Here is a link to my Sunday column about the 49ers-Seahawks game. The full text appears below:


The 49ers are going to win the NFC championship game. They could end up slaughtering the Seahawks.

That may seem like a wild prediction considering Seattle is the betting favorite, considering the game is in Seattle, considering I’ve been lukewarm about the 49ers until recently.

Forget lukewarm from me. Where the 49ers are concerned, I’m scalding.

The Seahawks are favorites because they beat the 49ers the last two times those teams played in Seattle — by a combined score of 71-16. Ouch.

But things have changed. The world has changed. The Seahawks haven’t been so hot lately. On Dec. 22, they lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals, scored 10 points. We’re supposed to take that production seriously?

The 49ers are the better team right now. They won their final six regular-season games and you know what they’ve done on the road in the playoffs. Just dominated.

Last Sunday, they not only defeated the Panthers in Charlotte, they set back the entire Carolina franchise and made any reasonable observer wonder about coach Ron Rivera. What happened last week was stunning, and that means the 49ers right now are better than they have been all season. And they are getting better.

The Seahawks aren’t. To pick them, you have to overlook how deadly the Niners have been recently, and how dead the Seahawks are — they lost two of their final four regular-season games — no way to prep for the playoffs. And their offense has vanished in the wind and rain and fog of Seattle. They won’t even have wide receiver Percy Harvin against the 49ers, and that hurts their already tepid passing attack — although you’re hard-pressed to use the word “attack” for the Seattle passing game.

Now, I want to talk about hostages.

In general, it’s better for a head coach to oversee either his offense or defense — to be in charge of one side of the ball. This is not always the case, so don’t write to me with exceptions. But in general, a head coach needs to know his stuff on one side of the ball.

In San Francisco, we’re used to this template. Bill Walsh drew up his offense. George Seifert drew up the defense.

Got that?

Walsh used to tell me, “A coach who is only an administrator is at the mercy of his coordinators.” Walsh meant such a coach was held hostage by the abilities of his coordinators, a place Walsh never wanted to be.

Look at the Seahawks. Pete Carroll is a defensive guy. He was defensive coordinator for the Niners in the mid-1990s. So he has credentials on defense. He is not, at first glance, a hostage. But he’s being held hostage by his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, who has not performed well lately. I have no idea why.

It’s not like Carroll can march into Bevell’s office and help him, tell him how to improve, tell him which plays to run against the 49ers’ standard alignment or nickel defense. That’s not Carroll’s area.

Here’s something even worse. Carroll almost certainly doesn’t understand what’s wrong with his offense, does not have the diagnostic concepts in his head to make a difference. If the Seahawks have a one-dimensional offense in a game of this magnitude, and they will — “Run, Marshawn, run” — they are in big trouble.

Hostage Pete.

A note of fairness: Harbaugh could be in the same position as Carroll — except he isn’t. Harbaugh is an offensive guy and relies totally on his defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for aid and comfort when the other team has the ball. If Fangio were ordinary, just another guy, Harbaugh would be lost and the Niners would give up significantly more points.

But Harbaugh is not lost. Fangio is brilliant. Could be the best in the business. Saves Harbaugh from his blind spot.

Fangio will eat Bevell alive.

It’s interesting to see Fangio in action with the media. He is plainspoken, won’t overpraise his players, even talks defensive scheme to a limited extent, a Harbaugh no-no.

He certainly seems independent compared to offensive coordinator Greg Roman, whom you’d call a company man. Roman is a good coordinator, not in Fangio’s league. With him, every 49ers player is the reincarnation of Jim Brown or Johnny Unitas, and every opposing team is the greatest team in the history of life.

Fangio seems to have earned a certain status on the coaching staff. And his unit will make Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson run for his life.

Enough football talk. Let’s talk vibes. Let’s talk feelings.

Think back to the 1981 49ers, the team that won the first Niners’ Super Bowl in January 1982. Think back, if you were compos mentis back then. Remember how the 49ers kept coming on, how their success almost felt mystical or preordained like fate. Remember how, after a while, the 49ers winning games didn’t seem surprising anymore, the Niners handling the Giants, Cowboys and Bengals in the postseason. How it all made sense. How if you looked back, you should have seen it coming.

Doesn’t it feel that way now?

Frank Gore and Anquan Boldin and Justin Smith and NaVorro Bowman and so many others are asserting themselves at the highest level. These Niners are on an eight-game win streak, getting wins against some tough teams. Just winning. Nothing an impediment. The Seattle crowd irrelevant. The future there to grasp.

So close.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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  1. mendozaline

    The thing that I remember about the 1982 playoff game against the Giants, is that after the game, it began to rain….really rain.
    For the next 3 days there was flooding. Over 30 people perished. On Friday, the Governor declared a drought emergency. I hope 2014 is like 1982, but…..

    Enjoy the game everyone.

    January 18th, 2014 11:47 pm

  2. Rebelscum74

    Love it! Hope you are deemed prophetic and not pathetic !

