The Seahawks were on a four-game win streak, plus a 10-gamer over the woeful 49ers. That all came crashing down with a club-record 148 yards of penalties.
As many large things as the Seahawks did right Sunday, including maybe the best one-yard touchdown run in Seattle annals (by RB Chris Carson), they still lost to a broken-down San Francisco outfit they had beaten 10 times in a row by a collective margin of 127 points, including a 27-point win two weeks earlier.
They let Charlie Brown kick the field goal.
They also let Richard Sherman have a last word (with Sherman, there is no such thing as “the” last word). He talked the refs out of a pass interference call against him. Officials picked up the flag, he picked up a win against his former team and the 49ers have won two games in a row with a third-string quarterback.
Sherman, who had three tackles but was avoided by the Seahawks offense, was not about to accept the notion that the 8-6 Seahawks, following the earlier rout, were looking past the Niners.
“I highly doubt Pete (Carroll) is overlooking a game I played in,” he told reporters post-game. “And Russell, as well. Those guys played hard. It wasn’t like they played a lackadaisical game. They battled. Our guys just executed down the stretch.”
The Seahawks executed themselves.
During the week, SF defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Seahawks assistant, put together a video that showed Seahawks celebrations in the Dec. 2 win, as well as the infamous 2014 turkey dinner tableau for the winners set up on the post-game field at Candlestick Park by NBC.
“Saleh made sure everyone remembered what happened in Seattle,” Sherman said. “He played what would appear to be a highlight tape for the other team. Every play they made celebrating in the end zone. Doing this (pretending to eat). It touched guys’ pride. The (Seahawks) went out and embarrassed you.”
The 49ers have on the roster only two players, TE Garrett Celek and LT Joe Staley, who were there for the last Niners victory, 19-17 on Dec. 8, 2013, at the Stick.
“I just don’t like them,” Staley said. “I don’t like Seattle. I don’t think there is a rallying cry we (needed) to get up for this game.”
To cause this magnum disruption to the Seattle’s upward narrative, the Seahawks had something historic to contribute. Never have the Seahawks surrendered as many penalty yards, 148, as they did in sodden Santa Clara. The 14 penalties were also a record.
The Seahawks were denied by their own misdeeds. And there was no explaining it.
“All of the (statistics) matched how we (want to) play,” said Carroll, talking about rushing yardage, third-down conversions, second-half defense and turnover margin. “You could feel the crescendo of the game was setting up for us to win it.”
Then Brown, whose real-life avatar was Robbie Gould, kicked a 36-yard field goal in overtime to win, 26-23 (box).
“There’s no silver linings in this day,” said Carroll. Particularly regarding Sebastian Janikowski, who immediately after missing the day’s first extra-point kick, failed to make any effort to tackle the nearby Richie James, who ended up returning Janikowski’s kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) December 16, 2018
That seven-point swing around Janikowski’s waddling self was Seattle sports’ worst double-play clank since two Mariners in 1985 were tagged out at home on same play by a catcher with a broken leg.
As far as the game outcome, Carroll was right about no silver lining. But there was one matter that escaped Carroll’s scrutiny. The Seahawks lost no ground in pursuit of the playoffs, because a win against either Kansas City next Sunday or Arizona Dec. 29, both at home, will get them in the post-season.
Unless, of course, the NFL has a disqualifier based on multiple, frequent violations of football law.
But volume wasn’t the most egregious aspect. It was the timing.
“They happened at crucial times,” Carroll said. “That’s the way goes sometimes.
“We got so far behind the sticks with penalties. We hit the big play that put us in position to kick a field goal, but it came back.”
He referred to overtime’s decisive moment. On Seattle’s only possession, on a third-down-and-four play at Seattle’s 20-yard line, QB Russell Wilson heaved 32 yards to RB J.D. McKissic for a spectacular sideline completion at the Niners’ 48. A go-ahead field goal, at least, seemed plausible.
But RG Ethan Pocic was detected holding. The play was nullified. The drive stalled. The 49ers took the punt and moved 49 yards in seven plays to set up Brown, er, Gould.
Regarding Pocic, some measure of slack might be given. The former second-round draft pick has become the third-string backup guard behind D.J. Fluker and Jordan Simmons. But Fluker didn’t play because of a sore hamstring, and Simmons left in the third quarter with a grade-one sprain of his right knee.
Pocic, he of little playing time, made his presence felt. The holding penalty was the second of his short appearance. Of Pocic’s play, Carroll said, “It didn’t work out very well.”
If Fluker and Simmons can’t play, Pocic will need to work out very well against the Chiefs.
But in partial defense of Pocic, LG J.R. Sweezy had a pair of holding fouls too. RT Germain Ifedi had one. Flags were everywhere. The defense was guilty of errors too. It was also absent a key man, SS Bradley McDougald. He left in the second quarter after aggravating a patellar tendon he has been nursing for weeks.
The kids in the secondary often had a hard time stopping QB Nick Mullens and crew. The unheralded Mullens has 689 yards passing against the Seahawks this season. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes may think he can get there by halftime.
Carroll couldn’t get over the penalties.
“Just crazy,’’ he said. “I don’t know how that could happen. But that really kind of spelled it.
“Huge lessons for our team.”
Not sure what can be done except to tell players not to do that again. Starting with Janikowski.
— NFL (@NFL) December 16, 2018