Well, it’s not the toughest loss to take in Seahawks history.
But this one was close.
By mere inches, Seattle lost out on a chance to beat the 49ers and take the NFC West title Sunday, losing 26-21 to San Francisco in a game that went down to the final seconds and included two controversial calls but also an inexplicable screwup by the Seahawks.
And when it was over, it meant that not only were the 49ers the NFC West champs but the Seahawks were relegated to the No. 5 seed and now have to travel to Philadelphia for the wild-card round next Sunday at 1:40 p.m. (Ch. 5). If Seattle wins that game, then comes a trip to either San Francisco or Green Bay.
“A couple things happened and it didn’t work out,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said later of the frantic ending.
That’s a polite way to put it.
In a game in which they never had the lead, the Seahawks seemed poised to win when they reached the 1-yard line on a pass from Russell Wilson to John Ursua that converted a fourth-and-10 on a play that began with 42 seconds left.
Wilson then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 23 seconds left – Seattle had no more timeouts — and then CenturyLink Field hysteria turned to shock.
The Seahawks wanted to get Marshawn Lynch on the field, likely to hand him the ball and make this as storybook of an ending to a week when his return was all anyone in Seattle wanted to talk about as possible (and maybe some sweet redemption for that one time he didn’t get the ball at the 1).
But suddenly, everything just seemed in slow motion.
Lynch turned to hear his assignment as Seattle tried to switch out personnel (there also was some worry over George Fant, who had gotten rolled up on the play before).
And somehow in all that, the play clock ran out and Seattle was penalized for delay of game.
“That’s me all the way,’’ Carroll said later. “There’s nobody else to turn to. We need to get that done.’’
Carroll explained further that “we were in no backs the play before, called the personnel and just didn’t quite get it communicated with the backs and we were just late. … Sometimes you can relax like that’s a timeout, and we didn’t do that on the sidelines but it just kind of felt like that’s what happened and we didn’t get the substitutions done properly and we were late with it and there wasn’t enough time to get the play off.’’
Carroll, though, said he thought, “We’re going to get into the end zone anyway.’’
A second-down pass to Tyler Lockett was almost intercepted.
On third down, Wilson threw to tight end Jacob Hollister, who appeared to be grabbed by San Francisco’s Fred Warner in the end zone.
Said Hollister: “I felt him grabbing me, but you don’t get every call so I didn’t get that call.’’
Through a pool reporter, NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said the play was reviewed but that “based on what we saw we didn’t see enough to stop the game. But we did review it.’’
Carroll said he hadn’t seen a replay yet to have a opinion.
The Seahawks then dialed up a play that won a game in overtime early this season against Tampa Bay, again looking for Hollister over the middle.
Hollister caught the pass but was sandwiched by 49ers linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Warner at the goal line.
And then, chaos.
Hollister thought he got in. But the ball came loose and 49er safety Jimmie Ward picked it up and sprinted down the field as time ran out.
That led to yet another review.
Riveron said that it was confirmed to be a catch but that “he doesn’t break the plane of the goal line. So now he’s contacted, he’s short of the goal line and he’s on the ground, which means the play is over.’’
Hollister later watched a replay and disagreed.
“It was obviously such a quick bang bang play,’’ he said. “But after seeing the replay I really do think that I got in. But I’ll have to watch it closer and those guys do the best that they can making calls. It’s what it is.’’
Said Carroll: “It was as close as it can get.’’
But now Seattle has to go about as far as it can to play its next game, exiled to another trip to Philly to play the Eagles, a team they beat 17-9 on Nov. 24.
As you would expect, the Seahawks put a happy face on that, many noting later that Seattle went 7-1 on the road this year compared to 4-4 at home — the loss to the 49ers was the second consecutive defeat at home to end the regular season.
“We’ve been road warriors all year,’’ Carroll said. “We’re not worried about going on the road, that’s for sure.’’
The trip east for the Seahawks seemed like a sure thing when the 49ers scored the first three times they had the ball in the first half to take a 13-0 lead, at that point having outgained Seattle 220-30.
“We really felt fortunate to be at 13-zip,’’ Carroll said.
But something clicked in the second half for the offense — Carroll said going to more uptempo was one key.
Seattle scored touchdowns on drives of 62, 75 and 60 to start the second half, each time responding just when the game seemed basically over.
The first two times the 49ers responded with their own scoring drive and seemed comfortably in control.
But after Seattle’s final touchdown, the 49ers committed a foolish penalty that led to a quick three-and-out and the Seahawks got the ball back at their own 27 with 2:27 left.
And as Seattle drove for what appeared as if it might be its 11th one-score victory of the season — which would have set an NFL record — Carroll thought “it was a perfect way to win a championship. It was an amazing effort. It was an amazing regular season.’’
Indeed, everyone played their part.
Rookie Travis Homer got his first start and gained 62 yards rushing. Lynch had a crowd-pleasing touchdown in the fourth quarter after sparking a scoring drive in the third quarter with back-to-back runs that gained 23 yards.
And Wilson was superb throughout.
“I don’t know how we could ask for much more drama,’’ Carroll said.
That was indisputable.
What Seattle also needed, though, was just a little more organization and poise once it got to within feet of what would have been one of the most improbable victories in team history.
“We just didn’t function cleanly,’’ Carroll said. “We just didn’t get it done.’’