The Seattle Seahawks shot themselves in the foot Sunday afternoon, and as a result the playoffs are going to have to wait for another day.
Seattle couldn’t get out of its own way Sunday, particular when it came to penalties, and the Seahawks dropped a shocking 26-23 overtime decision to the downtrodden San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Sunday was supposed to be the final step in Seattle thumbing its nose at the rest of the NFL, earning a playoff spot in a season everyone expected the Seahawks to take a nosedive. A victory over the 3-10 49ers, who lost the previous 10 meetings against Seattle and were blown out by the Seahawks just two weeks earlier, would have put Seattle into the postseason, something that seemed a near certainty.
However, the 49ers capitalized on Seattle’s mistakes, and Robbie Gould’s 36-yard field goal in overtime left the surging Seahawks, who had won four straight and looked like the team no one wanted to face in the playoffs, with a puzzling loss.
“It was a really important championship opportunity for us, and it’s a huge lesson for our team,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We have to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves. When that happens, it’s hard to overcome, and we didn’t today.”
Seattle still has the inside track for getting into the postseason, as the Seahawks remain in the NFC’s first wild-card spot at 8-6. However, with AFC powerhouse Kansas City coming to Seattle next Sunday, the Seahawks have to sweat a little. Seattle hosts struggling Arizona on the regular season’s final weekend.
The biggest issue for Seattle on Sunday was penalties. The Seahawks were flagged 14 times for 148 yards, with many of those penalties coming at the most inopportune moments.
“This was a clear game where we hurt ourselves so much with this penalty thing that it just took our chances away,” Carroll said. “We ran the football, we converted on third down, we held them on third down, time of possession, plus in the turnover ratio. But really uncharacteristically we had 148 yards in penalties — and 10 (penalties) in the second half, which is just crazy, I don’t know how that could happen.”
The signs of Seattle’s troublesome day cropped up early, as Sebastian Janikowski shanked the extra point after the Seahawks scored a touchdown on their first drive — a point that ultimately proved the difference between a regulation win and an overtime loss. That was immediately followed by San Francisco’s Richie James returning the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, letting Seattle know this wasn’t going to be a cakewalk like the Seahawks’ 43-16 victory over the 49ers two weeks earlier at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle found itself trailing 20-13 heading into the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-goal from the Seahawks’ 1-yard line, running back Chris Carson made a Herculean effort, churning his legs after seemingly being stopped short, and forcing himself into the end zone for the tying touchdown.
The teams then traded field goals, with Janikowski’s 48-yarder tying the game 23-23 with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining to ultimately force overtime.
Seattle received the ball first in OT, but miscues and penalties caused the drive to stall. The 49ers, aided by a key pass-interference penalty, steadily moved the ball into field-goal position for Gould’s winning kick.
It was a moment that encapsulated Seattle’s day. In overtime, on third-and-4 from the Seahawks’ 20, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed a pass to J.D. McKissic across midfield. However, the play was called back because of a holding penalty on Ethan Pocic. The Seahawks eventually were forced to punt, and they never got the ball back.
Nick Mullens, San Francisco. The 49ers have had all kinds of quarterback issues since Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury. But Mullens looked the part Sunday, going 20-for-29 for 275 yards and a touchdown, plus he didn’t turn the ball over.
DeForest Buckner, San Francisco. The 49ers’ top defensive lineman was a constant menace in Seattle’s backfield, finishing with 11 tackles, two sacks, and two other tackles for losses.
Richie James, San Francisco. James’ 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter was the moment that ignited the 49ers and gave them the belief that they could compete with Seattle.
Chris Carson, Seattle. The second-year back continues to impress, rushing 22 times for 119 yards and a touchdown and constantly tacking on yards after contact.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle. The Seahawks’ top receiver returned from injury and made an instant impact, making acrobatic catches on third downs. He finished with four receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
Jarran Reed, Seattle. The defensive tackle was a wrecking ball in the second half, and his pass rushing (two sacks) was the main reason the 49ers never had a sniff at ending the game in regulation.
Seattle starting strong safety Bradley McDougald was active after being listed as questionable because of a knee injury. However, the injury flared up in the second quarter and he didn’t play after halftime. Starting right guard D.J. Fluker missed the game because of a hamstring injury, and his replacement Jordan Simmons had to come out of the game in the third quarter because of a sprained knee, necessitating the insertion of Pocic. Starting linebacker K.J. Wright sat out again because of his knee injury.