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NFC championship game preview: Seahawks vs. 49ers

A look at how Seattle and San Francisco match up with a Super Bowl bid on the line.

January 19, 2014|By Sam Farmer
  • Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is tackled by Saints safety Roman Harper in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is tackled by Saints safety Roman… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

The 49ers and Seahawks have never met in the postseason, but they have developed quite a rivalry in the NFC West. Their all-time series record is 15-15, and San Francisco has won five of the last seven meetings. However, Seattle has won four of the last five at home, outscoring the 49ers, 139-58, in those games.

Road warriors

Much of the talk surrounding this game will be about San Francisco's recent struggles in Seattle. But 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh is comforted by the way his team has played away from home lately, winning three consecutive road games, including against Green Bay and Carolina.

"Our team's been in a lot of good primers," Harbaugh said. "Been through a lot of situations. Been through tough environments, whether it be weather or opposing stadiums. This team's been in a lot of situations. Been everywhere man. Like the Johnny Cash song, 'We've been everywhere man.' Everywhere. Been in a lot of situations."

That said, Harbaugh wasn't in the mood last week to get into the specifics of the successes.

"I'm sure we could get into a long discussion about it," he said, "or peel back the onion layer by layer. But, good football players, good team. Defense has played extremely well. That's very important in road games. Our players have competed and persevered and come out victorious. Those are the facts."

Ground and pound

The Seahawks and 49ers each have power running games, which are increasingly rare in the pass-happy NFL.

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, his third year in a row with at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He's coming off a 140-yard rushing performance against New Orleans, a franchise record for the postseason, and scored two touchdowns. In five career playoff games, he has three 100-yard games and five touchdowns.

Frank Gore leads the 49ers in most career rushing categories. He ran for 1,128 yards this season, the club-record seventh time he has surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier.

Both of his best rushing performances came against Seattle, running for 212 yards in 2006 and 207 yards in 2009. In seven postseason games, Gore has averaged 90.3 yards rushing, and has scored five rushing touchdowns in his last five postseason games.

Giddy-up

Earlier this season, the grandfather of Lynch said Marshawn has a tendency to laugh while he's running over people.

49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, for one, understands.

"Me and Marshawn trained together coming out, and he's always been that type of guy," Willis said. "It's funny you say he loves to laugh when he's running the ball. People sometimes look at me and they always ask me why I'm smiling.

"You smile when you're having fun. You smile when you know the next man is in trouble. And maybe that's what he has in his mind when he's running the ball. But I kind of have that a little bit about me when I'm tackling. When I'm out there playing, I like to smile a little bit too. Lets you know you aren't worried."

Feeling at home

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is 15-1 at CenturyLink Field, completing 231 of 351 passes (64.3%) for 3,142 yards with 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

'Legion of Boom'

Paced by Richard Sherman's eight interceptions and Earl Thomas' five, Seattle led the league with 28 picks this season. The top teams:

Seattle: 28

Buffalo: 23

Kansas City: 21

Tampa Bay: 21

Carolina: 20

By the numbers

How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):

Category | SF | SEA

Points scored: 25.4 (11) | 26.1 (8)

Points given up: 17.0 (3) | 14.4 (1)

Pass offense: 186.2 (30) | 202.2 (26)

Rush offense: 137.6 (3) | 136.8 (4)

Pass defense: 221.0 (7) | 172.0 (1)

Rush defense: 95.9 (4) | 101.6 (7)

Sacks38 (18) | 44 (8)

Penalty yards: 52.8 (18) | 73.9 (32)

Turnovers: +12 (4) | +20 (1)

Farmer’s pick

The X-factor here is Colin Kaepernick protecting the ball and using his legs. If he can run for a few first downs, and distribute the ball to Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, the 49ers can give the Seahawks big problems. The Seahawks have sputtered on offense during the last month, and losing Percy Harvin (again) doesn’t help. These are two great defenses, but the 49ers have the edge on offense, and in big-game experience. 49ERS 20, SEAHAWKS 17

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