Final | 49ers 41, Seahawks 23
NFL playoffs wild-card round
1:30 p.m. | Levi’s Stadium | Santa Clara, Calif.
TV: FOX | Radio: 710 AM/97.3 FM | Stream: NFL Game Pass
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NFL playoffs Seahawks at 49ers
Seahawks fade in second half of blowout loss to 49ers in wild-card round
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Seahawks knew they would have to play a basically blemish-free game to beat the 49ers in a wild-card playoff game Saturday.
And for almost three quarters, the Seahawks did.
Their offense had the NFL’s top-ranked defense on its heels, and the defense was doing just enough to keep Seattle in it, largely by holding the 49ers to field goals instead of touchdowns on three long drives.
But then came the one mistake the Seahawks knew they couldn’t make, with Geno Smith fumbling the ball away on a strip sack by Charles Omenhiu on a third down at the 49ers’ 30 with 2:25 to play in the third quarter, San Francisco ahead only 23-17.
Three things we learned from Seahawks’ loss to 49ers in wild-card round
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Seahawks defied all expectations getting here, riding a castoff quarterback to the playoffs in what many assumed would be a rebuilding season.
As heavy underdogs against their biggest rival, Geno Smith and the Seahawks continued that trend in the first half Saturday, taking the lead into halftime in a wildly entertaining start. Ultimately, the 49ers did what just about everyone expected them to do, looking very much like a Super Bowl contender while pulling away for a 41-23 wild-card playoff game at Levi’s Stadium.
Here are three immediate impressions from the game.
Niners take advantage of Geno Smith's fumble, extend lead to 31-17 with Purdy TD and two-point conversion
Third quarter impressions
The Seahawks, trailing 23-17, were in prime position to at least kick a field goal late in the third quarter when Geno Smith lost a fumble after being stripped by Charles Omenihu. Nick Bosa recovered it at the 49ers’ 30-yard line. It was the first turnover of the game, and wiped out another great drive by Smith and the Seahawks offense. And with as well as the 49ers offense is moving the ball right now — and with as much trouble as the Seahawks are having tackling Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel — the Seahawks enter the fourth quarter in danger of letting this one slip away.
Things got heated in the third quarter. The 49ers were upset when Seahawks safety Johnathan Abram pulled the leg of 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel after a tackle, leading to some pushing and shoving between linemen in the middle of the field. No penalty was thrown on the play, despite Samuel’s protests. The incident came after an unnecessary roughness penalty on 49ers safety Jimmie Ward in the closing seconds of the first half on his hit of Geno Smith, which set up Jason Myers’ 56-yard field goal just before halftime.
Have a day, DK
This is shaping up to be DK Metcalf’s best playoff game since his first one as a rookie in 2019. Remember that one? Metcalf was unstoppable that night, posting seven catches for 160 yards and one touchdown. He’s having a similar-type game today, and the Seahawks will need more from him in the fourth quarter if they hope to make a serious comeback.
Deebo Samuel takes crossing pass for 21 yards on third down, but is down and teams exchange tense words
49ers move quickly into Seahawks territory on first drive of second half
The 49ers are already into Seahawks territory on their first drive of the second half after Brock Purdy hit George Kittle for a 23-yard gain to the Seattle 40.
First half impressions
We have a ballgame
Well, if the first two possessions on each side of the ball made it look like it would be a long day for Seattle, everything since has indicated it could turn out to be a good one.
Seattle’s methodical march for its first touchdown and then its quick strike on the 50-yard pass from Geno Smith to DK Metcalf for its second touchdown gave the Seahawks the lead and stunned the previously boisterous Levi’s Stadium crowd.
Smith has been spectacular so far in his first career playoff game, hitting 9 of 10 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He also has three rushes for 19 yards, with his scramble just before half helping Seattle get into position for Jason Myers’ 56-yard field goal that put the Seahawks, who were 9.5-point underdogs entering the game, ahead 17-16 at the break.
Sticking with the run paying off
The Seahawks already have more rushing attempts (20) and yards (82) than in either of the first two games against the 49ers, when they had 14 for 36 and 14 for 70, respectively.
What’s been the difference? Well, the Seahawks undoubtedly appear to be blocking better. Kenneth Walker III is also continuing his decisive running of the last three weeks and has 54 yards on 13 carries.
Weather a non-factor
So much for all the pregame discussion about the weather. It rained a little in the first quarter, but the sun came out early in the second. And the field has not been an issue throughout as it was covered before the game and dry during warmups.
With the sun out now, it appears to be dry again, with footing appearing to be just fine.
Jason Myers drills field goal from 56 yards as Seahawks take advantage of 49ers' penalty, retake lead before halftime
On third-and-10 from the Seattle 46, Brock Purdy found Deebo Samuel on a short cross. Samuel proceeded to do his thing, evading Michael Jackson and taking it for 18 yards.
