San Francisco's Ted Ginn returns a kickoff 102 yards, and a punt 55 yards after Seattle cuts 16-point deficit to 2.
SAN FRANCISCO — Ted Ginn raised the football above his shoulder, but thought better of the celebration when he saw Seahawks safety Earl Thomas in the rearview mirror.
Ginn looked up at the video screen on the scoreboard, realized Thomas was right behind him and knew he had to run every single one of those 102 yards on his record-setting, game-clinching kickoff return.
That could also describe the story line for Sunday’s game at Candlestick Park. The Seahawks got closer than many expected in the second half, only to watch the 49ers win going away, 33-17.
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“The game was in our grasp,” Thomas said. “It was right there for us to get, but we just couldn’t finish it.”
For as bad as Seattle’s offense played in the first two quarters — and it was abjectly miserable — 59 seconds in the fourth quarter ultimately decided the outcome.
A 16-point halftime deficit had been cut to two after rookie Doug Baldwin’s 55-yard touchdown catch with 3 minutes, 56 seconds left. The Seahawks needed one stand from their defense, which had held San Francisco without a first down in the third quarter, to have a shot.
“It felt really like we’re right there to take this game over,” coach Pete Carroll said.
The defense never got the chance. Ginn fielded the ensuing kickoff 2 yards deep in the end zone, ran it out and cut right at about the 15. He ran past cornerback Walter Thurmond, who had crept inside a blocker who then sealed Thurmond from getting to the sideline. Kicker Steve Hauschka took a poor angle, and Thomas couldn’t run him down.
If the kickoff return was the dagger that sealed the outcome, Ginn’s 55-yard punt return 59 seconds later just increased the sting.
“We had two kicks returned for touchdowns,” Carroll said. “That’s a bad day. That loses you a football game.”
Not that Seattle played well enough to win.
The Seahawks committed 11 penalties, allowed five sacks and committed three turnovers, though one of those was on a pass quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw up for grabs on the final play of the first half.
That heave actually constituted progress, because at least Seattle was actually looking downfield — something that didn’t happen much.
Seattle crossed midfield only once in the first two quarters and gained only one first down in the final 25 minutes of the half.
San Francisco scored 16 points in the second quarter, while Seattle had 5 yards of offense in the period.
The 49ers started three of their four second-quarter possessions in Seattle’s half of the field. One began at the Seattle 9 after Jackson fumbled when he was clobbered from behind, with tight end Anthony McCoy failing to get inside of linebacker Parys Haralson. Given the circumstances, Seattle’s defense played admirably in allowing only one touchdown in the first half.
Someone found the jumper cables at halftime, because Seattle’s offense started right up in the third quarter. The Seahawks drove 56 yards on their first possession of the second half, with each of the four active receivers catching a pass — including Golden Tate, who scored on an 8-yard catch.
Seattle’s defense forced three punts in the third quarter, and while the 49ers held the ball for nine minutes on a field-goal drive in the fourth quarter, those were the only points Seattle’s defense allowed in the second half.
The Seahawks outgained the 49ers by 101 yards in the second half, and with four minutes left, they appeared to be in position to pull off a comeback.
Instead, they left the field kicking themselves over the kicking game.
“I love the way we fought back,” Carroll said. “I love the way we played defense today, and the chance we had to win this game. I don’t care what happens in the first half, it’s how you finish, and we had a chance to finish this game and then we let it get away.”
Or more precisely, the Seahawks let Ginn get away. Twice.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org