SANTA CLARA, Calif. — They let it get away. The game. You can’t turn over the ball the way the Niners did, two fumbles and an interception, and expect to win.
They let it get away. The unbeaten record.
“You’re always disappointed when you don’t win,” said Niners coach Kyle Shanahan.
So nobody goes through the NFL season without a defeat — except the ’72 Dolphins, in the sport’s Pleistocene Era — but this was an awful way to lose.
But lose is what the Niners did Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, where the seats were filled and the crowd was vocal.
This one went to the final second of overtime and the Seattle Seahawks, who have ruled over the Niners one way or another, got a 42-yard field goal from Jason Myers for a 27-24 victory.
That came after the guy the Niners picked up earlier in the week, a rookie free agent who had been waived by the Chargers, Chase McLaughlin, missed a 47-yarder that would have been the winner, with 3:10 to play in OT.
It was all set for a miraculous Hollywood finish. But this time, the hero didn’t rescue the ingénue. Who wrote this script, anyway?
“Pick a spot,” said McLaughlin of his attempt, “and let it go through.”
But it missed, and the win streak was through.
Still, McLaughlin isn’t the one to blame. He kicked three field goals, including the 47-yarder that sent this bizarre game into overtime.
It seemed then the Niners would survive as the only unbeaten team in pro football, but when you bumble around on offense, you drop to an 8-1 record, which is only a notch above the 8-2 Seattle. The Niners have to play the Seahawks again, up there.
The Niners were ahead 10-0 before the game made it to the second quarter. Russell Wilson, the Seahawks will-o’-the-wisp quarterback, had completed only one pass, for five yards, and hadn’t run for any yards.
“I thought our defense was unbelievable,” confirmed Shanahan.
Sadly he would not say the same about the offense, mainly because of the Seattle defense, which varied from effective to “How did that guy get in our backfield?”
With three minutes in the half, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked on his own 10, lost the ball and Seattle picked it up on the 10 and crunched into the end zone.
Suddenly, the game was on, even though the Seahawks had only 89 yards offense.
Seattle was very much in it, and Wilson was yet to step out of the phone booth and become Superman, err, the real Russell Wilson.
In the end, Wilson completed 24 of 34 for 232 yards and an interception and ran 53 yards. Garoppolo was 24 of 46 for 248 yards, an interception and a touchdown.
“I think we just had too many self-imposed mistakes,” Garoppolo observed. “I think I could throw the ball better, and we could catch it better. It’s just not one specific thing. It’s a reality check for us.”
The Niners were without their star tight end George Kittle, who is hurt, but every team in the NFL has injury problems, and coaches keep reminding that you have find a way to survive.
Coaches also keep saying that turnovers will prove fatal. And for the Niners, in this game they certainly were, even though Seattle also turned the ball over three times.
The Seahawks, however, had something the 49ers did not, a running game. Seattle rushed for 147 yards, compared to 87 for the Niners.
“They were on it,” Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk said about the Seattle defense. “They seem to have the game planned pretty well … It’s a weird feeling. Usually we’ve always answered this whole season. We just had a lot of miscues.”
Which become critical.
“We felt we had a number of chances,” said Shanahan. “I was very proud of our guys. We had a number of people hurting. I think guys left it all out there. They’re pretty exhausted,”
What they also left there was that unbeaten record.