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Seahawks fall an inch short of NFC West title in 26-21 loss to 49ers

They call football a game of inches. Well, the Seattle Seahawks came up just one short of a division championship.

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A last-ditch drive by the Seahawks ended on a fourth down completion to tight end Jacob Hollister that was stopped as short as short gets of the goal line, and the San Francisco 49ers escaped CenturyLink Field with a 26-21 win over Seattle.

With the victory, the 49ers finish the regular season with a 13-3 record and clinch the NFC West over the Seahawks, who end the season at 11-5.

Seattle will take the No. 5 seed into the NFC playoffs, where they will go on the road to play the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles in the first round at 1:40 p.m. next Sunday, Jan. 5.

The Seahawks played poorly for the entire first half and much of the second against San Francisco, as the 49ers jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead and immediately answered Seattle’s first two touchdowns with TD drives of their own. The second of those Seattle scores, however, tore the metaphorical roof off the roof-less stadium, as Marshawn Lynch leapt into the end zone early in the fourth quarter for a 1-yard score in his first game in a Seahawks uniform since 2015.

Lynch finished with 34 yards on a team-high 12 carries in Seattle’s first game since losing both top running back Chris Carson and backup C.J. Prosise to season-ending injuries a week prior.

DK Metcalf had a big night in the passing game, catching six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter that brought Seattle within five points of the 49ers’ lead.

After Metcalf’s TD, the Seahawks’ defense came up with its biggest stop of the night, and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was handed the ball with 2:27 left needing a TD to win the game and the division.

He and Seattle’s offense came close, chewing up 72 yards on 15 plays, but ultimately the 49ers got to Hollister just in time to prevent the Seahawks from making that final score. Seattle also took a costly delay of game penalty that pushed that back from the 1-yard line to the 6 on second down that prevented it from giving Lynch a few shorts at punching the ball in.

Wilson finished with 233 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 25 of 40 passing.

Rookie running back Travis Homer had a strong game for Seattle, leading the team with 62 rushing yards on 10 carries and adding 30 receiving yards on five catches. Tyler Lockett chipped in 51 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

Rookie 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel had 102 yards on five catches plus 33 yards on two carries, including a 30-yard touchdown run. Running back Raheem Mostert had 57 yards and two TDs on 10 carries, and San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo had 285 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions on 18 of 22 passing.

The 49ers are the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs and get a first-round bye.

Here’s a quarter-by-quarter look at Seattle’s loss.

First quarter

49ers 10, Seahawks 0

The big news going into this game was Lynch’s return, but the Seahawks were in no rush to use him. As a result, he didn’t make an appearance on the field until Seattle’s second drive, and the Hawks waited even longer to hand him the ball. But when he did get his number called, he showed he was ready to go after over a year off.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, they couldn’t convert a pass on third down after Lynch’s 5-yard gain and had to punt for the second time in as many series.

By that point, the 49ers had already moved into a 3-0 lead. Though Garoppolo was sacked twice on the Niners’ opening drive, once each by Quinton Jefferson and Tre Flowers, he led them on a 10-play, 50-yard drive to set up a 47-yard Robbie Gould field goal. A big third down completion to star tight end George Kittle, who notably didn’t play in Seattle’s Week 10 win over San Francisco, was huge for the 49ers as they continued driving instead of going three-and-out.

Perhaps Seattle’s best player in the first quarter was punter Michael Dickson, who had kicks of 54 and 50 yards, respectively, the second of which pinned San Francisco at its own 6. That wasn’t enough to keep the 49ers out of the end zone, however, as another big third down conversion led way to another long drive, and Samuel took the ball on a sweep and was never stopped on a 30-yard TD run that make it 10-0 shortly before the end of the first quarter.

The continued absence of safety Quandre Diggs, who has a high-ankle sprain, is something Seattle struggled with, as 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard pointed out.

SF – Robbie Gould 47 FG (3-0 SF), 7:36
SF – Deebo Samuel 30 run (Gould kick, 10-0 SF), :24

Second quarter

49ers 13, Seahawks 0

In the first half of Week 17, the Seahawks did not look like the same team that beat the San Francisco 49ers seven weeks earlier. That’s because, in a lot of ways, they weren’t the same team.

