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Kragthorpe: Seahawks right where they want to be

Published January 15, 2014 1:57 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Seattle Seahawks are right where they want to be, playing in the NFL's best environment and facing their biggest rivals for a trip to the Super Bowl.

In advance of Sunday's NFC championship game vs. San Francisco, a look at the Seahawks:

Team's theme

They feature a modern-day, dual-threat quarterback, but the Seahawks are a classically structured NFL team, relying heavily on their defense, running game and home crowd.

How they got here

The Seahawks went 13-3 to earn the NFC's No. 1 seed and beat New Orleans 23-15 in a divisional playoff game.

Super Bowl-bound if

The NFL's No. 1-ranked defense keeps making game-changing plays and running back Marshawn Lynch can gain chunks of yardage against another of the league's toughest defenses.

Homeward-bound if

An offense that wobbled in December, producing only 17 points in a defeat at San Francisco and 10 in a home loss to Arizona, can't hit the 20-point mark against the 49ers.

Biggest variable

Quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle's standard sequence of plays is Lynch, Lynch and then, what can Wilson do on third down? He passed for only 103 yards against New Orleans and will have to exploit the 49ers' aggressive defense to sustain drives. Percy Harvin's availability would be a big help, after the receiver left last weekend's game with a concussion.

Best player

Richard Sherman, cornerback. Seattle's defense is loaded with talent, and Sherman is the centerpiece of the secondary that will try to lock down San Francisco's Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin.

Best player you've never heard of

Kam Chancellor, safety. That's strange to say about a player who merited All-Pro consideration, but he's sometimes overlooked among the big personalities in Seattle's secondary, with Sherman and Earl Thomas.

Local connections

As key pieces of the Seahawks' 2012 draft class, former Utah State teammates Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin are thriving in Seattle. Wagner, the middle linebacker, led the team with 120 tackles (including five sacks) in the regular season.

Turbin, Lynch's backup, is used frequently in pass protection on third downs and gets about five carries a game. Paul McQuistan, a veteran from Weber State, is a reserve offensive guard.

Reasons to cheer for them

Wagner and Turbin were driving forces of USU's football recovery, leading the Aggies to their first bowl appearance in 14 years. The Seahawks are refreshing, reflecting former USC coach Pete Carroll's college-style enthusiasm, and Seattle has never won a Super Bowl.

Reasons to cheer against them

Carroll and the Seahawks are quite likable, unless you're a Jim Harbaugh fan. And while the 49ers are playing in a third straight NFC title game, possibly deserving another Super Bowl opportunity after last year's failed comeback against Baltimore, this is Seattle's first appearance on this stage in eight years. The Seahawks will have more chances, beyond this season.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Editor's note

This is the second in a series previewing Sunday's NFL championship game contestants.

Thursday • Seattle Seahawks. —

Sunday's NFL title games

O AFC Championship

• New England at Denver, 1 p.m., Ch. 2

NFC Championship

• San Francisco at Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Ch. 13