SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The play, DeeJay Dallas said, is called SportsCenter, because if it works as planned, it will end up being replayed on highlight shows all week long.
Well, it still might, but for none of the reasons the Seahawks anticipated.
Instead, Dallas’ pass on a halfback option in the end zone intended for DK Metcalf in the second quarter was picked off by San Francisco’s Charvarius Ward, ending what was Seattle’s only scoring threat of the day and symbolic of an afternoon when little went right in a 27-7 loss to the 49ers.
“Nothing worked,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We didn’t do anything anywhere.”
It was pretty much the complete opposite of Monday night when the Seahawks made almost all the right plays at the right time to beat Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos 17-16.
“What a distance from one week to the next,” Carroll said. “The league just reminds you how you get humbled.”
The 49ers grabbed control from the start and never let go, even despite losing quarterback Trey Lance to a devastating ankle injury late in the first quarter. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game that Lance suffered a broken ankle and will be sidelined for the year.
The 49ers led 3-0 at the time, and Jimmy Garoppolo came on to finish the drive and help the 49ers to a 6-0 lead. He threw a touchdown pass on the next drive and the 49ers led 13-0, and the rout appeared to be on.
But midway through the second quarter the Seahawks caught a break — an apparent Geno Smith interception was nullified by a pass-interference penalty on San Francisco’s Emmanuel Moseley.
Smith then hit Tyler Lockett for 27 yards to the 49ers 13 for Seattle’s longest gain of the day.
That’s when the Seahawks either grew creative or desperate — take your pick — unveiling a formation with four running backs in the backfield and Smith split wide left. It worked on the first play, with rookie Kenneth Walker III taking a direct snap and rushing for 5 yards to the 8.
So Seattle decided to try the formation again, this time hoping to lull the 49ers into thinking another run was coming and throwing a pass over their heads.
Walker handed the ball to Dallas, who rolled to his right, looking for Metcalf in the back of the end zone but also with the option to run if he saw the 49ers home in on Metcalf. Dallas said when he saw Ward initially step up toward him, he decided to throw it.
Only, Ward dropped back. When Dallas’ pass fluttered short, Ward had one of the easiest interceptions of any NFL season.
“I thought he was going to commit to me so I raised up to throw it and then he dropped back and I just couldn’t pull it back in time,” Dallas said. “That’s why [the pass] looked a little ugly.”
Dallas, who played quarterback at Glynn Academy high school in Brunswick, Georgia, said the play worked well in practice.
“I was looking forward to it for the whole week,” he said. “It was different looks all week, and I felt like I was prepared for that look. It just didn’t happen the way I needed it to go.”
Carroll said when he saw the way the 49ers were aligned that he thought about calling time out.
“I should have,” Carroll said. “It was a really cool play to call and give a shot to, but it asks a lot. And in that situation, I just wish I would have got us out of it.”
Carroll said he thinks the game might have been “entirely different” had Seattle scored there.
“That’s a huge turnaround when we screwed that up and don’t get in the end zone right there,” Carroll said.
No doubt. But the play also illustrated just how slim the margin of error for the Seahawks was on a day when all three phases came up lacking.
The offensive woes were the most glaring — aside from the drive that ended in the Dallas interception, Seattle crossed midfield only twice, in times when the 49ers were playing soft defense at the end of the first half and the end of the game.
Seattle’s other six drives ended at its own 41 or farther back, with its first three drives of the second half ending at its own 24, 22 and 23, respectively.
The Seahawks went into the game thinking they could run it on the 49ers, taking advantage of the aggressiveness of their defensive ends. Instead, Seattle was held to 36 yards rushing on 14 carries — Seattle has rushed for fewer in the Carroll era only six times — and the passing game couldn’t compensate. The Seahawks were held to 216 yards overall and haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in six quarters.
“We didn’t run the ball worth a darn today,” Carroll said.
The defense, meanwhile, again fell victim to shoddy tackling as the 49ers rushed for 189 yards on 45 carries — 51 coming on one play by Deebo Samuel when Darrell Taylor missed a tackle behind the line of scrimmage — while also committing seven of Seattle’s 10 penalties.
“I think we laid an egg today as far as stopping the run,” linebacker Jordyn Brooks said. “Didn’t tackle well, didn’t get off the blocks well. Just go back to the drawing board and keep getting better.”
The Seahawks also blew a coverage that led to an easy 49ers touchdown on a 38-yard Garoppolo pass to tight end Ross Dwelley.
“Just miscommunication,” Brooks said.
The special teams also contributed with Seattle fumbling away a punt at the 22 when Xavier Crawford was pushed into Lockett. That led to a TD that made it 20-0 at halftime.
Seattle had a brief glimpse of hope in the second half when Tariq Woolen blocked a field goal and Michael Jackson returned it 86 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-7 with 5:25 to play in the third quarter.
“That’s the play you need to get things going, and we needed to capitalize on it,” Carroll said.
It looked like they would when the defense forced a punt to get the ball back.
But the offense went three-and-out, and the 49ers held the ball for 9:29 in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
And while the short week and an emotional hangover from the Denver game was a convenient excuse, safety Quandre Diggs wasn’t buying it.
“I don’t see why we would be riding high,” he said. “We shouldn’t be feeding into all the hype anyways. I mean, obviously we’re not that good [to buy into the hype].”
The hope also, though, is that they are nowhere as bad as they looked Sunday.