The 49ers have generously added yet another game for our viewing pleasure this year with their victory over the Panthers. This will be the third straight year the team has advanced to the NFC Championship Game. Bravo lads!
Has it really been only three years since the team finished 6-10 under the tutelage of Mike Singletary, after yet another in a long line of dismal, losing seasons? Wow. Time skeedaddles when you’re having fun.
14-4, 13-5-1, 14-4 and counting. That’s quite a bit of fun, IMO. We are picking in high cotton, guys.
Which doesn’t dilute how painful it will be if we lose this next game up in Seattle.
Some former players will no doubt be watching this game. Abrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean-Francois are home after two playoff games where they were scorched and trampled like rag dolls. Delanie Walker didn’t get into the postseason, nor is he likely to in the near or even distant future. Ditto for Dashon Goldson, who made more news this year for his penalties, fines, and suspensions than for his play. And, of course, Alex Smith, who had one of the best games of his career in the wild card round, only to see his defense spit the bit in historic fashion, a defense that began the year as one of the league’s best and finished it as one of the worst.
Should the 49ers squeeze out a win in Seattle Sunday, they’d be the first team in ten years — since the 2003-2004 Patriots — to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. And the first team since the 1991 Buffalo squad to return to the SB after losing it the previous year.
There’s no secret formula for victory Sunday. These SF/Seattle games are pure Ali/Frazier epics. Bruising all out wars. Turnovers could swing the outcome either way. More likely, the team with the most good players making good plays will walk off with a victory.
The first order of business for the 49ers is to hold the fort early and keep the Seattle crowd of noise makers from going into a frenzy. The team has played from behind in both of its recent trips to Qwest Field, so it would be advisable to get an early lead. It wouldn’t hurt either if Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, or Russell Wilson broke a leg in the first quarter. I wouldn’t complain if all four of them came up lame, but that’s probably hoping for too much.
A month ago, nobody in the league thought any team could beat the Seahawks at home in the playoffs. They were considered a shoo-in to reach the Super Bowl. Then a couple of things happened to shake that assumption. First, the 49ers out slugged them at Candlestick, denting their aura of invincibility. And a couple weeks later, the Cardinals marched into Qwest Field and stepped on their throats 17-10, despite Arizona QB Carson Palmer heaving four interceptions.
The 49ers are not favored to win this game, but it’s no longer considered a slam dunk. I can’t say I’m confident the team will come away with a win Sunday, but they have shown some real grit and determination so far in the postseason, so maybe they’ll shock the world after all. A loss for the Niners would send them into the offseason determined to regain control of the division next year. But a loss by Seattle would be devastating to the franchise. If they can’t count on noise to get them to the Super Bowl, maybe they just aren’t good enough to go.