Football / Sports

Niners' Bowman, Iupati sustain serious injuries

SEATTLE -- San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman and guard Mike Iupati sustained serious injuries in the 23-17 loss to Seattle on Sunday that would have kept them out of the Super Bowl.

Bowman injured his left knee on a controversial play in the fourth quarter, and the preliminary diagnosis is that he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, coach Jim Harbaugh said.

"To see him go out like that, it's not supposed to be like this," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "Sometimes we don't know why things happen the way they do, but we'll see in time. He's going to be all right."

Bowman totaled a team-high 14 tackles in the NFC Championship game. On the Seahawks' second series, he stopped Marshawn Lynch for no gain on third-and-1, and Bowman ended the first quarter by sacking quarterback Russell Wilson on third down.

Iupati fractured his left ankle while blocking for Anthony Dixon on a fourth-and-goal, 1-yard touchdown dive that gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead with 10:03 left in the first half. Adam Snyder replaced Iupati after the injury.

Harbaugh refused to blame another season-ending defeat on controversial officiating.

But he did say a "loophole" prevented him from challenging a potential fourth-quarter fumble recovery by Bowman at the 49ers' 1-yard line. Bowman suffered his injury on the play.

Said Harbaugh: "I asked what happens if I do challenge it, and (referee Gene Steratore) said, 'You lose a timeout and we won't review it.' "

Harbaugh didn't plead his case further in his postgame news conference, noting the 49ers promptly gained possession when the Seahawks botched their ensuing fourth-down play with another fumble.

"I can't say it had any factor in the game, because of what happened on the very next play," Harbaugh said.

A year ago, Harbaugh fumed after the Super Bowl loss about officials failing to call defensive-holding and pass-interference penalties. After losing the 2011 season's NFC Championship game to the New York Giants, Harbaugh did not agree with a "forward progress" call that nullified a potential fumble recovery by Bowman.

In Sunday's finale, the 49ers were penalized seven times for 65 yards. The Seahawks had eight penalties for 66 yards. Among the Seahawks' infractions was a running-into-the-kicker penalty on Chris Maragos in the third quarter. The 49ers declined that penalty since it was only a 5-yard infraction and wouldn't have resulted in a first down, unlike if a roughing-the-kicker, 15-yard penalty were called.

Anquan Boldin caught a team-high five passes for 53 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown catch that put the 49ers ahead 17-13 with 6:29 left in the third quarter. He had two early drops, but he also provided 8- and 4-yard catches on the 49ers' final drive.

"On the last drive we had enough time, we were driving down," Boldin said. "We started with three minutes, we had all three timeouts, so there was no need to rush. We put ourselves in great position. Unfortunately we threw an interception at the end."

The 49ers couldn't have dreamed of a better start, at least defensively, as Aldon Smith recovered a fumble after sacking Wilson on the game's opening snap. Even though they took over at the 15-yard line, the 49ers settled for a first-series field goal for the third straight game, this one being a 25-yarder by Phil Dawson with only 2:15 off the clock.

Smith accounted for two of the 49ers' four sacks of Wilson. "It's frustrating, but we lost to a good team," Smith said. "We'll take it from where we can and move on."

The 49ers could contain The Beast only for so long. Lynch broke loose after being caged for most of the first half and unleashed one of his trademark Beast Mode runs en route to a 109-yard day.

"We knew it was going to be tough in the run game early, but we stayed with it," Seattle center Max Unger said. "I thought we dominated the run game."

The 49ers did not allow a 100-yard rusher during the regular season, but this time Lynch broke through for a biggie. On a third-and-1 play with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Lynch took an inside handoff to the left, cut back to the right and rumbled his way for a 40-yard touchdown.

In six career playoff games, Lynch has rushed for six touchdowns and has four 100-yard games.

Frank Gore came through with a 17-yard reception on a fourth-and-2 to keep alive the 49ers' final series. Asked why Gore had only 14 rushing yards on 11 carries, Harbaugh said: "Uh, it's a good question. I don't have that answer right now."

Quinton Dial, a rookie defensive lineman who didn't suit up, appeared to hit a Seahawks gunner on the 49ers' sideline during LaMichael James' botched second-quarter punt return.

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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