First quarter impressions
Pete Carroll opened the week talking about how “loaded” the 49ers are on offense, and the 49ers opened this game proving just how loaded they truly are. Christian McCaffrey took off for 68 yards on his first carry of the game — his first playoff carry, period — and then scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass from rookie Brock Purdy to give the 49ers a quick 10-0 lead 10 minutes into this game. Seattle’s defense needs to figure things out … and it needs to happen now.
Geno Smith was sacked on his first drop back by Arik Armstead, something the Seahawks obviously cannot afford to have happen a whole lot today. They have to keep Smith clean — no small task against this 49ers defensive front — if they want to have any chance at a comeback here.
For as bad as things started for the Seahawks offense, they did start to build some momentum late in the first quarter, driving to the 49ers’ 21-yard line. Rookie Kenneth Walker III has been solid so far, gaining 27 yards on six carries, and it’s clear the Seahawks want — and need — to establish the run game with him.
49ers open the scoring with a 34-yard field goal by Robbie Gould
The scoring play: Robbie Gould hit a 34-yard field goal to give the 49ers the early lead after a drive in which Brock Purdy attempted to air it out, but couldn't connect on a few big throws. Deebo Samuel (and his easy elusiveness) is clearly back, however.
The drive: 7 plays, 48 yards, 2:22.
The score: 49ers 3, Seahawks 0 with 10:13 left in 1Q.
49ers bounce back quickly from high throw by Brock Purdy on first play
Quarterback Brock Purdy threw high of Deebo Samuel on San Francisco's first offensive play, but the 49ers followed it up with a solid 19-yard pass to Brandon Aiyuk and a 22-yard rush by Samuel.
No surprises among Seahawks' inactives vs. 49ers
Seattle’s list of seven inactive players for Saturday’s game contained no surprises.
Two players listed as questionable due to injury — guard Phil Haynes (ankle) and cornerback Xavier Crawford (hamstring) — were among the seven.
The other five inactives are all healthy scratches for Seattle to get down to the gameday max of 48 players — running back Tony Jones Jr., cornerback Artie Burns, linebackers Vi Jones and Joshua Onujiogu and receiver Penny Hart.
Jones was signed to the 53-man roster on Friday as emergency if the Seahawks had any issues at running back — DeeJay Dallas had been listed as questionable with ankle and quadriceps injuries. But Dallas is good to go and will be one of Seattle’s three running backs active along with Kenneth Walker III and Godwin Igwebuike.
Haynes will miss his second straight game, meaning Gabe Jackson will again be asked to play the whole game at right guard; Haynes and Jackson had been rotating before Haynes suffered what coach Pete Carroll called a high ankle sprain against the Jets on Jan. 1.
And worth noting that not on the list is safety Ryan Neal. That’s no surprise as Carroll on Thursday said Neal had been cleared to play after missing the last three games with a knee injury. Still, it at least indicates he also had no setbacks since then.
The inactives for the 49ers are: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, cornerback Ambry Thomas, running backs Tevin Coleman and Tyrion Davis-Price, offensive lineman Nick Zakelj, tight end Ross Dwelley and defensive lineman Drake Jackson.
What to watch for when Seahawks play 49ers in wild-card round — plus Bob Condotta’s prediction
The addition of a seventh playoff team in each conference starting in 2020 skews some of the historical stats. The Seahawks would already be done for the season if not for the added spot.
But, the rules are the rules, and the Seahawks will gladly take their 15th playoff berth in 20 years — trailing only New England’s 17 in that same span — and hope to “do something with it,” as coach Pete Carroll said this week.
The Seahawks often have since Carroll arrived in 2010, winning at least one game in the playoffs in seven of their previous nine appearances.
Saturday’s game in Santa Clara against the 49ers will be as challenging as any with the Seahawks a 10-point underdog against a team that has won 10 in a row and swept them this year in two games by a combined score of 48-20, holding Seattle to just one offensive touchdown.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup with the 49ers with our weekly keys to the game and prediction.
Seahawks make three roster moves before wild-card game against 49ers
The Seahawks made three moves Friday to bolster their roster for Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, signing running back Tony Jones Jr. to the 53-man roster off the practice squad and elevating receiver Cade Johnson and linebacker Alexander Johnson from the practice squad.
Seattle waived defensive tackle Isaiah Mack off the 53-man roster to make room for Jones, who was added as depth with running back DeeJay Dallas listed as questionable with knee and quad injuries.
Dallas was listed as limited in practice Thursday but coach Pete Carroll indicated he’d be able to play.
Why Seahawks vs. 49ers might again be among NFL’s best rivalries
Once upon a time, the Seahawks and 49ers had the NFL’s best rivalry, hands down. Certainly, it was the most heated — maybe in all of sports. The coaches had well-documented friction, the talented young quarterbacks were vying for supremacy, and the stakes were constantly at the highest level.
The intensity began to dissipate after the 2014 season when San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan. It fizzled even more when the 49ers sank to the bottom of the NFC West Division for a four-year span, going 17-47 between 2015-18. By the time they got good again in ’19 under Kyle Shanahan — three coaches removed from Harbaugh — most of the players who made Seahawks vs. 49ers such riveting theater had retired or moved on (or moved from Seattle to San Francisco, in Richard Sherman’s case).
