San Francisco 49ers

On 49ers: Seahawks’ NFC West rivals helped them win Super Bowl

Matt Barrows
Matt Barrows

Not to rub salt – and Tabasco sauce – into the wound, but the 49ers helped the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl.

Midway through the first quarter Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it was clear the Seahawks were the faster, more physical, more prepared team. That’s because they were more battle-tested, having emerged from the rough-and-tumble NFC West and having just played their archrivals.

Many of the comments on social media during the game lamented it was a throwback to the 1980s and ’90s when Super Bowls were unwatchable after halftime because they had turned into routs. Back then, the NFC – with teams such as the Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Bears – was the decidedly better, deeper, fiercer conference. The 49ers were known more for precision than power but were physical in their own way. The bottom line is by the time the Super Bowl arrived, teams from the NFC were better equipped for combat than their AFC counterparts, and it showed.

History repeated itself Sunday. The Broncos were not the second-best team in the NFL this year. The 49ers get that honor. Heck, the Broncos might even be behind the Panthers and Saints after such a weak showing.

The 49ers’ fans won’t be happy Seattle is throwing a Super Bowl parade on Wednesday. But they can take some solace in this: Sunday’s game proved that, even in the age of prolific passing offenses and Canton-bound quarterbacks, power still trumps finesse in the NFL, and the 49ers are one of the league’s two most powerful teams.

Other observations:

• Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who took their lumps in the media and from the fans two weeks ago, don’t look so bad this week.

Seattle’s defense – in a neutral site, mind you – throttled the league’s No. 1 offense and the league’s MVP, Peyton Manning. The immobile Denver quarterback was a sitting duck for the Seahawks’ wolfish defense, and he threw ducks all evening.

Kaepernick and the 49ers, meanwhile, beat the Seahawks in San Francisco, and Kaepernick – thanks largely to his running ability – was one throw from winning in Seattle, too. The worth of Kaepernick and Romanseemed to go up with every failed Denver drive.

• The 49ers and Seahawks both are young and talented, and they will face the same obstacles in coming years: deciding which young stars to reward as well as trying to replace those they allow to walk away.

In that way, NFC West supremacy – indeed, NFL supremacy – will boil down to a battle between 49ers general manager Trent Baalke and Seahawks general manager John Schneider. The latter has a clear edge right now. But Baalke has the advantage in future draft picks – 12 in the upcoming draft, and he can close the gap quickly.

One of the keys for Baalke and the 49ers is finding a downfield wide receiver. The goal should be to force Seattle’s talented safeties off the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was merely an OK choice for Super Bowl MVP. Sure, he hustled and was in the right place at the right time during the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship Game. But he benefited from others’ plays.

The award should have gone to safety Kam Chancellor, who had an interception and whose big, first-quarter hit on Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas set the tone for the rest of the game.

On the other hand, the Seahawks proved a team does not need high-profile, high draft picks at wide receiver to win a Super Bowl. They did so with the help of three undrafted players – Doug Baldwinfrom Stanford, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette. The latter, of course, was one of the many wide receivers who landed on San Francisco’s scrap heap this season. The 49ers have had trouble drafting at that position – and developing players there.

The Seahawks likely will host the 2014 season-opening game Thursday, Sept. 4. Chances they will host their archrivals? Better rest those eardrums.