Seahawks coach Pete Carroll opened his press conference Tuesday with a question of his own.
“Is anybody else in a daze from last night like I am,’’ Carroll asked, noting that sleep had been hard to come by following Monday’s 27-24 overtime win and subsequent trip back to Seattle.
But if Carroll was dazed he wasn’t confused, the win offering further proof that this team – now 8-2 and having won six games by four or fewer points or in overtime and three times having rallied from deficits of 10 or more — may be on the verge of a special season.
“Possibly, when we come back (from the bye), we can ride this and take advantage of it and see if we can’t come up with some more stuff here to make this a really fun season,’’ he said.
For sheer entertainment value and drama, though, it’ll be hard to top what happened Monday, which leads us to our weekly review of what we thought might happen in the game, and what actually did.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
What I said: San Francisco’s defensive line against Russell Wilson and Seattle’s offensive line.
What happened: It looked bad early when the Seahawks had two quick three-and-outs, and the 49ers ended up with five sacks of Wilson, giving them 35 for the season, second in the NFL.
But Carroll noted Tuesday that a couple of those came on some miscommunication or simply not reading things right saying “we gave them a couple of freebies.’’ Seattle tackles Germain Ifedi and Duane Brown in particular seemed to hold their own against 49ers’ ends Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead — certainly, enough to allow the Seahawks to drive the field when they really needed to. “I think in the flow of the game we really did pretty well,’’ Carroll said.
What I could have said: Seattle’s defensive line against the 49ers’ offensive line.
Here’s where the Seahawks really won this game. It figured that the Seattle offense vs. 49ers defense might be something of a push. What Seattle needed to win the game was the defense to play as it hadn’t all season, and that’s what the Seahawks got as Seattle tied a season-high with five sacks and had a season-high 10 quarterback hits.
“Was good to see our guys work together with the pass rush like we’ve been hoping to see,’’ Carroll said.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
What I said: How much nickel will Seattle play?
What happened: After going nickel a little more the last two weeks — 41 and 43 percent — the Seahawks used it on 32 percent of plays against the 49ers. It didn’t seem particularly effective early on as Jamar Taylor got beat a few times. But the entire pass defense got better as the game wore on (though a handful of drops by the 49ers also helped as did SF playing the entire game without George Kittle, and without Emmanuel Sanders after the first half.
What I could have said: Late-game clock management.
Both coaches had some tough decisions down the stretch — Carroll admitted he thought about going for it on fourth and 2 at the 28 on the final possession of regulation before kicking a field goal with 1:45 left, which allowed the 49ers time to drive for their own field goal to send the game to overtime. According to EdjSports, the decision to go for the field goal lessened Seattle’s chances of winning by more than 14 percent.
But SF coach Kyle Shanahan made what some thought later were curious decisions on the 49ers last possession of overtime when the 49ers got the ball at their own 20 with 1:50 left and Seattle having no time outs remaining.
At that point, playing conservatively and accepting a tie as the worst-case scenario wouldn’t have been a bad thing for the 49ers in terms of the NFC West race, even if it obviously flies in the face of much of what the pro sports is all about.
But the 49ers went for the win, calling three straight passes that all went incomplete and Seattle had the ball back 25 seconds later at their own 36 — just nine yards from where they had punted.
On the surface, it’s easy to question the play calls.
But Shanahan said he expected the first-down pass to be a easy completion — tight end Ross Dwelley appeared open for about a five-yard completion that would have kept the clock running. Instead, in one of the game’s many plays that it was easy to underrate the importance of later, Jarran Reed batted the pass at the line of scrimmage and the 49ers had a second-and-10 and just four seconds elapsed, completely changing the complextion of the 49ers’ possession.
And a second-down pass to former Husky Dante Pettis also should have been caught — and likely would have gone for a first down if it had. Shanahan had some harsh comments about Pettis on Monday — he didn’t catch any of the three passes thrown his way.
“Definitely wish we took more time off the clock,’’ Shanahan said later.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Who I said RB Chris Carson
What happened: One thought going in was that Seattle could take advantage of a 49ers run defense that had proven vulnerable in recent weeks. Seattle did get some yards — 147 total and 4.3 per carry. But most came from Wilson, who had 53 on six attempts. Otherwise, Seattle had 94 yards on 28 carries, with Carson getting 89 on 25. Not a lot, but still, some came at key times such as the seven-yard run on the last offensive play that made Myers’ game-winning kick a little more comfortable.
Who I could have said: DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney has been good all season. But Monday night he was otherwordly with a perormance that the raw numbers — a sack, a fumble return for a touchcdown, five quaterback hits — didn’t seem to do enough justice to.
“Golly, what a fantastic football game he played,” Carroll said. “He just was unblockable. He just continued to weave his way into the backfield and make plays, the run and the pass. Any plays that he wouldn’t get credit for that he affected were many and all across the board.”
Who I said: WR Josh Gordon
What happened: In his first game as a Seahawk Gordon came up with two big plays late in the game, receptions on third downs of 14 and 13 yards that got first downs n 28 snaps. It was a good start.
Who I could have said: Safety Quandre Diggs.
In something of a surprise — if only because the Seahawks were coy about it publicly — Diggs got the start at free safety in his first game with the team with Bradley McDougald moving to strong. Diggs responded with an interception and return of 44 yards to set up a touchdown as well as a couple of nice hits. Carroll said Tuesday it was the best safety play the team has gotten all season, which seems a strong indication Seattle will move forward with Diggs and McDougald.
WILD-CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Who I said: PK Jason Myers
What happened: I pointed out that the Seahawks — despite Myers’ struggles the previous week — would have an advantage in experience at the kicking spot with the 49ers having to go with rookie Chase McLaughlin. And in the weird day sports often works, each kicker not only had kicks at the end of regulation but also then in overtime, each with a chance to be the hero. McLaughlin was 3-4 overall but missed the one that mattered most while Myers for his redemption for last week with the game-winner.
Who I could have said: TE Jacob Hollister.
Maybe the play of Hollister shouldn’t be a surprise anymore as he has played well in all five games since being promoted from the practce squad in the wake of the injury to Will Dissly. With Luke Willson missing most of the game with a hamstring injury, Hollister had eight receptions against the 49ers and has 17 for the season.
That’s the passer rating allowed by the 49ers’ defense coming into the game, the second-lowest in the NFL behind only New England. The 49ers indeed made things hard for Seattle’s passing game — Wilson’s 86.9 rating was his second-lowest of the season. But while Wilson made one potentially fatal error on the interception early in OT, he made the plays he had to down the stretch to get Seattle the win.
What I could have said: There were two other numbers that really stood out — that the Seahawks held the 49ers to 87 yards rushing and 3.2 yards per carry — they came into the game averaging 171.1 per game, second in the NFL, and 4.5 per carry — or that they scored 21 points off of turnovers. Seattle, of course, also turned it over four times, though the 49ers only turned those into eight points, another key to the win. But Seattle keeping the 49ers’ run in check was a sign from the beginning that the Seahawks’ defense had come to play.
THE FINAL WORD
What I said: 49ers 24, Seahawks 17
What happened: Well, as many people noted — and it’s all deserving — not that at all. There were reasons to be skeptical of Seattle’s 7-2 start. But there was nothing to question about this one. Seattle proved the physical equal of what had been the hottest team in the NFL from start to finish.