Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson fumbles on Seattle's best chance at a go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.
The victory was almost in the Seahawks’ grasp.
At least it was until quarterback Tarvaris Jackson lost hold of the ball.
With 78 seconds to go Saturday, Seattle was 1 yard short of a first down and two first downs from a reasonable field-goal attempt when Jackson was stripped of the ball. And just like that, the Seahawks came up empty-handed in a 19-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
“I was worried about the guy in front of me,” Jackson said. “The guy — I don’t know who it was — came back and stripped me.”
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That would be 49ers linebacker Larry Grant, who forced the fumble that foiled Seattle’s last legitimate scoring chance in the loss that formally extinguished Seattle’s playoff hopes. But the game also showed just how far these Seahawks have come this season.
“Our guys went toe to toe with them,” coach Pete Carroll said.
There were three lead changes in the second half — two in the fourth quarter — as the Seahawks, who had lost six of their first eight games this season, played in their regular-season home finale like the playoff contenders they were. Seattle didn’t look anything like the team that gained just 37 yards in the first half of their Week 1 loss at San Francisco.
Seattle drove 80 yards on its first possession, scoring on Doug Baldwin’s 13-yard touchdown catch. It was the first time the 49ers had allowed a touchdown on the opponent’s first drive this season. The Seahawks led 10-3 at halftime.
Yes, the 49ers clearly outplayed Seattle in the second half. They outgained the Seahawks 227-72 and outscored them 16-7. And if not for a blocked punt, Seattle might not have scored a touchdown after halftime.
San Francisco drove 75 yards for a touchdown to open the second half, scoring on a 4-yard run by Frank Gore. The 49ers followed with two field goals and led by as many as six points.
But the Seahawks hung in there against the NFC West champions, who now stand one win from securing a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“We can play anybody,” Carroll said. “I don’t care who it is or where it is. We can play anybody. As young as we are, I was just fired up to see us battle all through that and give us a chance at the end.”
There were plenty of reasons Seattle lost this game. The Seahawks didn’t force any turnovers, they started four second-half drives inside their own 20, and they gained just three first downs in the second half.
Behind the running-back tandem of Gore and Kendall Hunter, the 49ers ran for 178 yards — the most rushing yards allowed by Seattle this season.
And when the Seahawks scored their only points of the second half on Lynch’s 4-yard touchdown run with 6:41 left in the game, their defense couldn’t hold the lead.
The last of the 49ers’ four second-half scoring drives was keyed by a 41-yard pass from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree, setting up David Akers for his fourth field goal of the game, which turned out to be the winner.
“We definitely knew it was going to be a dogfight,” linebacker David Hawthorne said. “It was one of those deals where it didn’t happen for us, and it happened for them.”
The Seahawks had one final chance after Jackson’s fumble, getting the ball back at their 26 with 41 seconds left and no timeouts. They didn’t pick up a first down, coming up two points short in a game that nonetheless showed how much progress these Seahawks have made.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.