For 2 on ros­ter, a good mo­ment

49ers’ Sher­man, Smith were key in ’14 ti­tle game — but for Seat­tle

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Eric Branch Eric Branch is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: [email protected]­i­ Twit­ter: @Eric_Branch

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.”

Jonathan Fer­rey / Getty Images 2014

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.

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