Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Seahawks clinch Super Bowl berth

SEATTLE—Richard Sherman did a CenturyLink Leap.
Golden Tate grabbed a 12th Man flag and circled the field with it.

Even team owner Paul Allen made an appearance and gave a victory speech.
The Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Big Apple for the Super Bowl.
“To see all our work that we put in—the mornings, the nights, the weights, all your life, as a young player and in the NFL,” Malcolm Smith said after his end zone interception with 22 seconds left clinched the 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last night.
“It’s amazing.”
Seattle’s top-ranked defence forced three fourth-quarter turnovers, and Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down for the winning points.
Seattle now will meet Denver for the NFL title in two weeks in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
It’s the first trip to the big game for the Seahawks (15-3) since they lost to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season.
The conference champs had the best records in the league this year—just the second time the top seeds have gotten to the Super Bowl in 20 seasons.
It also is a classic confrontation of Denver’s record-setting offence led by Peyton Manning against the NFL’s stingiest defence.
Denver opened as a one-point favourite over Seattle on the Glantz-Culver Line.
“It will be a great match-up,” said Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll. “I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity to go against a guy that set all the records in the history of the game.”
Moments after Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick’s pass to Smith for the interception, the All-Pro cornerback jumped into the stands behind the end zone—saluting the Seahawks’ raucous fans.
With 12th Man flags waving everywhere, and “New York, New York” blaring over the loudspeakers, CenturyLink Field rocked like never before.
“That’s as sweet as it gets,” said Sherman, who also went into several rants about 49ers’ wideout Michael Crabtree, whom he called a “sorry receiver.”
“This is really special,” added Carroll, who has turned around the Seahawks in four seasons in charge.
“It would really be a mistake to not remember the connection and the relationship between this football team and the 12th Man and these fans,” he added.
“It’s unbelievable.”
San Francisco led 17-13 when Wilson—given a free play as Aldon Smith jumped offside—hurled the ball to Jermaine Kearse, who made a leaping catch in the end zone.
Steven Hauschka then kicked his third field goal following Kam Chancellor’s pick, then Smith intercepted in the end zone on the 49ers’ final possession.
“This feels even sweeter with the amazing support we have had from the 12th Man,” said Allen, comparing this Super Bowl trip to the previous one.
Until Seattle’s top-ranked defence forced a fumble and had two interceptions in the final period, the game was marked by big offensive plays in the second half.
Marshawn Lynch, in full “Beast Mode,” ran over a teammate and then outsped the 49ers to the corner of the end zone for a 40-yard TD, making it 10-10.
Kaepernick then was responsible for consecutive 22-yard gains—first hitting Crabtree and then rushing to the Seattle 28.
His fumble on the next play was recovered by centre Jonathan Goodwin, who even lumbered for two yards.
Anquan Boldin outleapt All-Pro safety Earl Thomas on the next play for a 26-yard touchdown.
Then Doug Baldwin, who played for 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, stepped up—and through San Francisco’s coverage—on a scintillating 69-yard kick-off return that made the stadium shake for the first time all day.
That set up Hauschka’s 40-yard field goal—and a frantic finish.
Kaepernick, who rushed for 130 yards, got San Francisco to the Seattle 18 with his arm. But his pass for Crabtree was brilliantly tipped by Sherman to Smith.
“We knew it would come down to us in the back end to win this thing,” Sherman said.

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