January 23, 2014 | 117 40

NFC title game had plenty of memorable moments before distractions of postgame

Crunch Time

There was quite a football game played last Sunday afternoon in Seattle.

Remember?

The Seahawks’ come-from-way-behind 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship sends Seattle to Super Bowl XLVIII is the team’s first visit to the “Big Game” since 2006.

Of course you might not recall, or even care about how the game turned in so many ways, considering all the attention the controversy that centered around Stanford grad Richard Sherman and the postgame interview that hijacked the real hype away from a pretty memorable 60 minutes at Century Link Field.

No question, there’s plenty that can be said on whatever side you might reside following Sherman’s interview with ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews’ and her question asking him to describe the part he played in the end zone interception that snuffed San Francisco’s final hope with 22 seconds to play.

It of course left Andrews at a complete loss of words but started a firestorm of opinion out in Twitter and Facebook-land, the blogisphere and every other media outlet in the universe.

Sherman will likely remain the center of attention for the days leading up, and likely after Seattle and Denver meet Feb. 2 at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. Until, perhaps, people are reminded that the game has been dubbed in some circles as the “Marijuana Bowl” since the representative teams both hail from the states the have recently legalized the use of pot.

Forgotten was the perfect tip and swipe of the ball the leaping former college wide receiver Sherman made that redirected Colin Kaepernick’s pass to teammate Malcolm Smith for the seal-the-deal end zone interception with 22 seconds remaining.

Lost as well in the postgame, perhaps, was that ballsy fourth-and-seven call from the SF 35-yardline. After the 49ers jumped offsides, Russell Wilson got a free play and made the most of it throwing into double-coverage to former Washington Husky Jermaine Kearse for what would be the eventual winning points and a 20-17 Seattle lead with 13 minutes, 52 seconds to play.

The score completed Seattle’s rally from a 10-0 deficit. Remember Wilson’s fumble on the game’s first play and how your stomach might have felt if you were a Seahawks’ fan?

In everyone’s focus on Sherman’s flapping jaw and flailing dreadlocks, also buried might be Seattle’s top-ranked defense that forced two other fourth-quarter turnovers.

Their first came when Cliff Avril stripped Kaepernick and Michael Bennett recovered and returned the ball to the 49ers’ 6 before the Seahawks gave it back with a fumble on the 1. Certainly a forgettable play for Seattle which held the hammer, but missed the final nail.

But two plays later came a play Kaepernick will want to blank out of his memory when Kam Chancellor intercepted a pass intended for Anquan Boldin. It led to a Steven Hauschka 47-yard field goal – his third and longest of the game – that meant San Fran had to get a touchdown to return to their second straight Super Bowl.

Seattle fans will want to leave behind the memory of their team’s painfully slow start in the game. The one where Kaepernick was at his Houdini-best when escaping tackles and scrambling for a team-high 130 yards on the ground.And where Wilson and Marshawn Lynch looked average at best in three possessions that earned the Seahawks just south of 50 total yards.

But they’ll remember the latest Beast Quake that came following Lynch breaking free for a 40-yard touchdown that tied the game at 10-10 early in the third quarter.

It all adds up to a trip down memory lane for the Seahawks who once regularly hooked up with Denver in some classic AFC West battles through the years at the Kingdome, plus both the the venerable old - and new - Mile High Stadiums from 1977 to 2001.

The Broncos and Seahawks last met in Denver Sept. 19, 2010 where the Broncos won 31-14 in Pete Carroll’s second game as Seattle’s coach. Neither team bears a resemblance to their former selves.

This will be the first time the teams have met in the postseason in 30 years when the 1983 Seahawks, a 9-7 team, won 31-7 in the Kingdome in an AFC wild-card game on the way to an eventual 30-14 AFC championship game loss to the Los Angeles Raiders.

And although it’s been eight years since Seattle last went to the Super Bowl in Detroit, suffering a 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh, memories still certainly linger of how the guys in black and gold seemed to have help from men in stripes. Members of the officiating crew eventually admitted as much.

Remember?

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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