NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - INSIDE SLANT
Maybe four years seems like a quick turnaround for a Seattle Seahawks franchise that had only been to the Super Bowl once when head coach Pete Carroll arrived in 2010 and had won just nine games in the previous two years.
Carroll, though, insisted in the aftermath of finally getting back to the Super Bowl that he hoped it would happen much sooner.
"I think it's later than we think than we wanted it to be," he said Monday, a day after the Seahawks won the NFC title with a 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. "But we're still on track for something really special and we had to wait a little bit. And it might be worth it."
Certainly, the NFC title game itself felt worth it to the 68,000-plus that crammed into CenturyLink Field to see Seattle overcome an early 10-0 deficit and beat the 49ers in a game that wasn't decided until the final minute, when cornerback Richard Sherman tipped a Colin Kaepernick pass into the hands of teammate Malcolm Smith in the end zone.
That was one of three turnovers Seattle forced in the fourth quarter and helped cap a 20-7 Seattle advantage in the second half.
"Going all the way down to the last drive and all that, it came out with all of the drama that you could maybe hope for in a game like this," Carroll said. "It was a great matchup. They're a fine team and they were tough on us and we were tough on them and you just kind of had to wait it out and see what the opportunities were going to present. We took care of business when we needed to."
The stats indicated well the evenness of the game, as each team had 308 yards. It was ultimately the turnovers, a couple of big plays in the passing game, and getting running back Marshawn Lynch going to the tune of 109 yards while holding 49ers running back Frank Gore to just 14 that proved the difference.
The 49ers moved consistently in the first half due largely to the running of Kaepernick, who had 130 yards. But Seattle held him to 32 in the second half, as the 49ers went 12 yards or fewer on four of their six second-half possessions.
"For the defense to take the ball off on three straight drives to end the game was a huge accomplishment and a big statement that we were fighting it out and we were going to slug it out," Carroll said. "And for the offense scoring four out of the five drives or whatever in the second half, all of those numbers really support a great comeback. So it was a really cool night for our guys and they really came through and they really made it happen and the Niners didn't make it easy at all. We had to really fight for everything. So it was really great event."
One that now has Seattle in the Super Bowl for just the second time in 38 years, on to face the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2 in New Jersey.
Seattle will hope for a better result than in 2006 when it lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10.
NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - NOTES, QUOTES
--Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman apologized on Monday for his verbal attack on San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree following the Seahawks' 23-17 victory in Sunday night's NFC championship win, according to ESPN.com.
"I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates ... That was not my intent," Sherman said in a text message to ESPN's Ed Werder.
In an interview on ESPN Radio on Monday, Sherman said, "Obviously I could have worded things better and could obviously have had a better reaction and done things differently. But it is what it is now, and people's reactions are what they are."
After Sherman made a game-saving play on Sunday by tipping away a pass in the end zone intended for Crabtree late in the game, he was outspoken during a TV interview with sideline reporter Erin Andrews.
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman yelled. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me."
Andrews asked who was talking about him.
"Crabtree," he said. "Don't you open your mouth about the best or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick."
In his postgame news conference Sunday, Sherman said, "I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that's what happens. I appreciate that he knows that now. There has been a lot of talk from him running his mouth about me."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he spoke to Sherman about the comments he made on national television.
"We aren't perfect and we all make mistakes," Carroll said on the Seattle ESPN Radio affiliate Monday. "Things don't always come out exactly as we planned.
"I look at it like this: What would I tell my son? I'm a dad. I speak from that perspective. Maybe (the players) don't always want to hear it that way, but it's the best way I can communicate. That has already taken place and we've already talked about it.
"You're talking about a guy in a warrior's mentality in the middle of everything. He's a fiery guy. That was Richard being Richard in a moment where you would like to pull him to the side and take a knee for a while, then we'll talk to you.
"It's unfortunate that it was so crazed, but that's who he is. His mental makeup to get ready for that matchup was expressed right there so he could play the way he can play. Unfortunately, sharing with the world, it didn't come across so well."
However, Carroll also said Sherman's postgame behavior was not indicative of the team's guidelines.
"We try to stick to Rule No. 1, which is always protect the team," Carroll said. "It's the rule we live by. You always represent us. In a time like that one, it was a little bit representing yourself.
"How we handle it is we try to grow and learn and work our way through who we are and figure out who we want to be. This was an extraordinary learning opportunity. You'll see some benefit from it."
Carroll said Sherman just got carried away.
"Richard is a wonderful spirit," he said. "He's got an amazing heart and he has great sensitivity. He goes all the way to the end of the spectrum when it comes to expressing himself."
Sherman writes a regular column for Peter King's mmqb.com, and did not back down from his comments Monday.
"To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field -- don't judge a person's character by what they do between the lines," Sherman wrote. "Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.
"But people find it easy to take shots on Twitter, and to use racial slurs and bullying language far worse than what you'll see from me. It's sad and somewhat unbelievable to me that the world is still this way, but it is. I can handle it."
Sherman's issues with Crabtree date back to an incident at a charity event held by Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald over the offseason, with Sherman's older brother telling the Seattle Times that Crabtree tried to start a fight when Sherman went to shake his hand.
"I'm going to make a play and embarrass him," Sherman vowed that day, per the Times story. Sherman acknowledged there was an issue over the offseason.
