Seahawks rally, beat 49ers 23-17 for NFC title

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Until Seattle’s top-ranked defense forced a fumble and had two interceptions in the final period, the game was marked by big offensive plays in the second half. That was somewhat shocking considering the strength of both teams’ defenses.

And those plays came rapidly.

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, hitting Crabtree, then rushing to the Seattle 28. His fumble on the next play was recovered by center Jonathan Goodwin, who even lumbered for 2 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 kickoff 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.

Seattle took its first lead on Wilson’s throw to Kearse with 13:44 left, and CenturyLink rocked again.

The place went silent soon after when Niners All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman sustained an ugly left knee injury midway and was carted off. Bowman, who was having a huge game, had forced a fumble at the San Francisco 1, but Lynch recovered.

“I never heard him yell like that, or even stay down for a moment,” teammate Patrick Willis said of Bowman.

The Seahawks had gotten their first turnover moments earlier when Cliff Avril stripped Kaepernick and Michael Bennett recovered. But Lynch and Wilson botched a handoff on fourth down on the play after Bowman’s injury.

It took only two plays for Chancellor to haul in Kaepernick’s underthrow to Boldin, and Hauschka’s 47-yarder ended the scoring.

But not the excitement.

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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