Could we be on the verge of a revived second chapter of this rivalry? Though it’s highly unlikely the Seahawks and 49ers will ever match the dynamic personalities (and personality conflicts) that flowed through both rosters in the heyday, or replicate the tension between the coaches, Saturday’s playoff game at Levi’s Stadium could well be the precursor to a new era of meaningful games between them.
And, after all, that’s how rivalries initially percolate — via two teams who constantly find the other one blocking their path toward a championship. Consider the current landscape of the division. The Rams mortgaged their future for last year’s Lombardi Trophy and now could be facing a prolonged dry spell. The Cardinals are in a state of disarray following a 4-13 season that resulted in the firing of their coach and resignation of their general manager.
The 49ers and Seahawks, meanwhile, have much brighter outlooks that portend many more significant encounters like Saturday’s. The heavily favored 49ers built a powerhouse and have emerged as one of the Super Bowl favorites. The Seahawks vastly overachieved expectations after trading quarterback Russell Wilson and now have a No. 5 overall draft pick coming, courtesy of the Broncos, to add a high-impact player.
Seahawks embracing underdog role vs. 49ers as they’ve ‘got nothing to lose’
RENTON — If, as Janis Joplin so memorably sang, freedom is really just another word for having nothing left to lose, then consider the Seahawks to be, well, free as a bird as they head into the 2022 playoffs.
The Seahawks are as much as a 10-point underdog heading to Santa Clara to play a wild-card playoff game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against the 49ers, who have won 10 in a row and feature a defense ranked first in the NFL in both fewest points and yards allowed and an offense ranked in the top six in both categories.
“It’s like nobody expects us to win outside of our building,” receiver Tyler Lockett said. “We believe that we can win, but nobody else does. Nobody thought that we would be able to do any of the things that we were able to do (this season). Everybody was shocked that we even got into the playoffs. I mean, for us it’s like, man, we’re just going to go out there and just play free. … We’re just going to play like we’ve got nothing to lose.”
As Lockett indicated, the season already feels like a success given the events of last March, when the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson and released Bobby Wagner, emphatically turning the page on the Legion of Boom era and heading uncertainly into a new one.
With a cachet of five draft picks over the 2022 and 2023 seasons from Denver, the season had all the feel of a rebuilding year, even if coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider always resisted using that word.
The joke was on much of the rest of the NFL — and the laughs in Seattle — as the Seahawks jumped out to a 6-3 start and rallied from a late-season slump to win the final two games and sneak into the seventh and final spot in the playoffs.
In NFL full of instability, Geno Smith stabilizes the QB spot for Seahawks
RENTON — Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith had no real use for delving into fantasy this week.
As he prepared for the first postseason start of his career at the age of 32, against the 49ers on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium, Smith was asked if the game feels like a fitting end to what has been a “fairy tale” of a season.
“I would say it’s not a fairy tale,” Smith said. “I’d say it’s very much reality, and where we are as a team is that we’ve been working hard. We put a lot of good stuff on tape as a team. I think we’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season, since training camp and [organized team activities], and it’s all just a result of the hard work and all the repetition that everyone has put in.”
If returning to the playoffs after a year away was a team effort, it’s fair to say no one was more important than Smith, who throughout the ups and downs of a 17-game regular season provided the Seahawks with uncommon stability at the game’s most important position — and especially so in a season when there was uncommon instability at QB around the rest of the league.
When the dust cleared on the 2022 regular season, 68 different quarterbacks started games, the most in the NFL since 1987. That 1987 season comes with an asterisk as that was the year of a three-game players strike and replacement players, which resulted in 87 different QBs starting.
Smith was one of 10 quarterbacks this season to start all of his team’s games.
‘A stand-up guy’: Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett takes selfless approach as emerging team leader
RENTON — During a typical week, as the Seahawks are wrapping up their final walk-through practice the day before a game, Tyler Lockett will approach Sanjay Lal with an atypical request.
“Can we watch one more game together?” Lockett will ask.
Lal has spent 15 years as an NFL assistant coach. He’s worked with dozens and dozens of productive wide receivers. Few, if any, of them are as committed to their craft as he’s seen from Lockett this season.
Lal is happy to oblige Lockett’s request. Of course he is. And Lal knows he might learn as much from Lockett as Lockett learns from him when they squeeze in one last film study session the day before a game.
“He won’t go into a game without feeling completely comfortable,” said Lal, in his first season as the Seahawks passing-game coordinator and receivers coach. “He has to know how defensive backs play and how the structure of the defense is going to take him away, and he will know that better than any receiver I’ve been around.”
There shouldn’t be too many surprises Saturday when the Seahawks travel to the Bay Area for an NFC wild-card playoff game against the rival 49ers (1:30 p.m., FOX). Geno Smith and Seahawks receivers generally know how the 49ers secondary will defend them, just as the 49ers generally know how the Seahawks will want to attack them through the air.
That won’t stop the Seahawks from trying to come up with a few new wrinkles. And chances are, Lockett will have direct input in that.
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