SANTA CLARA, Calif. — This was a game of cataclysmic jolts and shocks, stunning twists and turns, one defensive seismographic special begetting another.
Eventually, it became clear that the winner would be the team that could survive the onslaught – or maybe just the one who got the ball last.
That was the Seahawks, once again, and thus the NFL’s most entertaining game of this season – of most seasons – ended with Jason Myers’ redemptive 42-yard field goal as the final seconds of overtime expired.
The burning question going in was whether the Seahawks had the chops to compete with the league’s elite, exemplified by the unbeaten 49ers.
In a game with playoff intensity and carnival-funhouse weirdness, the Seahawks answered that early on, with a ferocious defensive performance that was 10 games in the making.
And after a potentially heartbreaking and incongruous miscue by Russell Wilson – of all people – on an interception in OT, the Seahawks made a defensive stop and clutch drive to set up Myers’ heroics and a 27-24 triumph.
“I feel like we won that game three times,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, his shirt wet from what must have been the residual effect of Myers’ locker room dousing, and his mood a few octaves north of giddy.
In the end, it wasn’t a game that proved one side’s superiority, but rather which one could survive this mano-a-mano heavyweight fight. Call it the Thrilla in Santa Clara. Call it riveting, compelling and gut-wrenching, with a healthy measure of “what the hell just happened?”
Certainly, it set up the Seahawks for a strong stretch run toward a potential division title, when a loss would have all but buried them in that quest. Carroll had steadfastly downplayed the singular importance of one game, but afterward he called it “a significant opportunity, a fantastic opportunity, an incredible opportunity.”
That long-dormant Seahawks-49ers rivalry? I think we can safely say it’s back on. You could see it in the passion that was exuded for the full 70 minutes of play, in the stereotype-busting boisterousness of the Levi’s Stadium crowd, and in the bedlam on the sideline when Myers, whose miss last week had forced the Seahawks into overtime against Tampa Bay, drilled the game winner.
Carroll used that as an object lesson on the beneficial aspect of “loving him on through it,’’ as he characterized the team’s weeklong support of Myers.
“What a great, thrilling night for him to come through and make his kicks and make the winning kick and kick deep all night long,’’ Carroll said. “A lot goes into that. It’s a great illustration of his teammates supporting him throughout.
“In the locker room immediately last week they were supporting him so that he would be ready for this that we needed tonight, and come through. Ain’t nothing better than coming through like that in the clutch and so we’re thrilled by the night he had.”
Oh, and you have permission to start believing now.
The Seahawks are officially for real. The skepticism over their 7-2 start can be canceled for the immediate future. They stamped their legitimacy papers in the unfriendly confines of Levi’s Stadium, where a fan base itching for a coronation instead was subject to an abdication, at least of their perfect record.
Seattle did it with a victory built on, of all things, a punishing, opportunistic, turnover-laden defense, one that sacked Jimmy Garoppolo five times, that forced three incredibly vital turnovers that allowed them, just barely, to withstand the four turnovers of their own.
“Oh, boy. So you want a nice easy win, just feel it from the beginning of the game,’’ Carroll joked. “Take the guac and the chips and kick back (dramatic pause) …. it ain’t happening. It ain’t happening.”
Jadeveon Clowney, in particular, played like a man possessed, compiling a staggering compendium of defensive statistics, including a sack, five quarterback hits and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Of their own turnovers, however, Carroll said with almost a sneer, “We did a terrible job of taking care of the football. A miserable job. I don’t even recognize that.”
Those curses that were being uttered across the Seahawks’ fandom throughout much of the first half, when the Seahawks were being manhandled by the 49ers? Understandable, but premature. The Seahawks made an abrupt change of that story line and played forceful, inspired defense from the point of Clowney’s TD on a Jarran Reed strip sack.
“It was a beautiful job of hanging,’’ Carroll gushed. “What I really like about this game was the way it started, and then the surge that happened in the middle of it when our guys went eight straight drives without letting them get anything going.
“Kenny (defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.) did a fantastic job with our guys. We had to adjust right off the start, and the guys took to it, did some different things other than the plan called for.”
In the end, this was an uproarious, euphoric and meaningful win, one that worked its way instantly into the annals of Seahawk lore.
“It took us all the way til there was nothing left,’’ Carroll summarized.
And now the Seahawks have everything left, right in front of them.