Jeff Chiu/APGiants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a big reason the Giants have the best record in baseball.

Jeff Chiu/APGiants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a big reason the Giants have the best record in baseball.

NFC Championship will be decided by defenses

In Seattle on Sunday, the emphasis won’t be on the quarterbacks. It will be on the defenses and the running backs.

The 49ers’ defense played probably its best game of the season against the Carolina Panthers, especially in the second half when the Niners were able to play mind games with Caroliina quarterback Cam Newton. After the game, Newton said the 49ers seemed to know exactly when he was going to an audible. Certainly, they stopped everything he tried, sacking him five times.

This meant that Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t have to win the game himself, so he stayed in control, not taking chances and spreading the ball around to what could be the best trio of receivers in the NFL — Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. It was Davis who got the Niners’ first touchdown, just before halftime, on a play that was first ruled out of bounds, setting off a Vesuvius-type eruption from coach Jim Harbaugh. When the play was reviewed, it was obvious Davis had both feet in bounds.

It was Boldin, though, who made the real circus catches, as he has done all year, taking in passes that were too low, behind him and above him. Harbaugh praised Crabtree earlier as being the best pass-catcher he’s seen, but that was because he knows how tender Crabtree’s ego is. Boldin is much tougher mentally, and he’s also a better receiver.

As he has done so often, Frank Gore became a big factor in the second half, getting 67 of his 84 yards after intermission. That included a 39-yard run on third-and-1 that set up the final 49ers score, a field goal by automatic Phil Dawson.

Similarly, Marshawn Lynch had an important run late in Saturday’s game, a 31-yard touchdown that basically put away the Seahawks’ win, though the New Orleans Saints made it interesting with late-game plays.

Unlike Gore, Lynch was a factor throughout the game, running for 140 yards. It was a return to form for Lynch, who had tailed off late in the year because of fatigue. The Seahawks’ No. 1 seed made it possible for him to rest and once again become the runner who is nicknamed “Beast Mode.”

The Seattle offense has struggled of late, mostly because QB Russell Wilson has. Wilson’s struggles continued on Saturday in the rain and wind in Seattle, but he did hit a long pass late in the fourth quarter to set up Lynch’s run.

Wilson’s effectiveness on Sunday will depend in part on whether receiver Percy Harvin can play — and for how long. Harvin left in the second quarter Saturday after suffering a concussion. The Seahawks announced Monday that no decision on his ability to play will be made before Wednesday or Thursday.

No matter, the game will probably still come down to which defense can dominate in a game that will almost certainly be played in cold and rain, though nothing as bad as Green Bay.

The Seattle defense has been regarded as the best in the league, but the 49ers D is its equal and played its best in Carolina. If they play that well again Sunday, the Niners may be headed back to the Super Bowl.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on Email him at GoreGlenn DickeySeahawks

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Kindergarten teacher Chris Johnson in his classroom at Bryant Elementary School ahead of the school’s reopening on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD students are going back to the classroom

After more than a year of distance learning, city schools begin reopening on Monday

Keith Zwölfer, director of education for SFFILM, stays busy connecting filmmakers and studios with public, private and home schools<ins>.</ins><ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner) </ins>
Streamlined SF film festival focuses on family features

In the early days of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the… Continue reading

“Gay Passover,” a fun Haggadah, includes some cocktail recipes. <ins>(Courtesy Saul Sugarman)</ins>
A Passover journey toward something different

It was nice to see my family, and I look forward to reconnecting with friends

Oakland A’s left fielder Tony Kemp fielded a fly but missed the catch in the April 5 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Oakland Coliseum. <ins>(Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bay Area sports for week of April 11, 2021

A look at the upcoming major Bay Area sports events (schedules subject… Continue reading

The involving historical novel “The Bohemians” imagines photographer Dorothea Lange’s life in San Francisco. (Courtesy photo)
‘Bohemians’ explores life of legendary photographer Dorothea Lange

Artist’s talent, compassion revealed in Jasmin Darznik’s historical novel

Most Read