SEATTLE (AP) — Anquan Boldin easily outjumped Earl Thomas in the end zone on a go-ahead 26-yard touchdown catch, and the San Francisco 49ers answered the Seattle Seahawks with a big play to take a 17-13 lead after three quarters in Sunday's NFC championship game.
Marshawn Lynch got loose for a 40-yard touchdown at the 9:51 mark of the third quarter, sending Seattle's home crowd into a Beast Mode frenzy and tying the game at 10. Then, Kaepernick came through once more — with his speedy legs and strong arm.
Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a 22-yard catch then the speedy quarterback ran for 22 yards in a crucial two-play sequence during the next drive. One play before Boldin's score, Kaepernick fumbled when sacked and center Jonathan Goodwin pounced on the ball.
Doug Baldwin returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards, and Steven Hauschka kicked a 40-yard field goal to go with his earlier 32-yarder. The game drew a CenturyLink Field-record 68,454, topping last week's 68,388 during Seattle's divisional-round win against New Orleans.
Kaepernick, who had a key 58-yard rush early in the second quarter, was the game's leading rusher through three quarters with 120 yards, while Lynch also reached the 100-yard mark with 103. The 49ers played the second half without left guard Mike Iupati, who injured his right ankle with 10:03 remaining and went to the locker room for X-rays. It was announced he would not return.
Return man LaMichael James went down with a neck injury after he fumbled the catch on a punt to begin the second quarter but came back. Kaepernick's 58-yard run is the longest allowed by Seattle this season, topping Frank Gore's 51-yard gain that set up the winning field goal in the 49ers' 19-17 victory Dec. 8 at Candlestick Park.
San Francisco's defense brought the pressure and sacked Russell Wilson four times in the first half, keeping the Seahawks offense from finding a steady rhythm before Lynch got going. Baldwin had six catches for 106 yards, including a 51-yard reception in the second quarter on which he beat two defenders who had moved up to support when Wilson scrambled right.
When Wilson turned back to his left, Baldwin took off. He injured a hip on the play, briefly headed to the locker room before returning. The 49ers' four first-half sacks included one by Aldon Smith on the first play of the game from scrimmage, when he also knocked the ball loose and recovered it to set up Phil Dawson's 25-yard field goal. Smith had another late in the half.
Just before halftime, Seattle missed a key opportunity. Rather than attempting a 55-yard field goal, the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-6 at the 38 and Wilson threw incomplete under pressure. Boldin, Kaepernick's top target all season, overcame a pair of early drops with the timely touchdown. Kaepernick first attempt to tight end Vernon Davis went incomplete as Davis took a hard hit.
To start the game, Smith didn't take the fake and stormed at Wilson, but San Francisco had to settle for a field goal despite getting the ball at the Seattle 15. That quick lead quieted the raucous 12th Man home crowd at CenturyLink Field, where the 49ers' first-half output topped their total from an embarrassing 29-3 Week 2 loss against the rival and NFC West champion Seahawks.
The 49ers look to return to the Super Bowl for the second straight season. The reigning NFC champions fell just short last year, 34-31 against the Baltimore Ravens. The Seahawks are chasing their first Super Bowl berth since the 2005 season and second in franchise history, riding a six-game playoff winning streak at home and having won 17 of 18 overall in Seattle.
San Francisco — riding an eight-game winning streak after wins at Green Bay and Carolina this postseason — lost in its past two visits in Seattle's deafening home stadium, including 29-3 in Week 2 on Sept. 15. The 49ers have been outscored 71-16 in their past two trips, committing seven turnovers.
This marked Kaepernick's first chance with a receiving group intact at Seattle after top 2012 wideout Michael Crabtree missed the last game here recovering from May surgery on his right Achilles tendon.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers returned for the 49ers after missing the team's first two playoff wins with a strained right hamstring. He was flagged for a late hit out of bounds on Golden Tate just before halftime.
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