    January 19th, 2014 12:33 am

  3. Asm

    Talk about coming out of the gate with a strong opinion! I think this will be a blowout if the 49ers take care of the football and punch it in for 7 instead of FGs when they are in the redzone.

    January 19th, 2014 1:25 am

  4. dan

    In the next few weeks, please speak/ interview Ron Rivera.

    January 19th, 2014 2:44 am

  5. Prime Time

    Lowell I remember growing up in the 80′s and whenever the 49ers played there was that mystical feeling, the feeling and notion they could not lose. I have that feeling again. I can’t believe someone else feels that way too. Great read!

    January 19th, 2014 8:30 am

  6. Tommy CostaRica

    Gore goes for 200!

    January 19th, 2014 8:55 am

  7. Tommy CostaRica

    Wait maybe Gore 100, Hunter 100 and Kap 100!

    January 19th, 2014 8:55 am

  8. MRO

    If sportswriters were any better at predicting game results than the rest of us this might mean something. But they’re not so this doesn’t. Besides, a local columnist picking the Niners……..imagine that!

    I hope Seattle wins handily.

    January 19th, 2014 9:03 am

  9. Stan

    I hate to agree with anybody,but the Merc writers had it right..Seattle the last 4 games hasn’t looked good. The 49ers are peaking. I would be shocked though if the niners had a hot first half. I think its going to be a second half game..where the Harbaugh grind takes over. Seattle turnovers happen.
    23-20 49ers…

    January 19th, 2014 9:49 am

  10. chris

    the Niners have looked good in each of the last 3 years of playoffs but lost the big games that meant the most, NFC title game in 2011 and Super Bowl in 2012. That’s got to be in the back of their minds going into todays game. Carolina game doesn’t matter because the Panthers were looking bad the last few weeks so it was no surprise the niners stopped them at the goal line with those boring plays called by whoever on the Panther offense. Harvin not playing is also a non factor, he was very rusty last week and got hurt as a result. the other Seahawk WR’s have had big games vs. the niners in the past and can do that again……38-16 Seattle in a rout.

    January 19th, 2014 10:54 am

  11. Brady

    Great article, Lowell. Really nice read.

    That said, I don’t quite understand why everyone thinks of Harbaugh as an “offensive minded” coach. Sure he was a QB, and he’s definitely a QB whisperer. But when it comes to coaching the team, he’s always been a defensive coach. San Diego, Stanford, SF, defense has always been the focal point – and the star – of his teams.

    January 19th, 2014 12:21 pm

  12. Stan

    I have my dark red t -shirt on and am prepared to open a can of whoop ass on Chris!

    January 19th, 2014 12:44 pm

  13. B-Rad

    Here’s part of a comment I made before the Seahawk game in week #2 on the ZOHN.

    “I would have thought that job #1 for Greg Roman in the off and pre-seasons
    would have been to help Kaepernick get plays off in time. Last Sunday
    against the Packers I saw no improvement over last year – 5 plays with either
    forced, last second timeouts (4) or delay-of-game penalties (1).

    That was at home against a team that ranked 11th in defense last year.”


    Since then, what has changed?
    Harbaugh and Roman seem to have the idea – “Who cares, as long as we
    get the right play called in the end?”

    That may work against lesser teams, but Seattle has the #1 defense
    in the NFL this year.

    Two things really aggravate me about this:
    1 – I’ve never seen a team struggle with this for such a long time
    ……and not be able to correct the problem.
    2 – Unlike being unable to effectively score TDs from the red zone where
    …..the defenders are actively contesting us, this is totally a self-contained
    …..problem. The defense has nothing to do with it at all. The crowd noise
    ….does, but teams must have a plan to contest that. Other teams, on all
    ….levels of football do – but we don’t, up till now.

    January 19th, 2014 1:03 pm

  14. Stan

    And Chris,give us the list of Seattle writers who pick the 49ers?
    Lowell at least went underdog..

    January 19th, 2014 1:54 pm

  15. Stan

    ..AND road team.

    January 19th, 2014 3:08 pm

  16. Stan

    Chris,its 70f in the bay area. 42f in Seattle. No wonder they howl to keep warm…

    January 19th, 2014 3:11 pm

  17. Stan

    Here’s why they lost. ROMAN calls that same corner fade that Kap has no touch for to Crabtree. It wasn’t enough to lose the Super Bowl on that play…but ROMAN had to do it again in the biggest game of this year!!
    That’s it!..not the defense..they played fine. Its the crappy redzone/crunch time play calls of ROMAN.

    “Lets see” Roman thinks…I have a short WR, and my QB has torched Seattle on short passes and runs” He thinks. “I KNOW! a long corner fade pass!”..The same play that was the last the 49ers called in 2013. And it ends 2014!

    January 19th, 2014 8:01 pm

  18. Larry

    What was that about the 49ers. Go Seattle

    January 19th, 2014 8:41 pm

  19. Jimmy

    Some slaughter. Just like the Niners were going to ‘murder’ the Packers.

    January 19th, 2014 9:00 pm

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