By Tim Kawakami San Jose Mercury News
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Harbaugh had one last thing pop into his mind, just in time Friday, at the very end of his last news conference of a very long week.
Harbaugh spied Colin Kaepernick nearby, and maybe the 49ers coach immediately pictured all that was coming for the 49ers in Sunday’s climactic NFC Championship Game in Seattle.
“You guys love that commercial with Colin? The headphones?” Harbaugh said, referring to the Beats By Dre ad featuring a dramatized version of Kaepernick riding a team bus through a sea of angry people who look a lot like Seahawks fans.
“I love it. I absolutely love it.”
Is it like that when you guys ride to a road game?
“It’s somewhat like that, yeah, definitely,” Harbaugh said. “You’re riding in, the fans are all out there, sometimes they’re the way they are in the video. And the song is such a toe-tapper”¦ I get the chills on that one.
“I’m going to get some Beats By Dre. I am sold. That commercial has sold me!”
OK, I’m not going to say that Harbaugh’s mob-scene soliloquy is what convinced me that the 49ers are going to win this game
Kaepernick didn’t take it too seriously, either — he just chuckled at his coach’s rave, told Harbaugh he had a pair of headphones waiting for him, then walked up to the podium.
But Harbaugh’s loose vibe and clear and eager evocation of the potential cacophony ahead definitely helped crystallize things for me.
The 49ers are going to put the headphones on. Buckle down. Then, under fire, they’ll go play.
The 49ers need to feel threatened and aggrieved to win this game; they need to feel like they have nothing to lose, as they face the storm.
Cue: Harbaugh, the last spontaneous thought in his head, and the rallying of the 49ers into Seattle.
The previous two postseasons, the 49ers have been upended by lower-seeded teams who got hot. This time, I think they’re the red-hot team”¦ and Seattle is the not-hot team.
“Unless I’ve drastically misread our team,” Harbaugh said, “we’re ready to play.”
The 49ers weren’t ready for the Seattle crucible the last two times they went up there. Though the 49ers’ defense more than held its own, the turnovers on offense wiped them out.
But the 49ers are ready now, because they’re better now.
They’re healthier, they’re more confident, they’re riding an eight-game winning streak (which included a 19-17 victory over Seattle at Candlestick).
And everything the 49ers have endured this season has pushed them to this place.
“I just think we’re playing better football (than the Week 2 blowout loss at CenturyLink),” defensive lineman Justin Smith said.
“Defensively, we’ve done pretty well against them. The last time we went up there we kind of lost it in the fourth quarter, but we’re not too worried about that. We know what we have to do.”
Somehow, some way, the 49ers haven’t lost energy by traveling to Green Bay and then to Charlotte and now to Seattle, while the Seahawks have only had to win one home game to get to this point.
By the way, the Seahawks aren’t playing very well — they were out-gained 407-277 in their divisional-round victory over New Orleans and they went 2-2 to close the regular season, including their first loss at home (to Arizona) since the 2011 season.
The 49ers can slow down tailback Marshawn Lynch and they would love to force quarterback Russell Wilson try to beat them through the air.
I’m not sure Seattle can completely stop Frank Gore, and if they do, I think Kaepernick can beat them, too.
Of course, it will be a close game — this bitter rivalry demands that. Of course, one play could turn this game at any point.
The 49ers can’t get behind and let the Seahawks crowd take over, and I don’t think they will. They can’t turn it over early, and I don’t think they will.
The 49ers are ready for this because they live for this stuff — oh, and also because they’re the superior team and have proven that the last two weeks.
No matter how loud it gets at CenturyLink or how much abuse they take on the way there”¦
Except Kaepernick admitted Friday that the 49ers actually don’t get much razzing when they drive into the Seattle stadium.
“We pull in through the back,” Kaepernick said, “so we really don’t see too much.”
Oh well. It’s still a good image, and one that Harbaugh obviously wanted his team to embrace and use as prime motivation in this titanic game.
I think they will essentially play even through the first half, the 49ers will crawl ahead in the third quarter on a big play by Anquan Boldin, and then they’ll have to hold on.
They’re good at that. They’re ready for this.
Prediction: 49ers 17, Seattle 16.