SEATTLE – Colin Kaepernick’s mind was made up as soon as he looked to his right and saw Michael Crabtree in single coverage against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
And for the second season in a row, the 49ers’ season ends with an unsuccessful pass attempt to Crabtree in the end zone.
Sherman made a leaping play to deflect Kaepernick’s pass with his left hand. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was trailing the play, was there for the interception in the end zone with 22 seconds remaining.
And, just like that, it was over. The Seahawks turned away the 49ers’ final chance to secure a 23-17 victory in the NFC Championship game to move on to Super Bowl XLVIII in two weeks against the Denver Broncos.
“I had a one-on-one matchup with Crab,” Kaepernick said. “I’ll take that any time.
“When I saw that matchup, I thought we were going to score.”
And so did 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
“He (Kaepernick) had a double move on Crabtree’s side,” Harbaugh said. “And we had a three-man combination on the other side. It was a pretty well-thrown ball, and from where I was looking, it looked like an inch the other way, it’s a touchdown pass. But give credit to the Seahawks, and Richard made the play.”
Crabtree finished the game with four receptions for 52 yards.
“We had like two or three chances at the end, and we just couldn’t capitalize,” Crabtree said. “Their guy was trying to break it up, but Sherm made a good play. That’s probably the only play he made in the whole game. If you cut up the film and look at it, guys were beat. We were doing our job, whatever it takes. We just came up short at the end.”
Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He provided about the 49ers’ only offense for most of the game with his running – 11 attempts for 130 yards.
But, ultimately, his three turnovers – two interceptions and one lost fumble – were killers in the final 10 minutes of the game.
“I didn’t play good enough to win,” Kaepernick said. “I turned the ball over three times. I cost us this game.”
A year ago, the 49ers failed on three pass plays to Crabtree to the right side from the 5-yard line, as the Baltimore Ravens held on to win Super Bowl XLVII. Kaepernick overthrew Crabtree on fourth down.
This time, Kaepernick underthrew Crabtree on the first-down play that resulted in the Smith's interception.
“The ball was kind of inside,” Crabtree said. “I did what I could.”
The 49ers took over at their own 22 with 3:32 remaining in need of a touchdown to win. The 49ers did not show much urgency on the drive, which they extended with Kaepernick’s fourth-and-2 pass to running back Frank Gore for 17 yards.
The 49ers had two timeouts remaining with the ball on the 18-yard line with :30 remaining when they took their final offensive snap of the season.
“We wanted to get that first down,” Harbaugh said. “I thought time management was good. I thought we were in good position with the timeouts that we had, so that was the decision.”