BY Art Thiel 03:12PM 01/12/2014

Thiel: The way it should be — Niners-Seahawks

After a relatively easy 23-10 win over Carolina Sunday, the 49ers return to the Clink to attempt to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl in part 3 of the Game of the Year.

The Seahawks defense, including Clint McDonald (69), shut out the Saints for three quarters Saturday, and gave up only three points to San Francisco in week 2. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Rare is a sports season that goes to form. More rare is the heat between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. The best teams in the NFC from the minute the previous season ended to this moment, throw down Sunday at the Clink to resolve their mutual contempt and move on to the NFL’s highest stakes.

Doesn’t get better.

Some Seahawks fans may have preferred to see Carolina in the NFC title game, but the Panthers were clearly the inferior team Sunday in their 23-10 home loss to the 49ers. The 49ers are in their third consecutive conference title game because they won their second consecutive playoff road game this season, remaining the premier NFC badass outfit until someone proves otherwise.

Or as Niners coach Jim Harbaugh, who drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty Sunday for walking 15 yards onto the field to argue with a referee, shouted to his team in the post-game locker room celebration, recorded by Fox:

“Who can possibly be better than us?”

Team in unison: “Nobody!”

Your cue, Seahawks. Time to answer the question, “What’s your deal?”

The Seahawks have spoken well in the 49ers’ past two visits, winning by a combined 71-16, including 29-3 in the season’s second week. But that was then, before the return from injury of WR Michael Crabtree, and this is now, when the Seahawks beat a mistake-prone Saints team 23-15 Saturday despite only 103 yards of passing offense, a career low for QB Russell Wilson.

But in winning their fifth home playoff game in a row, the Seahawks accomplished a sly feat that doesn’t impress like big offensive numbers, but is equally important: They made few mistakes in crappy conditions. No turnovers, only six penalties, a reliance on defense and little deviation from their routines.

Saints coach Sean Payton is one who had a full appreciation of the deed.

“They’re patient,” he said. “They force you to be patient.”

The Saints wound up with 409 yards of offense, but found themselves down 16-0 entering the fourth quarter because they squandered four possessions — two with missed field goals and two with fourth-down failures that turned over the ball to Seattle. All told, a few dozen inches of difference, and the Saints go home while the Seahawks go on.

In week 2, the same Seahawks patience prevailed.

QB Russell Wilson missed on eight of his first nine passes, and the Seahawks led 5-0 at halftime — the first such halftime score in the NFL’s past 21 years. But urgency did not overtake the Seahawks in the second half. A steady 10-play, 80-yard drive opened the third quarter and was climaxed by a 14-yard touchdown run from Marshawn Lynch, followed on the next possession by a second 10/80 and another Lynch TD, this time a seven-yard pass.

Meanwhile, the defense held the 49ers to 207 yards of offense, just 100 from QB Colin Kaepernick, who threw three interceptions, was sacked three times and finished with a QB rating of 20.1.

But the 49ers won their final six regular-season games, including a 19-17 triumph over Seattle Dec. 8 in San Francisco, by an average of 11 points, then won a hard game in sub-zero Green Bay 23-20 to move out of the playoffs’ wild-card round round to Carolina.

Now they get to travel to their fourth road game in four weeks (Arizona before Green Bay and Charlotte) to the hardest place to win in the NFL.

But, oh, do they ache to do it. To shut up Richard Sherman, to shut up Pete Carroll, to shut up 68,000 Clinksters and to shut up all of the Northwest, the 49ers will bring a mad-on measured in megatons.

Seattle and the NFL have waited all season for this.

Game of the Year: The Trilogy.

There will be no sequel.



  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Lest Seahawk fans lament over the lost 3rd quarter of offense in the query Saints game? Keep in mind you CAN win a Super bowl without a sparkle laden offense to rely on.
    Ask our former Seahawk QB Trent Dilfer whose 2000 Ravens team was game managed by he and they beat the Giants to become SB champs with what was perceived to be a mediocre offense and a ferocious defense.

    Our defense has the heart of a lion. We will be amped up like no other game this season to mug bludgeon and outright slaughter a certain bunch from Northern California next week. Time for “our D” to really shine for our last home game of the year and show the country we are number one in many categories for a reason. We have an elite feel about the Hawk defense. We can carry the game.

    And if our offense finds a way to replicate the 29 points we tagged our hated rival with in the last game they showed up for here? Great. If not the defense will keep it simple.Keep the QB on his back for much of the afternoon where he cant do any harm.

    I’m not expecting the D to give Colin any time to smooch his armpit….er biceps …in the End zone.

    Time to show the world we are not for real,,,and the 9ers stand in our way of that championship opportunity.
    Can it get ANY better than this?

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Dilfer and other modest-number QBs have Super Bowl rings. Wilson could use some rest, but it’s not happening before Sunday. Niners are going to be on him hard.

      • tedsfrozenhead

        Do you think the 49ers are playing better ball at the moment?

        • art thiel

          Yes. Winning in GB was large. The defense was impressive in Carolina. They are mentally tough enough to win a Super Bowl. Doesn’t mean they’ll win Sunday, but forget 29-3.

