SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It was a game that Seahawk after Seahawk said they thought they had won three, four, maybe five times.
“There was so much going on,” said defensive end Jadeveon Clowney after Seattle’s 27-24 overtime victory over San Francisco in a game that also puts the Seahawks right smack into the race in the NFC West. “That was the craziest game of my career hands down.”
When the Seahawks did finally win it, they did so not just in unfathomable fashion given all the twists and turns it took along the way with each team rallying from deficits of 10 points or more, but also in the somewhat unlikely fashion of relying on their defense and kicking game — two things that bore the brunt of criticism all last week.
Each rode to the rescue following a rare mistake by Russell Wilson, who threw an interception that for a few minutes appeared to have turned a certain victory into a devastating defeat on.
“Two inches higher I think I have a touchdown and game over,” Wilson said of his interception a pass intended for Jacob Hollister on what he hoped would be a game-ending touchdown.
But a defense maligned for much of the season held the 49ers twice in overtime and set up a game-winning 42-yard field goal by Jason Myers as time ran out.
That’s the same Jason Myers who missed a potential game-winner as time ran out last week against Tampa Bay, requiring Wilson and the offense to win it in overtime.
After that game, coach Pete Carroll and teammates immediately voiced their support for Myers, both to him personally and to the media.
And maybe it was in those moments that Seattle won this game.
“You know how it is when you’re a kicker in this league,” said Clowney. “It’s tough on him. I’m so excited for our kicker after last week.”
Clowney also was excited for the defense, which tied a season-high with five sacks, had 10 quarterback hits and forced three turnovers (all by 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo) that led to 21 Seattle points and basically was the difference on a day when Wilson and the offense got little done — except when it really mattered the most.
But on this day, a defense that had allowed 24 and 34 points the past two weeks to Atlanta and Tampa Bay largely shut down an offense that had been averaging 29 a game, third most in the NFL.
“We understand what everybody was thinking because of the last two weeks,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We just wanted to prove we were the best defense on the field today.”
That figured to be hard considering the 49ers were allowing just 12.8 points a game, fewest in the NFL.
And the game largely began as a coronation as the 49ers took an early 10-o lead, outgaining the Seahawks 118-5 after each team had two series. At that point, just keeping the score respectable seemed like a lofty goal, let alone tracking down a 49ers team that entered the night as the last undefeated club in the NFL.
Carroll later alluded to a few subtle schematic changes but also said, “We just had to settle down.”
The Seattle defense did just that from there, never allowing another touchdown drive the rest of the night and forcing three turnovers, including a Garoppolo fumble that Clowney returned 10 yards for a touchdown that made it 10-7 and got Seattle right back in it.
Clowney later forced another Garoppolo fumble that led to a touchdown, and safety Quandre Diggs, in his first game with the Seahawks, had an interception and a 44-yard return that set up another.
But ahead 21-10 and seemingly ready to pull away for good, Wilson lost the ball as he was being sacked and offensive tackle Germain Ifedi grabbed it and tried to run with it. Maybe inevitably, Ifedi lost it and it was returned for a touchdown, and a two-point conversion made it 21-18 early in the fourth quarter.
“Terrible,” Carroll said of the play and Seattle’s four turnovers — Rashaad Penny also lost a fumble as did rookie receiver DK Metcalf near the end of the first half, wiping out a potential touchdown.
But the defense hung tough after each turnover.
Even after it allowed Garoppolo to lead a drive that tied it up with one second left in regulation after Myers had hit a 46-yarder with 1:45 left that appeared as if it might give the Seahawks the victory in regulation. Chase McLaughlin, signed this week to replace injured regular kicker Robbie Gould, hit a 47-yarder with one second left in regulation to tie it.
As they did last week, the Seahawks won the coin toss for overtime (even if there was controversy later whether Geno Smith really called heads) and drove down the field where from the 14 Wilson tried to hit Hollister to end the game.
“Just missed him,” Carroll said.
Dre Greenlaw returned the pick to the Seattle 49.
Carroll gathered the defense on the sideline and asked his players to come up big one more time.
Seattle did, at least forcing McLaughlin to have to make a tougher kick — the Seahawks stopped a run by Rasheem Mostert on third-and-two on the play before.
From almost the same spot where he’d made the kick at the end of regulation he shanked this one wide left, and Seattle had new life.
After each team then punted once, Wilson used an 18-yard run on a third-and-three to get the Seahawks back into field-goal position, where this time Myers made it, leading to a raucous celebration in which a few Seattle teammates tried to lift him up.
“Everybody was (supportive) immediately after (last week),” Myers said. “It gives you that mindset that you know it’s going to come back to you. That’s just how sports are. … It was great. To bounce back like that was awesome.”
It ended what Wilson called, “The craziest game I’ve ever been part of,” echoing a common theme.
It was the sixth time this year Seattle has won by four points or less or in overtime.
And coming as it did against the 49ers, who with a victory could have claimed both literal and figurative control of the West, some Seahawks admitted it meant just a little more.
“It felt like more than a regular-season game,” said lineman Duane Brown. “Obviously, the magnitude of it couldn’t be denied. Coming in here, division rivals — we’re rolling, they’re undefeated. Everyone tried to elevate their game just a little bit and you saw that. It was like a championship boxing match.”
And it was Seattle that finally got off the mat last to deliver the winning blow.