Diggs, a key midseason addition who made a big impact in his Seattle debut in the Week 10 win in the Bay Area, was absent due to a high-ankle sprain. The backfield was almost entirely different, too, with Carson, Prosise and Rashaad Penny all on injured reserve with season-ending injuries. And while the return of Lynch provided excitement, he wasn’t able to make the kind of splash early on that Seattle needed against a 49ers team certainly looking to make a statement.

As a result, the 49ers took a 13-0 lead into halftime, outgaining Seattle 220 yards to 79, with the Seahawks managing just 45 passing yards and 34 rushing. Seattle’s defense, meanwhile, allowed three third down conversions by San Francisco on five opportunities, and the 49ers turned each one of those conversions into points.

After Gould’s second field goal of the night put the Niners ahead by 13, Seattle broke into San Francisco territory but faced fourth-and-1 at the 31. Lynch’s number was called but he didn’t have room to run, and the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs inside the final minute of the half.

Seattle nearly got the ball back on an apparent fumble, but the pass to Matt Breida was instead ruled incomplete after a replay review, and San Francisco escaped the half having not given up a single point and set to receive the ball to begin the third quarter.

SF – Robbie Gould 30 FG (13-0 SF), 5:44

Third quarter

49ers 19, Seahawks 7

The Seahawks finally started to make some headway on offense in the third quarter against the 49ers, but the defense’s inability to stop the 49ers resulted in Seattle going into the final frame only a point closer than it was at halftime.

Seattle forced the Niners into a three-and-out to begin the third, an especially important stop considering San Francisco had converted a third down early on in each of its first three drives, and the Niners scored on each of those drives. It was the Seahawks who got onto the scoreboard first in the second half, however.

Lynch had a pair of big runs – one for 8 yards, another for 15 – to help get the Seahawks’ offense going.

Then, facing third-and-9 from the San Francisco 11, Wilson bought himself some time and completed a pinpoint touchdown pass to Lockett in the back of the end zone to cut the Niners’ lead from two scores to one.

The defense ran into trouble on San Francisco’s next series, however. Seattle linebacker Mychal Kendricks had to leave with a knee injury (he was deemed questionable to return) as 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk picked up 49 yards on a pass to open the drive. San Francisco ended up needing just five plays on that drive to move its lead back to two scores, though a completed pass on a two-point conversion pass was stopped short of the end zone, keeping the 49ers’ advantage at 12 points.

SEA – Tyler Lockett 11 pass from Russell Wilson (Jason Myers kick, 13-7 SF), 5:46
SF – Raheem Mostert 2 run (pass failed, 19-7 SF), 3:25

Fourth quarter

49ers 26, Seahawks 21

Lynch returned to the Seahawks saying he and the team had “unfinished business.” The subtext there would be the Super Bowl loss where Seattle chose to attempt a pass at the 1-yard line while Lynch stood in the backfield, a pass that was picked off to allow the New England Patriots to win the championship.

The Seahawks took a small step towards redeeming that play early in the fourth quarter against the 49ers.

With the ball at the 1, quarterback Russell Wilson handed off to Lynch, who leapt high over the San Francisco defensive line for his first touchdown in a Seahawks uniform since 2015.

While Seattle had that storybook chapter added to their season, Lynch’s return game didn’t end with a win.

San Francisco answered with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Mostert, and that proved to be enough of a cushion for the 49ers to come away with a win. Because while DK Metcalf caught a 14-yard touchdown pass and Seattle came up with a stop on defense, the Seahawks’ final drive came up literally an inch short as the clock ran out.

Wilson got the ball with 2:27 on the clock, and he led Seattle back down the field to take several shots at the end zone. And while a fourth down completion from the 12 to rookie John Ursua brought the Seahawks to the 1, they fell short on four straight plays, as a final pass was completed to Hollister, but he was tackled just before he reached the goal line.

SEA – Marshawn Lynch 1 run (Myers kick, 19-14 SF), 9:55
SF – Mostert 13 run (Gould kick, 26-14 SF), 5:51
SEA – DK Metcalf 14 pass from Wilson (Myers kick, 26-21 SF), 3:36

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