The Seattle Seahawks relied on their defense all season. It's only fitting that the unit made the play to send them to the Super Bowl. With 22 seconds remaining and the Seahawks clinging to a six-point lead, Richard Sherman tipped a pass in the end zone that Malcolm Smith intercepted it to preserve a 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.
The 49ers drove down to the 18 yard line as time ticked away in the final minute before the interception iced it.
Down 10-0 at one point during the second quarter, Seattle scored 13 unanswered points in the second half.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was held in check in the first two quarters -- he ran for just 33 yards -- but busted loose early in the third quarter for a 40-yard touchdown rumble reminiscent of the famous Beast Mode run during the 2011 playoffs. Lynch hit a cutback hole, broke a tackle and raced down the sideline to tie the game at 10.
Lynch's run was part of a brief offensive explosion in an otherwise defensive battle. San Francisco grabbed the lead back on the next drive when Kaepernick unleashed a laser that skipped off the fingertips of a Seattle defender and landed in the hands of Anquan Boldin for a 26-yard touchdown.
The Seahawks looked poised to take a commanding 10-point lead when a Kaepernick fumble set them up with first and goal. But on fourth-and-goal from the one, a fumbled handoff resulted in a turnover.
Kaepernick struggled, throwing for only 153 yards and coughing up two interceptions, but he added 130 rushing yards to keep the 49ers offense moving.Jeff Gray
Following their fourth-quarter goal-line stand, the Niners had the momentum and were down by just three points. On first-and-10 from the Seattle 26, Kaepernick floated a badly under-thrown ball towards Boldin that was intercepted by Kam Chancellor. Seattle capitalized on the turnover with a field goal to take a six-point lead.
"I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get."
-- Richard Sherman
The Seahawks head to Super Bowl XLVIII to face the Denver Broncos, who held off the New England Patriots for a 26-16 win in the AFC Championship Sunday afternoon. It's just their second trip to the title game, their first coming in 2006 in a loss to the the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The game will pit the Broncos top-ranked offense against Seattle's No. 1 defense. Weather could potentially lend the Seahawks' run-heavy attack a hand, as the game will be played outdoors in East Rutherford, N.J.