          • tedsfrozenhead

            Agreed. I think the Seahawks need to show up ready to play a complete game on both sides of the ball or it might be a long game for Seattle fans

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    We ARE for real….I need you as my copy editor , Art.

    • art thiel

      If the price is right . . .

      • 1coolguy


  • westsydemariner

    It has been the wet dream of a lifetime to get a Seahawks team like this. As a kid it was the Steel Curtain that was the coolest – now the Legion of Boom can capture kid’s hearts just like they did.

    Man, sunday is a long way away.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the visual . . .

    • 1coolguy

      Too much honesty pal…….ick

  • Marcus

    Once again we come to the brink. We have a great Seattle team. There is another team in our way. Longtime Seattle fans have seen this before. Please let this be the time where we step up and take it to the other team. If the Seahawks play to their talent the 49ers do not have a chance when combined with our home advantage. But we haven’t seen that Seahawks team since the first time we played the Saints. Come out of the shadows Seahawks and let’s take it to the 49ers! Go Seahawks!!!

    • art thiel

      Seahawks had something going with Harvin. His uptick was palpable.

      • Marcus

        Agreed! If Harvin can play and play the whole game you have to like our chances a LOT better.

      • 1coolguy

        China doll. Minnesota got the best of us on this one.
        Hawks need to draft great receivers that are at least 6’2″ and 215 #.
        Wilson needs some big targets.

        • art thiel

          Forget the China doll stuff. You saw the licks he took — and gave. He has crappy health luck. But it’s not an issue of toughness.

          • Larry StoneB

            When a player has been taken out of a game due to concussion, how many have been cleared to play the following week?

          • art thiel

            No data is made public on health matters, at least so far. But concussion severity is a harder calculation. Much isn’t known about consequences of brain trauma.

          • 1coolguy

            Harvins’ history with the Vikings and now us does not bode well concerning his health and # of games he plays in. We will see how this plays out next year but so far let’s agree at least that he is “injury prone”. Hawks need to draft a few big receivers to compensate.

  • oldfan

    It does seem inevitable that it would come down to this, doesn’t it?

  • RadioGuy

    This is the matchup most Seattle AND SF fans wanted to see in the NFC title game…the culmination of a great rivalry. And another great rivalry is renewed in the AFC with Brady vs. Manning once more. I’m pulling for Seattle-Denver so we can end the year with the rebirth of yet another great rivalry AND a Seattle win. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Denver-NE is going to be a sweet game. and Seahawks fans may want to bring their A games Sunday. It felt like a B effort Saturday,

      • oldcrimson

        Art, I’m surprised to hear you say that. It did not feel like a B effort where I was – and it had at times in both the ARI and STL games. The NE corner was amped for sure. I’m sure next week will be beyond-crazy – late start, Monday holiday, Niners…sounds an awful lot like week 16 last year with one itsy-bitsy added layer. I’m a vet of big Seattle sports games and I’ve never, never had butterflies like I already do. How to measure the lost productivity in the PNW this week?!?

        • art thiel

          It’s all quite subjective. You may be right, but It’s reasonable for any fan to recognize the Saints lost 34-7 here six weeks ago and do not create the same edge as, say, the 49ers.

  • M.

    Cool to see the NFL put this game in the primetime TV slot for next Sunday. The Clink crowd will be electric — Beastquake should rock people watching this on their home 5.1 surround systems. :D It should go down as the most legendary home game of all-time (if the Seahawks win, that is). Go Hawks!

  • RunningRoy

    264 games have been played in the National Football League this year just to get to Brady-Manning and Hawks-Niners. Other than making many boatloads of money, the NFL could have cut a lot of red tape to get to this point…

  • Bobscrat

    This might be the biggest game in seattle sports history. Certainly the biggest football game ever played here when you factor in the rivalry and everything that’s on the line. Would make an interesting poll question to ponder.

    • Kirkland

      I’d say either the Sonics’ 1979 Game 5 over the Bullets and UW football’s 1992 Rose Bowl were the biggest, because they won championships (or a pre-BCS poll, in the latter). The 2005-06 NFC title game over Carolina was a bigger NFL game because it marked the Hawks’ maiden Super Bowl entry. The 1995 M’s playoff wins over the Angels and Yankees have a case because they kept the team in town.

      That said, if the Hawks win this one and that leads to an SB win — or even a Patriots-like string of superiority — it has to be in the conversation as the biggest.

  • Fauxfaux

    I’m scared, but I like going against a team with SF’s pedigree. This will really mean something if we win. If we get KJ Wright back, there’s even more to be excited about!

    • art thiel

      Don’t be scared. You don’t have to block Patrick Willis.

      • Fauxfaux

        Amen to that! Just struggling to process the best record in the conference with my Seattle-native brain. That said, I believe in these guys, we know they can beat the 9ers. It’s weird to feel confident, like shoes I haven’t broken in yet.

  • PokeyPuffy

    excited for this game but at the same time this weekend was rather sobering, i.e. the hawks look lost and stagnant while SF is firing on all cylinders. We will have to snap out of this funk and put together one of those freaky throwdown typa games to get a win.

