The NFC Championship had to come down to the Seattle Seahawks facing the San Francisco 49ers for the honor of playing in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“We’re the teams that everyone was looking at from the beginning,” said the 49ers’ astounding quarterback Colin Kaepernick after his team imposed their will on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, defeating them 23-10 on the road.
As Kaepernick noted, from the start of the season, the Seahawks and 49ers seemed destined to be in this position. They are inarguably the two most talented and balanced teams in the NFL. The competition between the National Football Conference (NFC) West dwellers has evolved into debatably the most compelling rivalry in professional sports. And the head coaches, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers, as well as numerous players, have seen their football lives intertwined throughout the years.
The Seahawks, who overcame the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, winning at home by 23-15 at CenturyLink Field, finished with the best record in the NFC at 13-3 to earn the No. 1 seed. They were one play away from topping the Atlanta Falcons in their divisional playoff matchup last year and facing the 49ers, who ultimately went on to fall to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Now, they will have their chance. The teams’ disdain for each other is well documented. Carroll and Harbaugh have a long, stewing animosity. A little over a half-decade ago, Carroll was dominating the Pac-12 as the coach of the University of Southern California. Piloting Stanford during that same period, Harbaugh built the program into a national power. Their battles on the field and in the ultra-competitive recruiting process produced great theater.
The Seahawks and 49ers are led on the offensive side of the ball by gifted African-American quarterbacks who were both relatively overlooked by most pro teams coming out of college—the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and Kaepernick. They boast the two best defenses in football.
Essentially, the Seahawks and 49ers despise but mirror each other. They were 1-1 going head-to-head this season. But only one can go to the Super Bowl, and it will be the Seahawks with a 17-13 win.