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Seahawks earn second trip to Super Bowl with 23-17 NFC Championship win over 49ers - Jan. 19, 2014

Seahawks earn second trip to Super Bowl with 23-17 NFC Championship win over 49ers - Jan. 19, 2014

Wide receivers Golden Tate #81, wide receiver Doug Baldwin #89 and Earl Thomas #29 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate after the Seahawks 23-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

by Curtis Crabtree
KJR reporter
Twitter: @Curtis_Crabtree

SEATTLE - Michael Robinson was in no rush to exit the field.

Robinson was trying to savor every image, every moment as he slowly retreated to the locker room Sunday night. The Seattle Seahawks had just earned a trip to their second Super Bowl in franchise history with a thrilling 23-17 victory over the divisional rival San Francisco 49ers.

Robinson wasn't bouncing around the field sporting a giant grin. He wasn't climbing into the stands in the south end zone to celebrate the victory like teammate Richard Sherman.

On the contrary, Robinson looked skyward, wiping away tears that were streaming down his face. The eight-year veteran knows moments like this don't come around too often and he wanted to make sure he remembered all of it.

"I wanted every second of it, man," Robinson said. "Every single second of it. We have the best fans in the world and I'm glad we're about to do it here."

Protecting a six-point cushion late with the 49ers pushing into Seattle's red zone, the Seahawks defense came through as it has all season long.

Colin Kaepernick's pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone with 30 seconds left to play was deflected into the air by Sherman and Malcolm Smith settled underneath for the game-clinching interception.

After seeing the defense fall short while trying to protect a lead last season in Atlanta, the triumph this time felt all the better.

"I've never been in a position like this before," Robinson said. "Very gratifying."

Russell Wilson passed for 215 yards and a touchdown, Marshawn Lynch ran for 109 yards and a score and Seattle overcome an early 10-0 deficit to win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos.

"Not until Sherm tips the ball to Malcolm did it even hit me," head coach Pete Carroll said. "...It never really hit me until that moment. All I can tell you is it's quite a magical moment. You can't quite grasp the reality of it. Is this really happening? Did we really do this? It's very, very special.

Wilson was sacked by Aldon Smith and stripped on the first play of the game for Seattle. The 49ers recovered the loose ball and Phil Dawson's 25-yard field goal gave San Francisco an early 3-0 lead.

A defensive holding penalty against Sherman kept alive a San Francisco drive and the 49ers capitalized. Kaepernick scrambled for 12 yards and 58 yards on consecutive plays to move the 49ers deep into Seattle territory. Anthony Dixon scored on a 1-yard plunge to give San Francisco a 10-0 lead.

Seattle's offense has been mostly nonexistent over the last several weeks and were now facing a double-digit deficit against one of the best defenses in the NFL. But Wilson and the Seahawks remained calm and collected offensively.

Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for 51 yards after evading several defenders in the pocket on a play that helped spark a dormant Seattle attack.

"We knew they were going to bring pressure. We knew it was going to be tough to run. We knew that we needed to make plays down field when the opportunity showed and we did that for the most part," Golden Tate said.

Steven Hauschka converted a 32-yard field goal to get Seattle on the board before halftime.

Lynch took control on Seattle' first drive of the third quarter. Lynch accounted for 56 yards on a four-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Lynch broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 10-10.

The 49ers quickly answered to retake the lead. Kaepernick hit Crabtree for 22 yards and then ran for another 22 to move in Seattle territory. Kaepernick then connected with Anquan Boldin for a 26-yard touchdown over the outstretched arms of Earl Thomas to give San Francisco a 17-10 lead.

The Seahawks followed with a scoring drive of their own as Hauschka converted a 40-yard field goal to close the gap to 17-13.

Seattle looked on the verge of squandering a decent scoring opportunity late in the quarter. After moving to the 49ers' 34-yard line, Wilson was called for intentional grounding and Seattle faced a third-and-20 from midfield. Wilson hit Zach Miller for 15 yards to setup a fourth-and-7 and likely field goal try.

Instead, Carroll chose to roll the dice.

Seattle put the offense back on the field and elected to go for it. Aldon Smith jumped offside to give the Seahawks a free play and Wilson took a shot into the end zone. Jermaine Kearse reeled in the 35-yard touchdown pass and Seattle took their first lead of the game at 20-17.

Carroll said they didn't want to punt and didn't like the chances on a field goal try. The 53-yard field goal would have been longer than Hauschka had converted in pregame warmups. So they just decided to go for it instead of punt to a short field.

Kearse said the play converted to the vertical routes run by Seattle's receivers after Smith jumped offside.

"It's an adjustment," Kearse said. "When we draw them offside it's something that we adjust to. It's a free play so you've got to take a shot."

Seattle's defense then went to work protecting the lead. The 49ers committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks defense continued to make plays. Cliff Avril sacked and stripped Kaepernick deep in 49ers' territory but the Seahawks were turned away at the 1-yard line.

Kam Chancellor then intercepted Kaepernick on a pass intended for Boldin along the left sideline. Seattle converted the field position into three more points on a 47-yard field goal by Hauschka to extend the lead to 23-17.

Then Sherman came up with the tipped pass and Smith's interception sealed the victory for the Seahawks.

Now Seattle will face the league's top-ranked offense in two weeks in Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

"That's as tough a game as you can get in the Super Bowl. The number one defense against the number one offense," Sherman said. "It doesn't happen like this too often; both number one seeds make it. It's a testament to the hard work of both teams and I'm sure it's going to be a great game."

 

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