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Notebook: Seahawks ready for ‘new season’ in playoffs after loss to 49ers

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks go into the playoffs next week as the NFC's fifth seed. (Getty)

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt fortunate to be down just 13 points at halftime Sunday.

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The Seahawks had been outplayed by the visiting San Francisco 49ers on both sides of the ball through two quarters of football – though, admittedly, they had posted a solid performance on special teams. That Seattle was trailing wasn’t much of a surprise; the Seahawks were three-point underdogs against a healthy, confident San Francisco team that boasted a hard-hitting defense and an offense that ranks second only to the AFC’s No. 1-seeded Baltimore in the run.

The 49ers had produced 139 yards of total offense in the first quarter, compared to Seattle’s 24, and outpaced the Seahawks 222 yards to 79 by the close of the first half. The visitors, led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who didn’t throw an incomplete pass until the second quarter, marched down the field to score on each of their first three possessions.

The highly-publicized Seahawks return of Marshawn Lynch proved to be at least a bit of a boost when the star running back jogged onto the field for Seattle’s second drive, but short three running backs and a starting left tackle on offense, the Seahawks took a while to get going and hurt themselves with penalties.

To be frank, Carroll was right – they were fortunate to be down by 13 in a first half that felt nothing like a two-score game.

But in a now-familiar fashion, the Seahawks rallied in the second half and came within inches of a storybook ending to their regular season.

They started out strong on defense after halftime, forcing San Francisco’s first punt on a drive that saw veteran linebacker K.J. Wright deliver 49ers tight end George Kittle to the ground with a walloping tackle. Lynch had the crowd surging when he leapt over defenders for a one-yard touchdown, and quarterback Russell Wilson found receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf for a pair of touchdowns.

The moment was there. With less than two minutes to play, Wilson led the Seahawks to the 49ers’ 12-yard line, and rookie John Ursua came up big with his first career catch – on fourth-and-10, bringing Seattle to the 1-yard line.

Then, with 22 seconds left, a baffling mistake cost Seattle a shot at a bulldozing run in a goal-line situation – a delay-of-game penalty moved Seattle backwards 5 yards.

Seattle’s head coach took responsibility for the penalty post-game.

“We called the personnel and we just didn’t quite get it communicated with the (running) backs and we were just late,” Carroll said.

“We were late getting in there and we just, we burned the time. We just didn’t get it done. We just didn’t function cleanly… we didn’t get the substitution done properly and we were late with it. There wasn’t enough time for Russ to get the play off.”

Wilson still had three shots at the end zone, though from the 6 instead of the 1, and on fourth down, Seattle called for the same play they ran successfully to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime earlier this season. And while tight end Jacob Hollister, who caught the game-winning score against Tampa Bay, made the reception again, this time he was ruled down by contact inches short of the goal line.

With that, Seattle’s quest to re-take the NFC West title was lost.

Now the NFC’s fifth seed in the playoffs, the Seahawks travel to Philadelphia to face off against the NFC East champion Eagles next Sunday, Jan. 5. For Seattle to take a trip to the Super Bowl in Miami, it will mean three wins on the road. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks have fared better on the road this year (7-1) than they have at home (4-4).

“I think it’s a new season,” Wilson said of the upcoming matchup. “Where we’re going is a new season. Man, the great thing is it all starts an 0-0 record. Comes down to winning football games. That’s the thing we’re looking forward to. I think we showed tremendous fight. I thought we kept battling, kept battling. It was a showdown everyone wanted to see – they definitely got to see that.”

A controversial no-call

A possible defensive pass interference penalty by the 49ers against Hollister was indeed reviewed by officials in New York, Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron told Tim Booth of the Associated Press after the game. However, officials said Hollister initiated contact – not to the point of an offensive pass interference – to which the defender braced himself and contacted Hollister.

“Based on what we saw, we didn’t see enough to stop the game,” Riveron said. “Nothing happens that rises to the level of a foul while the ball is in the air before it gets there by either player.”

Injury updates

Wide receiver Jaron Brown and linebacker Mychal Kendricks were both forced out of the game due to knee sprains. Carroll did not have an update for either player during his postgame press conference.

Seattle was faced with a scary situation when Lockett, its No. 1 wide receiver, landed awkwardly on the ground while attempting to haul in a pass in the fourth quarter. Lockett remained on the ground for several minutes while he was tended to by trainers before walking off the field under his own power. However, Lockett was able to re-enter the game later and Carroll said his name did not appear on Seattle’s injury report.

Safety Quandre Diggs, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 15, was inactive for the second straight week on Sunday, but Carroll said he has “a really good chance” to make it back for Wild Card weekend. The veteran’s status for the game in Philadelphia will still likely be determined late in the week.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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