    • art thiel

      Harvin is no longer a luxury but a need. Have to take the top off 49ers D.

  • 1coolguy

    This is going to be a real tough game as everyone knows.
    I call it even on coaching, QB, OL, DL, running game and special teams.
    I give receivers to SF.
    I give DB’s to Seattle.
    With Boldin, Crabtree and Vernon Davis, they have a true advantage in size and overall quality.
    Our db’s will need to play their excellent game and I’m sure Carroll and Quinn will design some coverage we haven’t shown them.
    Wow, there’s just no way to call this one other than to say it will be very close and physical.
    It will come down to turnovers.
    The winner will definitely win the SB

    • jafabian

      I’m praying for rain on Sunday. You have that and the 12th man and the Niners will be looking for the BART to get back to SF.

  • ll9956

    In Art’s previous article I stated that the NO game wasn’t good for a fan’s blood pressure. I’m trying to think positive like Its onlySports(DavidWakefield) and a couple of others here. I’m the first one to admit I’m a nervous nellie. As Colin Kaipernick said to a reporter, when asked about SF’s earlier defeat at the Clink, “We’re a different team now.”

    What else can I say, but GO HAWKS!

  • tedsfrozenhead

    Seattle should be concerned over the offenses inability to play a complete game. Seems they are good for 1 half but not both. And now the defensive lapses are allowing opponents a chance to stay in the game longer then I would like. Right now, sad to say it, I believe the 49ers are playing better football. If Seattle clicks on all cylinders though, they will triumph

  • BigDoogie

    Art, hate to correct you, and not sure if someone didn’t point this out already, but the Niners’ final game of the season was played at Arizona, not St Louis.

    • art thiel

      My bad. Fixed. Thanks.

  • one174

    I grew up a Niners fan. When I moved to the NW in 1970 I was surprised to find that many if not most people up here considered the Niners their home team. When the Hawks came along obviously you got behind the Hawks and over time the thin line between love and hate disappeared for y’all. Well I hate to tell you this but the Niners have a better defense, stats notwithstanding. Unfortunately for my side, the Hawks seem to have a better offense, at least the way it is playing now. Did y’all see the Niners get turnovers and go down the field in the first quarter only to settle for a couple of field goals in BOTH games, against the Pack, AND the Panthers? If they do that next Sunday against the Hawks they might as well go into the locker room at half time and call in their tee times because the Hawks will crush them. The home team is probably going to win Sunday, but before you get too inflated, remember this. If Michael Crabtree had played those first 6 games, the odds are at least even that the home team would still go to the Super Bowl, but that home team might well be the Niners. Considering the 4 teams playing Sunday, WHOEVER wins, we may be in for one of the best Super Bowls ever. Good luck to all in the sense that nobody gets hurt, but hopefully it will be the Hawks calling in their tee times for Monday!

    • art thiel

      Good points, one. But I don’t think the Seahawks have the better offense, and it’s pointless to play the if/then game with injuries, because the Seahawks and all teams can do that.

      • one174

        Sure it’s pointless. Just like Fantasy Football. But what else am I gonna think about when the Hawks absolutely CRUSH my Niners in the first game? For me excuses are more like fingers and toes. Since I have more than one, they can’t be like ah… you know.

  • jafabian

    Why do 49er fans keep their season tickets on the dashboard of their cars? So they can park in the disabled persons spaces!

    I’m going to be insufferable this week….

  • Diamond Mask

    Okay, let’s do this. The Seahawks are going to have plenty of locker room bulletin board stuff to feed on this week. The national love for the 49ers is reaching a crescendo.

    Numbers never Lie said this morning that SFO is obviously the better team it’s just whether they can win in Seattle. How about we start with that on the board?

  • dakineinthemuk

    mr t and all….the question appears to have come down to how many points can sea defense create…probably not enough to beat 9-ers…the hawk qb has been lost in space since 2nd half of 1st saint game…stats don’t lie and he has been dreadful…whatever may be causing this it injury, personal crisis, lack o’sleep from goin in 0-dark-early every d***day…something has rendered him borderline lousy..nah, he’s been lousy….anybody remember “Heaven Can Wait”…I’m just sayin…I read rw was blaming the wind Saturday…funny thing happened in 2nd half with saints, did it stop blowin…or rainin?…brees threw for almost 300 yds…Wilson–we now those stats….can Wilson somehow recover his hippety hop or ability to play qb in the nfc championship game…it would be most appreciated….first two games mere appetizers….Saturday is the full meal deal, the big enchilada….who’s hungry???

    • dakineinthemuk

      …my bad, the uh game is sunday…I knew that….whenever…..honestly and truly wonder which rw shows up sunday….its been a while since he had anything that resembled a good game…wow, one 300 yd game all year(1st game)…most interesting, all year…last reasonable game 17 nov 13….buckle up…could be a bumpy ride….

      • Diamond Mask

        Are all 49er fans as unintelligible as you are? No wonder you can’t intimidate the opposing team in your stadium.

  • Let’s go 49ers!

    • Diamond Mask

      Straight back to San Francisco where they can pack up their lockers. But thanks for playing.