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49ers come up short in Seattle

  • NaVorro Bowman is carted off after his knee was injured in a play at the goal line. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

SEATTLE — The visitors' locker room at CenturyLink Field is a bit confusing, with unmarked exit doors in several directions. Swiveling his head left and right after the game, 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree asked, “How do we get out of here?”

Crabtree, of all people, should know how the 49ers get out of the postseason — on off-target passes into the end zone.

Last year, it was a fourth-down incompletion to Crabtree that ended the Niners' hopes in Super Bowl XLVII. Sunday, Colin Kaepernick's timing pass to No. 15 hung up long enough for Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to tip it, and linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted to end San Francisco's final threat.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

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The Seahawks won 23-17, advancing to their second Super Bowl, this one against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in New Jersey.

“It was a 15-round fight, right down to the last,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

The Niners took this one on the chin, knocked into another painful offseason. They won road games at Green Bay and Carolina in these playoffs, but winning here proved to be a tougher task, even after the 49ers built leads of 10-0 in the second quarter and 17-10 in the third.

Sherman, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford and seems not to care for the man, savaged Crabtree afterward, saying, “When you try to throw to a mediocre receiver against the best cornerback in the game, that's what happens.”

It's a remark that will no doubt add to this blossoming rivalry, as will the game. It was the 49ers' third consecutive loss at Seattle; during that same time frame, they have lost to the rest of the NFL just four times.

A CenturyLink record crowd of 68,454 saw the Niners start strong but ultimately fade. They also saw a hard-hitting game that claimed several players — including linebacker NaVorro Bowman, possibly San Francisco's best player, who suffered a devastating knee injury in the fourth quarter.

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