What … just … happened … here?
The San Francisco 49ers held on for a dramatic 26-21 victory over the Seahawks late Sunday at CenturyLink Field, giving the 49ers the NFC West division title and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The loss means Seattle (11-5) is the NFC’s No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs next weekend by traveling to Philadelphia in a rematch of the Seahawks’ 17-9 victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia on Nov. 24.
Three early impressions from the Seahawks’ loss on Sunday:
1. Comeback comes up short
The Seahawks’ comeback bid came up just inches short in a dramatic finish Sunday night at CenturyLink Field.
In the final seconds, Russell Wilson completed a fourth-down pass to tight end Jacob Hollister, who was hit and tackled down inside the 1-yard line.
After a lengthy review, officials ruled Hollister did not cross the goal line.
With nine seconds left, the 49ers took over at their 1-yard line and ran one play up the middle to run out the clock.
Wilson had completed an earlier fourth-down pass to rookie John Ursua — his first career catch — to get the Seahawks down to the 1-yard line with 42 seconds left.
Wilson then spiked the ball with 23 seconds remaining, but the Seahawks were then hit with a delay-of-game penalty after that.
That pushed them back to the 5-yard line.
Wilson’s next two passes into the end zone fell incomplete, before his fourth-down completion to Hollister, who was hit down by 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
2. Feed the Beast
They gave it to Beast Mode this time.
At the 1-yard line, Wilson handed the ball off to Lynch, who leapt over the pile at the goal line to score a touchdown at the 9:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
That got the Seahawks within 19-14.
It was Lynch’s first rushing TD for the Seahawks since Nov. 15, 2015.
The Seahawks were shut out in the first half, trailing 13-0 at halftime.
Lynch got the crowd on its feet with his 15-yard run into the open field midway through the third quarter, helping to set up the Seahawks’ first score of the game.
Lynch had 23 yards on four carries on that touchdown drive, and he finished with 12 carries for 34 yards and that 1-yard TD run.
Just as impressive for the Seahawks is the play of rookie Travis Homer, who in his first career start has 62 yards on 10 carries. Homer has looked spry, and he certainly doesn’t shy away from contact.
Homer also has three receptions for 14 yards, including third-down dump down catch from Wilson to pick up a key first down on the first scoring drive.
3. Defensive breakdowns
As the 49ers’ offense took the field following Wilson’s third-quarter TD pass to Tyler Lockett, the CenturyLink crowd was as loud as it had been all night.
But as they were able to do all night, the 49ers had an answer.
The 49ers’ response quickly silenced the home crowd, as Jimmy Garoppolo found his fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, wide open for a 49-yard gain down the San Francisco sideline.
To make matters worse, Seahawks veteran linebacker Michael Kendricks was injured at the end of the tackle. He had to be helped off the field with a knee injury and rookie Cody Barton finished the game at outside linebacker.
The most glaring absence was Quandre Diggs, the free safety who made his Seahawks debut against the 49ers in their first meeting on Nov. 11. His veteran influence was a steadying force for the Seahawks’ secondary, but he was out for the second week in a row with a high ankle sprain.
Lano Hill, starting in Diggs’ place, simply does not have the same speed or savvy, and that showed up throughout the game Sunday night.