SAN FRANCISCO — The Seahawks thought they were on their way to a comeback victory Sunday afternoon.
Then Ted Ginn Jr. happened.
And in the span of just over a minute of the fourth quarter, a deficit that moments ago was just two points suddenly became an insurmounta
ble lead as San Francisco pulled away for a 33-17 season-opening win thanks to kickoff and punt return touchdowns by Ginn.
The Seahawks were down 16-0 at halftime, and still trailed by nine points midway through the fourth quarter, but the tides appeared to be shifting in Seattle’s favor when rookie receiver Doug Baldwin scored on a 55-yard catch and run in with 3:56 left in the game. That momentum was fleeting, however. On the ensuing kickoff, Ginn burned the Seahawks for a 102-yard return for a touchdown. Following a three-and-out, Seattle had to punt, and Ginn came through again with a 55-yard punt return for a score.
“It felt really like we were right there to take this game over, then we just fell apart in the kicking game,”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Teddy Ginn did his stuff and had two great plays and took our chance of coming back in this game away.
“It’s a game that could have been much different.”
Carroll and his team were expecting a much different outcome after Baldwin made it a 19-17 game with his touchdown. The Seahawks had fought back after a lifeless first half, and the defense, which had been solid all game, only needed one more stop for Seattle to have a chance at a game-winning drive.
“I really felt like our defense was going to get the ball back,” said Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. “They had been doing such a great job all day, so it was a no-brainer. I really felt like they were going to get the ball back to us and we were going to drive the field and get a touchdown or a field goal and win the game.
Only the defense never got the chance to make that key stop, and Jackson never had a chance to lead that winning drive, because special teams, Seattle’s strength last season, blew up in spectacular fashion.
“We were right there,” Carroll said. “All the way to that point, we were ready to win the game, then bang, there goes the kick return, then there goes the other kick return. Our breakdowns there just took the opportunity away from us.”
After the first half, it was something of an accomplishment that Seattle even got as close as it did. The offensive line, which consisted of two rookies, John Moffitt and James Carpenter, at guard and a right tackle, Breno Giacomini, who was making his first career start, struggled mightily. Jackson was sacked three times in the half and Seattle averaged only 1.1 yards-per-carry, and the result was five punts, a fumble and an interception on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the half.
Seattle trailed just 16-0, however, because of a strong showing from the defense. Thanks to the fumble as well as a 31-yard punt return by Ginn, San Francisco started two of its first-half drives deep in Seahawks territory, but had to settle for field goals on both occasions.
The 49ers finally got a touchdown just before halftime when quarterback Alex Smith scored on a one-yard run after cornerback Brandon Browner was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.
Seattle held San Francisco to 209 yards for the game, and the 49ers converted only one of 12 third-down chances and averaged 2.7 yards-per-carry. The only knock on the defense was that it failed to create a turnover or record a sack on Smith.
“That’s a big day on defense,” Carroll said. “I thought we played defense all day long. … We did the things we needed to do, except we didn’t get the ball away from them.”
Even if the defense couldn’t force a game-changing turnover, it certainly did enough for Seattle to win had the offense played better or special teams not performed so poorly.
“The defense gave us a shot,” said Seattle receiver Mike Williams. “They did exactly what we expect them to do, that’s how they looked all preseason.”
The offense finally got going in the second half, scoring on a 56-yard drive on its first possession. Jackson, who finished the game 21-for-37 for 197 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, connected with wide receiver Golden Tate for an eight-yard score to end Seattle’s scoring drought. The defense then forced two straight three and outs, and that was followed by a long drive that ended in a field goal to make the score 16-10. The 49ers answered with a field goal of their own, but Seattle quickly made it a two-point game with Baldwin’s score. Then Ginn took over and put the game away for San Francisco.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksbloglead