follows yet another “what if” season. The 49ers had their chances but Colin Kaepernick was just too careless with the football in the fourth quarter. The Seattle Seahawks gave them chance after chance. Every time it looked as if Colin Kaepernick committed a season ended turnover the Seahawks would give it right back.
The Seahawks returned a Colin Kaepernick fumble to the 49ers’ five yard line. On third down it appeared that the 49ers got a break as Marshawn Lynch fumbled the football at the goal line. The Seahawks came out of the scuffle with the football and the referees ruled it Seahawks’ ball on third down. However if you watch the replay it clearly shows that linebacker Navarro Bowman recovered the football with his knee down. Due to the fact that those plays can’t be reviewed until next season the play stood as called. The Seahawks had the football on fourth down with every intension to go for six. To add insult to injury the 49ers lost star linebacker Navarro Bowman to a leg injury on the third and goal fumble.
On fourth down the Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch fumbled again. The loose ball was recovered by the Seahawks but it did not matter because they had already turned it over on downs. So in spite of the last turnover by Kaepernick there was no damage done to the 49ers. They were still only down 20-17. However on the next possession the 49ers’ offense turned it over yet again as Colin Kaepernick threw a badly underthrown pass intended for Anquan Boldin to Safety Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks had yet another chance to go up by two scores but the 49ers defense held again as the Seahawks settled for a 47 yard field goal.
The Seahawks led by just one score with over three minutes remaining. Kaepernick had another chance to perform his much anticipated fourth quarter magic. He looked to be well on his way to a heroic finish as he hit Frank Gore for a first down before the two minute warning. He then silenced the typically raucous crowd as he hit Vernon Davis for a first down. Things were looking much better on this drive until the next play. Colin Kaepernick’s pass intended for Michael Crabtree was tipped by Richard Sherman and intercepted by Malcolm Smith; sealing any hopes of late game heroics.
The 49ers are a team we believed would flirt for the championship for a long time following their near miss in 2011 season. The 2011 and 2012 losses hurt but at least they took steps forward in terms of their quest for a championship. This season there is no real moral victory. Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers are developing the reputation of a team that cannot win the big game. This loss has to be the most difficult for that reason. It is the loss in which they digressed. They’ll have to find a way to recover from this and it is going to be real difficult to swallow. Colin Kaepernick is a great athlete but he must learn which throws to make and not make.