SEATTLE -- San Francisco defensive backs Carlos Rogers and Eric Reid saw 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman recover the goal-line fumble. So did the television cameras. So did thousands of fans at CenturyLink Field.

It did not matter.

The officials ruled that Seattle's Marshawn Lynch recovered the fumble of teammate Jermaine Kearse midway through the fourth quarter Sunday.

It was one of several questionable calls in the NFC Championship game, a 23-17 Seahawks victory, and probably the most galling to 49ers fans, but the coach and players weren't blaming the loss on that.

Coach Jim Harbaugh noted that the Seahawks fumbled on the next play, thereby making that bad call moot. And there was no ignoring the fact that 49ers turned the ball over on their last three possessions -- two interceptions and a fumble by Colin Kaepernick.

Still, the play that cost them Bowman and his fumble recovery stands in question. How could they have missed it? Bowman, severely injured on the play, was laying on his back with the ball in his hands. Seattle ball? How? Where's replay? Where's the challenge flag?

All Harbaugh knows for certain is that officials told him the play was not reviewable.

"They said I could not challenge it," Harbaugh said. "That's just the rule. It's just a loophole in there.

"They rule a fumble and it's in the field of play and the ball is ruled recovered by the Seahawks, it can't be reviewed "I asked, 'What happens if I do challenge it?' They said I'd lose a time-out and (officials) wouldn't review it."

Reid, the rookie safety, said the officials told him they just didn't see what happened.

"The ball got passed around in the pile," Reid said. "You've got to live with what the ref calls."

Rogers, the veteran cornerback saw it.

"I saw him take the ball on the recovery," Rogers said. "After that, I ran off the field, because I thought we had the ball."

Adding injury to insult, Bowman suffered what Harbaugh described as an apparent anterior cruciate ligament injury on the play when his left leg was bent awkwardly in the pile. He had to be helped off the field and did not return, but he still led the 49ers with 14 tackles -- twice as many as any other San Francisco player.

"I didn't know (Bowman was hurt) until I heard him scream," Reid said.

"That's the most unfortunate part about this loss -- we lost one of our leaders. I mean, the man gave up his body to keep that receiver out of the end zone."

Both teams demonstrated volumes of character in a game filled with big plays, crushing blows and marvelous individual efforts.

"That goal-line stand shows the character of this team," kicker Phil Dawson said.

"It was a 15-round fight right down to the end," Harbaugh said.

"It's what we expected," Reid said. "It's a championship game. The Super Bowl's on the line."