San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) celebrates a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers with tight end Vernon Davis (85) during the third quarter of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh’s emotions simmered into Sunday game-day territory multiple times at his Wednesday press conference at team headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.
Harbaugh sang “I’ve been Everywhere,” the Johnny Cash tune about globe-trotting North America, in recalling the 49ers travels this postseason, and discussed in great detail his preference for khaki pants.
There will be more serious matters to contend with after the team flies to Seattle on Friday evening and awaits Sunday’s NFC Championship game.
A physical, heated division rivalry many believe is the best in the NFL pits two promising quarterbacks and fast, hard-hitting defenses. The 49ers believe they have the league’s best weapon in the game with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“He’s comfortable,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “Any time a guy is in the playoffs the first time, it can be tough. Speed is a lot different. Play a lot harder. Everybody is trying to win a championship. He seems like he’s more comfortable.”
Joe Montana and Steve Young were a combined 1-7 on the road in playoff games. Kaepernick has never lost — he is 3-0 in postseason road games — including wins at Green Bay and Carolina in the past two weeks.
Big games don’t bother him, according to Harbaugh, who is 41-13-1 in three seasons with the 49ers.
“Going back to college when I first started watching him play, the big games, the big challenge, he has that ability the great ones have to elevate their game in big situations,” Harbaugh said.
Kaepernick has not played well in the past two road games at Seattle, however. Harbaugh said preparation is giving the team confidence this time will be different.
“This is only for the tough at this point in the season,” Harbaugh said. “The things I would trade to be able to compete as a player in this game — pretty significant.”
Harbaugh said he’d give up his college degree — and possibly his left arm — to be on the field. Alas, he’ll have to settle for coaching from the sideline and hope his charges, the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs, can score a third win on the road to earn a return trip to the Super Bowl.
To do so, the 49ers must avoid penalties — they had three personal fouls in the fourth quarter alone in the 2013 loss at CenturyLink Field — and turnovers. Kaepernick threw three interceptions, two in the fourth quarter, in that September loss.
“Daily and hourly” the biggest challenge and focus is to protect the ball, said Harbaugh.
The Seahawks got promising news from linebacker K.J. Wright, who practiced Wednesday and remains day-to-day.
“The Seattle defense is looking to get the ball, looking to take the ball away,” Harbaugh said.
Wright is a difference-maker who affords defensive coordinator Dan Quinn the ability to call a more aggressive game. Wright is a major factor defending tight end Vernon Davis, an outlet with unmatched athleticism for the position and a player most secondaries strain to account for with Boldin and wide receiver Michael Crabtree as priorities.
Seattle (14-3) was 11-2 against the NFC this season on the strength of its defense. The Seahawks were first in total defense, pass defense and points allowed — a measly 14.4 per game.
That toothy defense plays perfectly as a tag-team partner of an offense buoyed by running back Marshawn Lynch, who powers the NFL’s sixth-ranked running game, which averages 136.8 rushing yards per game.
“I’m excited he’s in fantastic shape. He’s had a fantastic season and he’s still in excellent shape,” coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “He’s been everything we could ever have hoped for.”
While the 49ers are riding high thanks to the play of Kaepernick, the Seahawks are likely to need more out of Wilson than the 103 total passing yards accumulated in last week’s victory over the New Orleans Saints. Only Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons was pressured more than Wilson, and the 49ers’ pass rush is spinning into high gear after four fourth-quarter sacks of Cam Newton last week at Carolina.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Wilson said. “I think the thing is, can we slow down the energy a little bit and get back to playing football?”