SEATTLE — It looked as if the Seattle demon was exorcised. As if a jump throw from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had vanquished it once and for all.
But it turns out that only woke it up.
After the improbable 26-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, the 49ers fell apart, the entire season crumbling under the weight of the best home-field advantage in football, and perhaps the best team in the NFL.
A fumble, two interceptions, a soft defense and untimely penalties squandered control of the game and the and seven-point lead midway through the third quarter. For most of the game, San Francisco was handling it all so well, building a 10-0 first-half lead. The 49ers had Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson running for his life. And Kaepernick ran, too, making headway against the best defense in the league.
All of a sudden, they were back in that familiar zone: spiraling in Seattle.
The Seahawks were having their way on both sides of the ball. And linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the team MVP, was knocked out with a gruesome injury. And the most raucous crowd since the Colosseum was in peak form.
But, no, this wasn't the same 49ers team that made the last two trips to CenturyLink Field. Trained by eight weeks of must-win football, including road playoff wins, the 49ers mustered enough resolve to stay in the game.
The defense held Seattle to a field goal, keeping hope alive. It took Seattle's best punch and, though wobbly, was still standing. As the 49ers drove down the field in the final minutes, needing a touchdown, it looked as if they would again work some late magic.
But Kaepernick's second interception of the fourth quarter was tipped by Richard Sherman and intercepted by Malcolm Smith. The 49ers' Super Bowl dreams were killed. And the Seattle demon is still alive.