In this Rivalry Week edition of the 10-Point Stance, let's take a look at one of the fiercest feuds of the last two decades: the NFC West-fueled standoff between the Niners and Seahawks.
There is no moment that defines this rivalry better than the immediate postgame scene that followed the NFC championship in January 2014.
With a minute remaining in the game, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made what appeared to be a defining play in this NFC West rivalry, deflecting a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree, who then watched as the throw was intercepted, thus sealing a 23-17 Seahawks win and securing a trip to the Super Bowl.
Yet it's what happened afterward that took this rivalry to another level.
Before he left the field, Sherman did an interview with Erin Andrews of Fox and promptly eviscerated the receiver he had just stymied.
"Well I'm the best corner in the game," he said. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me."
Andrews, whose look of surprise remains one of the most underrated things about this moment, asked Sherman who he was talking about.
"Who was talking about you?" Andrews asked.
"Crabtree!" he responded before continuing his rant.
"Don't you open your mouth about the best," Sherman yelled. "Or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick. LOB."
That would be...Legion of Boom.
In many ways, Sherman's outburst transformed the rivalry from simmering to supernova.
The Seahawks and Niners took some time to build their annoyance with each other. There was the dislike common to all teams within the same conference, but unlike other rivalries, like Giants-Cowboys or Packers-Bears, neither squad was good for years. They only became division rivals in 2002, and the fact that San Francisco spent much of the 2000s struggling dampened the intensity.
That all changed when Jim Harbaugh was hired to coach the 49ers in 2011. Not only did he make the team better, but his rivalry with Pete Carroll, stemming from when Harbaugh was at Stanford and Carroll at USC, also carried over into the pros. The two men genuinely didn't like each other, and that disdain was passed down to their respective teams.
When Harbaugh plainly and openly responded to the news that five Seahawks players tested positive for banned substances from 2011 to '13 by saying, "Play by the rules," Seattle's Brandon Browner retorted that he wanted to choke Harbaugh. That's how real this rivalry got.
3. The first game between Harbaugh and Carroll occurred on the opening Sunday of the 2011 season. San Francisco started quickly, jumping to 16-0 halftime lead. The Seahawks crawled back to within two, at 19-17, before the 49ers' Ted Ginn Jr. ran back a kickoff for 102 yards and a score and then followed that less than a minute later with a 55-yard punt return for a closing touchdown.
2. The first game between the two as division rivals happened in Week 6 during the 2002 season. San Francisco beat Seattle 28-21 thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia to Terrell Owens and a subsequent successful two-point conversion.
1. The January 2014 NFC Championship Game. The Sherman moment (as detailed above) made this the best game of the rivalry, but it shouldn't obscure the fact that this matchup was close and intense the entire way. Kaepernick completed five of seven passes during that final drive, taking the 49ers to Seattle's 18-yard line before Sherman deflected the pass and spoke quietly and softly about it afterward.
Best Seahawks players in the rivalry (This list focuses on the recent history of the rivalry, post-divisional realignment)
DB Richard Sherman
DB Kam Chancellor
LB Bobby Wagner
Honorable mentions: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett
Best 49ers players in the rivalry (This list focuses on the recent history of the rivalry, post-divisional realignment)
QB Colin Kaepernick
WR Terrell Owens
TE George Kittle
OL Joe Staley
Honorable mentions: Frank Gore, Richard Sherman
As memorable as Sherman's 2014 postgame boast was, leave it to another shy individual, Terrell Owens, to top it.
In Week 6 of the 2002 season, Owens caught a spectacular 37-yard touchdown.
But that wasn't the best part.
After the score, he stopped somewhat suddenly, reached into his sock and pulled out a Sharpie. Owens then signed the football and handed it to a fan.
"I don't know anybody in here that likes anybody on the Seahawks. If you find one, let me know."
— San Francisco guard Alex Boone, December 2013
Harbaugh was good, and his smarts and intensity (and embracing of Kaepernick) gave the 49ers new life. But Carroll is the clear choice. In 10 years as the Seahawks coach, Carroll has demonstrated both longevity and adaptability. He went from relying on a heavy dose of the running game and defense to giving Russell Wilson more leeway while shifting to a pass-heavy offense. With two Super Bowl appearances also on his resume, Carroll has been one of the best coaches of his generation.
Best front office
There's a clear winner, and again, it's the Seahawks. Led by general manager John Schneider, Seattle has drafted—at bare minimum—two certain Hall of Famers in Wilson and Sherman and built a defense that will go down as one of the best in football history.