Seattle Seahawks

Stage is set: Seahawks vs. 49ers, Round 3

It only seems natural.

The Seattle Seahawks will play host to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.

After Saturday’s 23-15 divisional playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, Seahawks players were noncommittal when asked which team — Carolina or San Francisco — they would prefer.

For at least one, that changed Sunday. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin tweeted, “Wouldn’t want it any other way,” just after the 49ers finished their 23-10 win at Carolina.

Baldwin is part of a Seahawks offense that continues to do just enough. His 24-yard third-down catch in the fourth quarter Saturday was crucial to help put the game away.

But it was just one of quarterback Russell Wilson’s nine completions against the Saints. Part of that was because of strong winds and a conservative offensive approach by Seattle. Part of that was because Wilson was off at times. His counterpart, Drew Brees, was 24-for-43 passing for 309 yards in the same conditions against the NFL’s No. 1 defense.

“It was one of those things,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t my best all day.”

The previous time the Seahawks played the 49ers, on Dec. 8, Seattle gained just 13 first downs. Only one came from running the ball.

The 17 points the Seahawks scored in Week 14 against San Francisco was their third-lowest total of the season at the time.

Saturday against New Orleans, the Seahawks were conservationists. Playing into the wind in the third quarter, they gained just 25 yards in three drives. Two of those drives were three-and-outs.

“We didn’t want to make crucial mistakes when we backed up,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “So we just played good, grind-it-out football and kicked the ball and rely on the defense. It worked out.”

Wide receiver Percy Harvin had an impact until he left to be evaluated for a concussion at the end of the first half.

In his second game of the season after Aug. 1 hip surgery, Harvin caught three passes. Despite playing only the first half, he led the team in receptions.

Harvin twice left the field after big hits. He did not return for the second half and must go through standard NFL concussion protocol this week to return for the NFC title game. In most cases, a determination whether a player is cleared is not made until Thursday of game week.

“The poor kid,” Carroll said. “He finally gets to play, and he banged his head against the turf really hard. He was OK the first time, but the second one really rocked him.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to make it back for next week.”

If he does, he’ll face a San Francisco defense that held the Panthers to 10 points Sunday.

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