Russell Wilson was the first to greet Marshawn Lynch in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
There, Lynch held out his right hand, resurrecting his signature touchdown celebration — a simple handshake after his 1-yard touchdown run — from his glory days with the Seahawks.
Wilson, it appeared, might have been preparing to hand-off to Lynch again in the game’s final seconds Sunday against the 49ers.
Instead, as Lynch ran in from the sideline and joined the huddle, the Seahawks were called for a delay-of-game penalty, which pushed them back to the San Francisco 5-yard line and effectively ended any chance of giving Beast Mode the ball one more time.
Wilson’s final three passes, in dramatic and controversial fashion, all fell incomplete, and San Francisco held on for a 26-21 victory in a what-the-heck-just-happened finish at CenturyLink Field.
That gave the 49ers the NFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The Seahawks are the No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs at fourth-seeded Philadelphia next Sunday afternoon.
Lynch, reunited with the Seahawks six days earlier, was playing in his first NFL game in 14 months — “fresh off the couch,” as he put it. He finished with 34 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Coach Pete Carroll indicated that the Seahawks might have preparing to give the ball to Lynch at the 1-yard line with 22 seconds left — before confusion on the sideline and in the huddle prompted the delay-of-game penalty.
“You’ll never know,” he said.
Wouldn’t it have been a storybook ending, though?
“Yes, it would have been,” Carroll said. “It was pretty storybook as it was.”
Lynch received a loud ovation during pregame introductions, when he jogged out of the tunnel with fellow running backs Robert Turbin and Travis Homer.
The crowd reached a crescendo in the third quarter when Lynch had his best run of the day, a 15-yard burst into the open field. That helped set up the Seahawks’ first touchdown of the day a few plays later, a Wilson touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett in the back of the end zone.
“Straight love. Straight up,” Lynch said of the reception from the fans. “They made your boy feel right at home. That’s some solid (stuff).”
The crowd was on its feet again early in the fourth quarter when Lynch leaped over the pile at the goal line to score the 1-yard touchdown at the 9:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
That got the Seahawks within 19-14.
“Just to see Marshawn dive into the end zone there, that was awesome,” Wilson said. “To have Beast Mode back, he made some amazing runs. Just the excitement when he came into the game, it was just like old times. It just felt right, him being back there.”
It was Lynch’s first rushing TD for the Seahawks since Nov. 15, 2015.
“It felt good,” Lynch said. “But at the end of the day, you know, I play to win.”
Just as impressive for the Seahawks was the emergence of Homer, the rookie sixth-round pick who in his first career start had 62 yards on 10 carries. Homer looked spry, and he certainly didn’t shy away from contact.
Homer also had five receptions for 30 yards, including a third-down, dump-down catch to pick up a key first down on the first scoring drive.
“Oh, he did great,” Carroll said. “He played great tonight. He was so aggressive. What a tough kid he is. That’s all he’s ever shown us. He just did what he always does. I thought he looked great tonight.”