For 2 on roster, a good moment
49ers’ Sherman, Smith were key in ’14 title game — but for Seattle
The last time the 49ers traveled to Seattle with a winning record, they left with a broken heart.
And their anguish came courtesy of two players they currently employ: cornerback Richard Sherman and linebacker Malcolm Smith.
In January 2014, Sherman and Smith teamed for one of the most agonizing plays in 49ers’ history in Seattle’s 23-17 win in the NFC Championship Game. Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick’s pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone and Smith grabbed the deflection in the final minute to secure the Seahawks’ heartpounding win at CenturyLink Field.
Nearly five years later, Smith’s role in the play was mentioned Thursday to 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, who counts Smith as a locker-room neighbor.
“Oh, yeah. S—. I forgot he was a part of that,” Staley said, tossing a faux-annoyed look in Smith’s direction.
Staley’s response inspired laughter, which has been in short supply for the 49ers when it comes to Seahawks, who will host them Sunday.
The 49ers (2-9) arrive on a nine-game losing streak to Seattle (6-5), which has won seven straight home games in the series. With a win Sunday, the Seahawks would tie a franchise record for consecutive wins against an opponent. They won 10 straight against the Rams from 2005-09.
Seattle’s streak against the 49ers began with the NFC title game after the 2013 season, which started the 49ers’ spiral. Since that game, the 49ers haven’t had a winning season — posting a 23-52 record — have fired three head coaches and started six quarterbacks.
Said Staley, the only player remaining from the 49ers’ last win in Seattle in December 2011: “We haven’t been able to win there for a while.”
In January 2014, the 49ers could have won in Seattle if Kaepernick’s would-be, 18-yard scoring pass to Crabtree had been a few inches higher. Most of the glory has gone to Sherman for his outstretched deflection. However, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, then a Seahawks assistant, said Thursday that Smith instinctively ran to the end zone instead of patrolling an area about 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, which was his assignment.
“We knew they liked to throw to Crabtree in that situation,” Smith said. “Sherman tipped a bunch of balls earlier in the year and throughout his career. So I just tried to show up.” On Sunday, Smith, who played for Seattle from 2011-14, and Sherman will return to CenturyLink for the first time as opponents. They’ll look to end a streak that started when they combined on a play that started the 49ers’ nosedive and led to Seattle’s only Super Bowl win.
“I’ve had some pretty good (memories) in that stadium,” Sherman said. “But that was a big one for the franchise.”
Seattle’s Richard Sherman tips a pass for the 49ers’ Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship Game in January 2014. The ball was caught by Malcolm Smith (53), like Sherman a 49er now.