Fans of the Seattle Seahawks had to be a bit concerned when Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the National Football League’s team of destiny, fumbled on the first offensive play of the game.
The San Francisco 49ers recovered the ball at the Seattle 15 and, for a brief moment, the din at CenturyLink Field eased just a bit to jet engine levels at the NFC championship game.
But the damage was kept to a minimum by the ferocious Seahawks’ defence as it was three-and-out for the 49ers, who had to settle for an early field goal.
That fumble was about the only serious misstep Wilson would make on the night as the Seahawks would go on to prevail 23-17 in an enthralling contest that would send Seattle to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
Their opponents will be the Denver Broncos, who eased into the big game with a rather pedestrian 26-16 victory over the New England Patriots where quarterback Peyton Manning displayed his superiority over archrival Tom Brady.
In the Seattle-San Francisco contest, Wilson’s early fumble signaled that this game was not going to be the “carefree romp” that the Seahawks enjoyed against the 49ers earlier this season when they hooked up at CenturyLink.
Part of the reason was the early form of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose 58-yard ramble early in the second quarter set up the 49ers first touchdown, giving them a 10-0 lead.
But the game turned in Seattle’s favor in the second half, beginning with a beastly run by running back Marshawn Lynch, who busted open for a 40-yard yard romp that knotted the game at 10-10.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Seattle coach Pete Carroll changed his mind on trying to attempt a 53-yard field goal with his team trailing 17-13, deciding instead to gamble on fourth-and-seven.
It paid off with Jermaine Kearse hauling in a perfectly-thrown Wilson pass for the go-ahead touchdown.
Wilson later said that he was “just begging” Carroll to go for it rather than settle for three.
The game came down to the final few wild moments when Kaepernick, who at times in the second half appeared overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game, engineered a last-gasp drive that put the 49ers to the Seattle 18 with 30 seconds left.
Then came the game’s signature play where Kaepernick’s toss into the corner of the end zone intended for Michael Crabtree was tipped at the last minute by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman.
The ball fell into the welcoming hands of teammate Malcolm Smith for the game-sealing interception.
Here is how Seattle radio play-by-play announcer Steve Raible described the moment.
Sherman’s uncouth behaviour after the play notwithstanding, including a rather bizarre post-game rant on Fox TV, gave the Seahawks full measure for the victory.
In the words of Seattle fullback Michael Robinson, losing was never an option.
It should be an intriguing Super Bowl, pitting the NFL team with the most potent offence (the Broncos) against the side with the best defence (the Seahawks).
With his sublime performance against New England, Manning erased any nagging worries about his somewhat spotty playoff record
"You definitely want to take time to savor the moment. I know I certainly will,” Manning said.
As for his New England counterpart, Brady often looked rattled amid the pressure.
And for a quarterback who has led his team to three Super Bowl victories, Brady looked very much like an ordinary player in this game, failing to rise to the occasion.