Report cards: Kaepernick fails 49ers late vs. Seahawks – USA TODAY

//Report cards: Kaepernick fails 49ers late vs. Seahawks – USA TODAY

Report cards: Kaepernick fails 49ers late vs. Seahawks – USA TODAY

The Seattle Seahawks are headed to their second Super Bowl after defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 23-17, on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. Below are grades for each team.

ARMOUR: Russell Wilson saves Seahawks

THE Q: Seahawks defense comes up big

SUPER MATCHUP: Big dogs headed to big game

Seattle grades

Seahawks run offense: RB Marshawn Lynch didn’t have a ridiculous game, but it was pretty darn good. His 40-yard TD run after halftime tied the score and really got the home crowd rocking again. He finished with 109 yards on 22 carries. But the Seahawks did struggle to move the chains at times, and the botched handoff between QB Russell Wilson and Lynch at the 49ers’ 1-yard line prevented Seattle from taking a 10-point lead and capitalizing on Colin Kaepernick’s fourth-quarter fumble. Wilson finished with 0 yards on five runs. Grade: B

Seahawks pass offense: OC Darrell Bevell clearly wanted to get Wilson going early after seeing some uneven late-season performances. But it was largely more of the same Sunday. Wilson was strip-sacked by OLB Aldon Smith on the game’s first play from scrimmage, giving the Niners three points out the chute. Things could only get better from there, and they did. Wilson took some deep shots — missing an open Jermaine Kearse on one in the first quarter — and was fortunate that a ball Niners FS Eric Reid should have swiped ended up in Doug Baldwin’s hands for a 22-yard gain. Later, after a Fran Tarkenton-esque escape from the San Francisco pass rush, Wilson hit on a 51-yarder to Baldwin that set up Seattle’s first score, a 32-yard Steve Hauschka field goal in the second quarter. But the lightning bolt (Pearl Jam reference for Seattle fans) came in the final period, when coach Pete Carroll ordered his team to go for it on fourth-and-7 from the Niners’ 35 rather than dispatch Hauschka for a 53-yard field-goal try. Wilson rifled a strike to Kearse — touchdown. Seattle never trailed again. Still, the Seahawks will have to be better in this area if the Super Bowl becomes a shootout with the Broncos. And protecting Wilson could be a real issue after he was sacked four times Sunday and hit on 10 other occasions. Grade: B

Seahawks run defense: The 49ers running backs managed a meager 31 yards. Pretty good. Kaepernick rolled for 130. Pretty bad. His career-best 58-yard saunter was the key play in the Niners’ first TD drive, finished off by a 1-yard Anthony Dixon vault Seattle couldn’t stop on fourth-and-goal. Grade: C-

Seahawks pass defense: All-pro CB Richard Sherman’s deflection of Kaepernick’s end-zone pass to WR Michael Crabtree resulted in a game-sealing interception by LB Malcolm Smith. SS Kam Chancellor also picked off a pass that led to Seattle’s final field goal and a six-point lead that proved insurmountable. The pass rush didn’t get to Kaepernick much, but DE Cliff Avril did force a fumble that teammate Michael Bennett nearly ran into the end zone. Seattle only allowed 14 completions overall, though one was a laser from Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin that FS Earl Thomas touched, but not enough to break up the Niners’ second TD. Grade: B+

WATCH: Richard Sherman’s classic interview

Seahawks special teams: Hauschka, who hit all three field-goal attempts, continues to be one of the league’s better (if more unknown) kickers. Baldwin’s 69-yard kickoff return resulted in three points that helped take some starch out of Boldin’s TD. Seattle’s coverage units were solid. Grade: A-

San Francisco grades

49ers run offense: It seemed for a while that Kaepernick’s free-ranging moves would be the difference in the game as it had been in so many of his other playoff magic acts. But his teammates produced only 1.8 yards per carry. The game-ending leg injury suffered by G Mike Iupati early in the second quarter obviously didn’t help. Seven of the team’s drives produced 12 yards or fewer. Kaepernick’s fumble ultimately ended up just costing his team time, even if an apparent fumble recovery by Niners ILB NaVorro Bowman one play earlier should have saved a few seconds. Grade: B-

49ers pass offense: Kaepernick’s TD to Boldin — enabled after C Jonathan Goodwin recovered his QB’s other fumble on the previous play — was an eye-popping, 26-yard fastball that posterized Thomas, one of the NFL’s best defensive backs. But San Francisco’s final three drives ended with turnovers, all on passing plays. Both of Kaepernick’s INTs were the result of poor decisions and poor throws. Grade: D+

49ers run defense: A decent effort even if Lynch got loose for another Beastquaking run and hit the century mark. Minus that score, Seattle managed just 75 yards on the ground at 2.7 yards a clip. But perhaps the most troubling sidenote of this game for the 49ers may end up being the gruesome knee injury suffered by Bowman, one that could potentially hamper him well into the 2014 regular season. Grade: C

49ers pass defense: Thanks to a front seven that is probably the NFL’s best, the Niners relentlessly harassed Wilson. But after that game-opening fumble — and the three points it netted felt rather hollow given how deep it occurred in Seattle’s end — San Francisco failed to create any more takeways, though there were missed opportunities, including Reid’s. And Wilson steadily chipped away until the Niners cracked on Kearse’s fourth-down score. Grade: C

49ers special teams: A penalty on the kickoff following Kearse’s TD didn’t help. The Niners’ second drive stalled, but Andy Lee ended it with a beautiful punt downed on the Seattle 1-yard line. Not much else to note. Grade: C

PHOTOS: Best of NFC Championship


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By | 2014-01-20T07:17:12+00:00 January 20th, 2014|Music|0 Comments