49ers seek revenge in Seattle

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers have conquered the bitter cold of Green Bay and the travails of a cross-country flight to Carolina.

Now they face their toughest test yet to get back to the Super Bowl: the deafening noise of Seattle's 12th-man home crowd and that swarming Seahawks defense that thoroughly shut down the reigning NFC champions in Week 2 of the regular season.

"Our team has been in a lot of good primers, been through a lot of situations, been through tough environments, whether it be weather or opposing stadiums," coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday.

"This team has been in a lot of situations. Been everywhere, man. Just like something from a Johnny Cash song, 'We've been everywhere man.' "

In what has emerged as perhaps the NFL's best rivalry, San Francisco is on an impressive roll, riding an eight-game winning streak as it returns Sunday to the Pacific Northwest for its third NFC title game in a row.

It's the trip everyone has envisioned for months after it became clear Seattle would win the NFC West Division and secure the No. 1 seed.

"Long story short: They know us, we know them," linebacker NaVorro Bowman said.

"We got to go there. We all know the history. But this is [for] the Super Bowl. Everything is on the line. That says it all. We're ready. That's all it comes down to."

The 49ers (14-4) have committed seven turnovers and been outscored, 71-16, in their past two trips to Seattle, including an embarrassing 29-3 defeat in September. The memories from those visits stings.

But a lot has changed in four months since San Francisco previously traveled some 800 miles up the Pacific Coast to face its archrival, such as the 49ers' 19-17 victory against the Seahawks a month ago at Candlestick Park.

That game showed this team it can go back to Seattle and leave with a different result even if it thunders and rains all afternoon.

"Oh, man, this is everything. We've worked hard," linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. "Now, we need to capitalize on what we've been doing all year."

Be prepared from some high-octane trash-talking from both sides -- and even from that raucous, tremor-causing home crowd. Seattle's secondary loves to chirp, and 49ers wideout Anquan Boldin has been talking after the play at every chance recently.

"It's playoff football. It gets chippy between two great teams," right guard Alex Boone said. "I wouldn't expect anything less."

Kaepernick improved to 4-1 in the postseason -- 3-0 on the road -- with the 49ers 23-10 victory Sunday at Carolina, while Harbaugh became the first coach since the NFL's 1970 merger to lead his team to the NFC title game in each of his first three years.

Kaepernick will look to bounce back from a forgettable September performance at CenturyLink Field, when San Francisco lost two fumbles and he threw three interceptions. In Seattle's 42-13 home win Dec. 23, 2012, Kaepernick had an interception and the 49ers lost a fumble.

"We're a different team than we were the first time we played them up there," Kaepernick said.

"We have a lot of key playmakers back and we're ready to go."

Three of those are Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. The addition of Crabtree to the mix since his Dec. 1 return from a six-month recovery from Achilles tendon surgery has changed San Francisco's offense and passing game.

Frank Gore's ability to run will play a big part determining whether the 49ers can reach a second Super Bowl in a row. He rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries facing a Carolina front seven Sunday among the best in football, but was held to 16 yards on nine carries Sept. 15 at Seattle.

Safety Donte Whitner speaks of the need to "take it away from them" in Seattle, where the Seahawks opened as 3-point favorites and the line moved to 3½.

"We don't want it to end for us. We understand that we have to go up there in a hostile environment with a really good football team and do what a lot of people probably aren't going to pick us to do," Whitner said.

"That's OK with us. We understand what we have to do."

Meanwhile, Harbaugh said the team's medical staff were reviewing the MRI results on fullback Will Tukuafu's injured left knee, but offered no update.

"I'm encouraged how he's moving around," Harbaugh said. "We'll have more information on that."

Harbaugh's grandfather, Joe Cipiti, died Sunday morning in Ohio. Harbaugh won't make the memorial service Friday, saying that's "a bit of a crushing blow there."

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