By Cedric Williams
For the Seattle Seahawks, last week’s loss to Arizona still stings. That loss meant Seattle would need to win its own game this week and get some help in order to win back the coveted No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Seahawks did their part by knocking off the San Francisco 49ers 25-23 on Sunday. Unfortunately, the ‘Hawks didn’t get the help they needed to move any higher up the NFC playoff ladder.
Still though, Seattle gave a performance against San Francisco that should have the team confident as they approach the first round of the playoffs next week. And it’s because of that performance that we’ve got high marks all around for what Seattle did on Sunday.
The Seahawks didn’t seem to have much trouble moving the ball throughout the day. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 258 yards and a touchdown, and hit the 49ers for several big plays, which allowed his club to push ahead late in the second quarter.
With Seattle up in the fourth quarter, head coach Pete Carroll pulled some of his starters to rest them for next week’s playoff game. It was a questionable move with Sunday’s game still in doubt, but it worked out fine as the Seahawks reserves, led by backup QB Trevone Boykin, held off the Niners for the victory.
Boykin’s best work came late in the fourth quarter, following San Francisco’s final touchdown, which pulled the Niners to within two points. If the Niners could’ve gotten the ball back, all they would’ve needed was a field goal to take the lead and possibly hand the Seahawks a loss that could’ve knocked them down to the No. 4 seed.
But with the pressure on, Boykin led the Seahawks on a 12-play, 53-yard drive that included four first downs and helped Seattle run out the final 5 minutes and 32 seconds.
Following a fumble on its first possession, the 49er offense got off to a fast start against the Seahawks by scoring touchdowns on their next two drives to take a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter.
But that was about all the Legion of Boom seemed interested in allowing on Sunday, as the Seahawks out gained the Niners 366 yards to just 99 yards over the final three quarters. San Francisco did manage to drive for a touchdown that pulled them to within two points late in the fourth quarter, but Seattle’s “D” really controlled the action for most of the day.
Special Teams: B-
We knew the loss of Tyler Lockett would really hurt the Seattle return game, and that was proven on Sunday as the Seahawks got hardly anything from any of its new kickoff or punt return guys. But Seattle did get terrific days from its own punter Jon Ryan and kicker Steven Hauschka.
Ryan averaged 46.0 yards on four punts, including one that was downed inside the 49er 20-yard line and a season-best long punt of 64 yards. While Hauschka went four-for-four on field goal attempts on a day when the Seahawks had little room to spare in what proved to be a victory the club really did need.
The Seahawks did have two particularly concerning problems in their kicking game, though. First, the PAT unit allowed one of Hauschka’s PATs to be blocked, which gave Seattle its league-leading sixth missed or blocked PAT of the season.
Then later, the snap on a punt was launched over Ryan’s head and out of the end zone for a safety, which gave San Francisco two points and helped them get back into the game.
Obviously, the Seahawks will need to shore up these problems in the kicking game before this weekend’s wild card tussle against Detroit. If not, Seattle could be making its first early playoff exit since 2004, which was the last time the Seahawks played and lost on wild card weekend.
Seattle’s head man Carroll made a true roll-the-dice decision when he pulled his starters to begin the fourth quarter on Sunday. The Seahawks were scoreboard watching a bit and were hoping to see the Atlanta Falcons lose to the New Orleans Saints—which, along with their own victory over the 49ers, would have given the ‘Hawks the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
But Atlanta had a huge lead over New Orleans, so it seemed unlikely that Seattle would be able to move any higher than No. 3. That’s why Carroll pulled his starters. Sunday’s game wasn’t over yet, and the Seahawks didn’t have a big enough lead to just assume they were going to hang on and win.
Things got really tight after a safety on the bad punt snap, but Carroll had confidence in his backups, and that confidence paid off. Seattle reserves brought home a victory that will keep the Seahawks on the more manageable side of the NFC playoff bracket, with likely games against Detroit and Atlanta, before possibly facing No. 1 Dallas in the NFC championship game.
As champions of the NFC West, but the No. 3 seed in the NFC, Seattle will host a wild card game, Saturday, January 7, against the No. 6 seed Detroit Lions. Kickoff for that game at CenturyLink Field is slated for 5:15 p.m. local time, and it will be televised live on NBC.