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49ers vs. Seahawks about the rivalry, pure and simple

THREE
DIFFERENCE-MAKERS

By Mark Potash

1. COLIN KAEPERNICK

The 49ers quarterback is 3-0 on the road in the postseason (3 TDs, 1 INT) but is 0-2 at CenturyLink Field, including a miserable game this season (0 TDs, 3 INTs, 20.1 rating). Kaepernick has been good but not great in two playoff games this season — ratings of 75.3 vs. the Packers (1 TD, 1 INT, with 98 yards rushing) and 87.8 vs. the Panthers (1 TD,
0 INTs, 15 yards rushing).

2. TURNOVERS

The 49ers’ 11th-ranked offense depends on ball security — they’ve had just four giveaways in their eight-game winning streak, including one in their last five games. The Seahawks have 13 takeaways in their last five games.

3. CENTURYLINK FIELD

The Seahawks have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. They’ve won 17 of their last 18 games at home, including blowout victories (42-13, 29-3) against the 49ers the last two seasons. The 49ers were 6-2 on the road, winning five games by 14 or more points.

Pick: 49ers 20, Seahawks 17 (OT)

Updated: February 20, 2014 6:49AM



SEATTLE — As NFL rivalries go, it doesn’t get much better than Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll. Think Mike Ditka vs. Forrest Gregg with a little more respect. And staying power.

Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers and Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks, who will play for the NFC championship today (5:30 p.m., Ch. 32) at CenturyLink Field, look like they’re going to be around for a while. Both teams have drafted extremely well in recent years, but their ascension to elite status in the NFL is unmistakeable — both teams hired coaches who get more out of good players, have a good handle on both sides of the ball and quickly got the quarterback right.

Since Harbaugh arrived in 2011, the 49ers, who had not made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons, have gone 13-3, 11-4-1 and 12-4 and reached the NFC Championship Game three consecutive times. Since Carroll arrived in 2010, the Seahawks have made the playoffs three times, improved from 7-9 and 7-9 to 11-5 and 13-3 and are the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

With 21st-century quarterbacks, both coaches have built old-school powerhouses in an era trending toward offense. The Seahawks were the top-ranked defense in the NFL this season. The 49ers were third. Like their coaches, they are aggressive teams that practice hard and play harder. They are a football purist’s delight.

And it’s a rivalry in the truest sense of the word. The winner will take great joy not only in advancing to the Super Bowl but in denying the other the opportunity.

‘‘There’s no love lost. There’s no love found,’’ said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford. ‘‘It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be physical. I don’t know if there are going to be handshakes after this one.’’

‘‘I don’t know anybody in here that likes anybody on the Seahawks,’’ 49ers guard Alex Boone told USA Today Sports before the teams’ regular-season matchup in December. ‘‘If you find one, let me know.’’

The Harbaugh-Carroll rivalry is well documented. Before he had even coached a game at Stanford in 2007, Harbaugh irked Carroll by telling reporters that a source inside the USC program indicated Carroll would leave USC after the 2007 season.

‘‘If he’s going to make statements like that, he ought to get his information right,’’ Carroll said.

Later that season, Harbaugh’s 1-4 Cardinal upset Carroll’s No.  2-ranked Trojans 24-23 as 41-point underdogs. Then there was the famous ‘‘What’s your deal?’’ game when Carroll clearly was miffed at Harbaugh for a two-point conversion with a 48-21 lead in the fourth quarter.

Both coaches downplayed the personal aspect of the rivalry this week.

‘‘Animosity? No. Erroneous. Erroneous,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘It’s football. It’s competition. It’s winning.’’

‘‘For whatever reasons, you guys have a field day with this,’’ Carroll told reporters. ‘‘We have not been friends over the years. We just know each other through the games. I have great respect for Jim. That’s it.’’

The best part is that the teams will settle it on the field. The Seahawks have beaten the 49ers 42-13 and 29-3 at CenturyLink Field the last two seasons. But the 49ers have won eight straight games heading into this one. This will be one to watch, right down to the postgame handshake. Assuming there is one.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @markpotash



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