Unable to get out of their own way on a wet, windy day at Levis Stadium, the Seattle Seahawks pursuit for a playoff berth will be prolonged for at least one more week.
Needing one conference win to clinch a postseason berth, the Seahawks racked up 168 yards on the ground, converted nearly 50 percent of their third downs, and won the turnover battle, following a similar formula to their Week 13 home win over the 49ers.
But unlike two weeks ago and during the team’s now-snapped four-game winning streak, the Seahawks consistently stalled their own drives and extended possessions for their division rivals with costly penalties, positioning the 49ers to win 26-23 in overtime on a short field goal by Robbie Gould.
With the officials chucking yellow flags all over the drenched field, Seattle accumulated a franchise-record 148 penalty yards. Essentially beating themselves, playing behind the sticks created too much for the Seahawks to overcome according to coach Pete Carroll.
“It’s interesting how these games take a turn sometimes and you gotta look at the numbers and see what happened in the game.” Carroll said. “This was really a clear game that we hurt ourselves so much with this penalty thing that it just took our chances away.”
Now at 8-6 on the season, the Seahawks may look back at this game with plenty of remorse with two games left on the schedule, especially considering the contest couldn’t have started any better for the favored visitors and they had a plethora of chances to win.
After forcing an immediate three-and-out by San Francisco to open the game, Seattle quickly marched 59 yards on nine plays before quarterback Russell Wilson dropped a dime to receiver Doug Baldwin in the back left-hand corner of the end zone to give Carroll’s team an early lead.
But after kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s extra point attempt sailed wide right, not much went right the remainder of the first half, starting with the ensuing kickoff.
Racing past a flock of Seattle tacklers, including Janikowski himself, Richie James exploded down the right sideline for a 97-yard kickoff return, instantly giving San Francisco a one-point lead. After the Seahawks failed to exploit a fumble by running back Jeff Wilson Jr. late in the first quarter, quarterback Nick Mullens took advantage of safety Tedric Thompson slipping and face-planting on the soggy playing surface, connecting with tight end Garrett Celek for a 41-yard score to extend the 49ers lead.
As they did for the entirety of this slop-fest by the bay, the Seahawks would not go away, however. Leading the charge, a healthy Baldwin returned from a one-game absence hauling in spectacular catches and exhibiting the toughness that has been his calling card since entering the league undrafted.
After a 24-yard run by Chris Carson, who finished with 119 rushing yards, Seattle moved past midfield into San Francisco territory. Three plays later, Baldwin leapt up and snatched a pass from Wilson, bouncing off a tackle attempt in mid-air and eventually diving past the goal line for a 35-yard touchdown to bring Seattle back to within a point.
Listed as questionable with a groin injury heading into the game, Baldwin finished with four receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns, with the bulk of his damage coming in the first half.
“Doug played phenomenal today. That was a great game.” Carroll said. “Incredible plays and Russ found him well and hooked up with him but Doug was spectacular today.”
Missing the leadership of injured strong safety Bradley McDougald, Seattle continued to struggle with coverage breakdowns on the next drive, allowing explosive pass plays from Mullens to George Kittle and Celek before Gould added to the 49ers lead heading into the break.
Wilson had his sights set on recording another comeback win, but time and time again, penalties plagued the Seahawks in the second half. As part of their not-so-historic day, the officials flagged Seattle a whopping 10 times over the final two quarters and overtime.
Prior to the 49ers second drive of the third quarter, cornerback Neiko Thorpe drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, gifting the home team with outstanding starting field position. Helped by two additional 15-yard penalties on linebacker Bobby Wagner and cornerback Justin Coleman, the 49ers moved in front by seven on another Gould field goal.
Seattle tied the game on a herculean effort by Carson, who used a second and third effort to not be denied on a fourth down run at the goal line to knot the score at 20 apiece. But the 49ers again responded with a penalty-aided scoring drive, as a questionable pass interference call against safety Delano Hill moved them past midfield for Gould’s third field goal of the game.
The Seahawks appeared primed to take the lead, marching deep into 49ers territory on the next drive. As was the case the entire second half, the officials intervened, this time flagging guard J.R. Sweezy for a hold that wiped out a first down run by Mike Davis. Unable to pick up 15 yards, Janikowski knocked in a 48-yard field goal to even the score once again.
Even as Seattle’s pass rush “got after it” according to Carroll and sacked Mullens three times during the next two possessions, Wilson and the offense couldn’t muster a game-winning drive with penalties continuing to halt momentum.
Aiming to take the lead late in regulation, a 19-yard run by Davis to the 49ers 38-yard line was cancelled out by a holding call on reserve guard Ethan Pocic. Bad luck struck again after Seattle won the coin toss in overtime, as another hold against Pocic negated a 32-yard completion from Wilson to J.D. McKissic.
“The hold happens on the big play, that’s the big play for us to get out of there and it’s unfortunate. That’s the way it goes sometimes.” Carroll said. “It’s not cause we’re not trying- guys are busting their tails to get it done, but we went to far I guess.”
With their backs against the wall, Seattle’s defense couldn’t orchestrate one more stop. A pass interference call on cornerback Shaquill Griffin and a 16-yard run by Wilson Jr. set up the 49ers for the win and Gould was money from 36 yards out, ending their 10-game losing streak to the Seahawks.
Losing to an opponent that had only three wins all season heading into Sunday, Seattle’s margin for error with two games left to play has shrunk a bit.
But if there’s a silver lining, the Seahawks wrap up with back-to-back home games and still control their own destiny. Following an ugly, penalty-littered defeat, Carroll’s team will be best-served to simply erase this one from their memory and start prepping for Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Chiefs with plenty left to play for.