"He said something personal face-to-face," Sherman said. "He knows what he said, and he knows I'm going to be tough on him the rest of his career."
--Seattle has now won six straight home playoff games and is 17-1 at home the past two years in regular season and playoff games.
--Seattle becomes the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to advance to the Super Bowl without a single player having played in a Super Bowl. Seattle had seven players who had advanced as far as a conference title game.
--Seattle becomes the third different NFC West team since 2009 to advance to the Super Bowl, joining Arizona in 2009 and the 49ers following last season.
NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--LG James Carpenter got the start as Seattle again shook up its offensive line, going back to the rotation of Carpenter and Paul McQuistan at left guard in place of rookie Michael Bowie, who went from starter to inactive. Coach Pete Carroll said the position would be re-evaluated again this week. While Bowie played every snap of the playoff win over the Saints, Carroll said they preferred to go with experienced players against the 49ers.
--OT Alvin Bailey played a lot as Seattle also went with a formation in which it often used the rookie as a tight end to give the team more bulk on its line in blocking against the 49ers outside linebackers. Seattle has used the formation before, but Bailey was on the field for 16 snaps against the 49ers.
--WR Doug Baldwin handled kickoff returns in place of an injured Percy Harvin, and turned in a 69-yarder that turned the momentum in the third quarter to set up a field goal after the 49ers had taken a 17-10 lead.
--WR Percy Harvin didn't play against the 49ers but is expected to practice this week and play in the Super Bowl. Harvin missed the 49ers game with a concussion suffered against the Saints in the divisional playoff game.
--LB K.J. Wright recovered from a broken foot to play in a reserve role against the 49ers. However, he played largely at strong-side linebacker instead of in the middle or the weak side, as he had in his previous 13 games this season. Bruce Irvin has been the starter at on the strong side but that spot could be up for grabs in practice now.
--WR Doug Baldwin suffered a hip pointer against the 49ers and could miss some practice time. But the injury isn't expected to impact his availability for the Super Bowl.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When it's the Super Bowl, you've got to take note and we all talked about that today in the team meeting. You take note of being the kid watching these games and always thinking that you would like to be a part of it someday. I pictured playing, not coaching. But, we all have those kinds of dreams. So we need to take note and recognize how special it is and be grateful for the guys that's helped us get there." -- Seattle coach Pete Carroll on finally getting to the Super Bowl.
REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus --- Against one of the best defenses in the NFL and in a pressure-packed situation, QB Russell Wilson had his best passer rating since the Dec. 2 win over New Orleans, with 104.6. Wilson got off to a rugged start with a fumble while he was scrambling on the first play of the game. But he rallied from there to hit on 16 of 25 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown, and no interceptions. And the much-discussed Seattle receicing corps came up with the big plays when needed, including a 35-yard TD reception by Jermaine Kearse on fourth-and-seven, and Doug Baldwin's 51-yard reception on a play when Wilson scrambled that set up a field goal.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Marshawn Lynch became the first running back this season to top the 100-yard mark against the 49ers with 109 yards on 22 carries, including a 40-yard TD in the third quarter that got the Seahawks back into it. Seattle finished with 115 yards on 29 carries, 4.0 per carry, but had 79 on 16 in the second half, including the long Lynch run. But it wasn't so much the numbers but that Seattle was able to make a threat of the running game in the second half and set a tone that led to the comeback win that was most critical.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus --- For a few seconds it looked as if the Seahawks secondary might be to blame for blowing the game, as the 49ers marched down the field in the final seconds. But then they made the kind of play that defined the season, with CB Richard Sherman's tip to LB Malcolm Smith, who caught it for a game-ending interception. QB Colin Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 passes, but did so for just 153 yards as the Seahawks were content to let him throw checkdowns and not get beat deep. And the two interceptions in the fourth quarter led to a 56.4 passer rating for Kaepernick, while the secondary also helped set up a strip-sack fumble by DE Cliff Avril. The 49ers' longest gain came on a 26-yard touchdown from Kaepernick to WR Anquan Boldin in which safety Earl Thomas was positioned to make the play but jumped just a hair short.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Seahawks actually deserve an A for what was their biggest goal coming into the game -- containing Frank Gore. He had just 14 yards on 11 carries as the 49ers could never get a consistent conventional running game going. The grade drops just a bit for the 130 yards allowed to Colin Kaepernick, who had a long of 58 in the first half to set up a touchdown. Seattle adjusted to the speed of Kaepernick a little better in the second half to hold him to 32 yards, a key as the defense began to take over late.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Steven Hauschka again went 3-for-3 on field goals, Jon Ryan averaged a net of 45.5 yards per punt, and Doug Baldwin returned a kickoff 69 yards to set up a field goal. Seattle also forced a fumble on a punt (which the 49ers recovered) in winning the special teams battle.
COACHING: A --- Seattle started slow. But it wasn't out of effort or readiness, and once the Seahawks made a few adjustments they were able to come back to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl. The biggest coaching decision turned into what was also one of the biggest plays of the game as the Seahawks decided to go for it on fourth-and-seven at the San Francisco 35 early in the fourth quarter. Russell Wilson drew the 49ers offside, and then with the knowledge of the free play, threw deep to Jermaine Kearse who caught the pass for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks the lead for good. The play encapsulized everything Carroll has brought to the team -- a confidence to take a chance, and the readiness to take advantage of a split-second opportunity.