SEATTLE Just a few minutes after Sunday's NFC championship game, confetti exploded into the chilly winter night and Frank Sinatras New York, New York blared through CenturyLink Field.
From the volume of the announced stadium-record crowd of 68,454, the awkward, yet joyous smile on Seattle owner Paul Allens face and the way the home players embraced, cried and shouted in triumph, it was as if Ol Blue Eyes had written the song just for the Seahawks.
Defense proved the deciding factor in a down-to-the-wire, 23-17 win over San Francisco that will send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVII, Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., which ain't New York, but you can basically see it from there.
Seattle will play the Denver Broncos, who won the AFC title game earlier Sunday against the New England Patriots 26-16.
I love the fact that we have this opportunity to go play in the Super Bowl and represent all of the Northwest and all our fans everywhere, because they just deserve it, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. They just freaking deserve it. Theyre the best.
"It will be a great match-up. What a great match-up to go to New York.
The Seahawks overcame a 10-0 first-half deficit and did not clinch the victory until the final 30 seconds.
Needing to score a touchdown, the 49ers mounted a mounted a drive that brought them to the Seattle 18-yard line.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick then launched a pass into the end zone for Michael Crabtree. Cornerback Richard Sherman tipped the ball, and linebacker Malcolm Smith was there to come up with the interception and punch Seattles ticket to the Super Bowl.
Michael Crabtree is a mediocre receiver, and when you go against the best cornerback in the game, thats what happens, Sherman said.
The offenses played to a draw, with each gaining 308 yards. Seattle had 193 through the air and 115 on the ground. San Francisco had 161 on the ground and 147 in the air.
The Seahawks defense created three turnovers, though.
The turnovers are the biggest thing, Kaepernick said. You turn the ball over, you dont give your team the opportunity to score.
The greatest challenge for Seattles defense was trying to contain Kaepernick. He carried 11 times for 130 yards.
But Kaepernick was the only running threat for the 49ers. No one else ran for more than 16 yards.
When asked why running back Frank Gore was able to gain only 14 yards rushing, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh responded: Thats a good question. I dont have that answer right now.
Kaepernick had a very mediocre first half throwing the ball, completing 3 of 5 attempts for 17 yards. His arm came alive a bit in the second half, and he finished 14 of 24 for 153 yards and one touchdown.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 16 of 25 for 215 yards and one TD.
Offensively, we made plays when we really needed to, Wilson said. We kept believing in ourselves.
Running back Marshawn Lynch had 22 carries for 109 yards and one score.
Seattle was trailing 10-3 with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter when Lynch turned the game on its head with an explosive 40-yard TD run.
Lynch went up the middle, got through the line, broke to sideline and saw open field in front of him. He stumbled the last five yards, but managed to get into the end zone.
The 49ers answered on their next possession. From the Seattle 26, Kaepernick rolled out and lofted a pass into the end zone. Anquan Boldin was covered well and the pass was tipped, but the 49ers receiver still came down with it, giving San Francisco a 17-10 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Doug Baldwin gave the Seahawks fabulous field position by returning the ball 67 yards to the San Francisco 33.
Seattle got only a field goal, but Steven Hauschkas 45-yarder cut the 49ers' lead to 17-13 with 3:55 to go in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth period, the Seahawks faced fourth-and-6 from the SF 35. With a slight headwind, Seattle elected to go for it, rather than try a 52-yard field goal. A 49ers lineman jumped offside, essentially giving the Seahawks a free play. Wilson went for it all, throwing to the end zone. The pass found Jermaine Kearse in coverage, and his catch gave the Seahawks a 20-17 lead.
(I told the team), if they go offside, take a shot down the field, because it is a free play, Wilson said. Sure enough they did, and Jermaine Kearse came down with a great catch.
The Seahawks made the score 23-17 with 3:37 remaining, when they turned a Kaepernick interception into a field goal.
The game could not have started out worse for the Seahawks. On their first play from scrimmage, Wilson tried to scramble and was met by outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Wilson was carrying the ball away from his body, and the contact from Smith was enough to knock it loose. Wilson dove and desperately tried to pick up the ball, but Smith ripped it from him, giving San Francisco possession on the Seahawks' 15.
The defense held firm, but Phil Dawson kicked a 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The 49ers went up 10-0 when Anthony Dixon dove over for a 1-yard TD.
The Seahawks made the score 10-3 with 5:47 remaining in the first half on Hauschka's 32-yard field goal.