There are games where the expectations are high and then there are others that give you a contact high. Seahawks-49ers was both. Two days after Alabama and LSU met for the college football game of the year, the Seahawks and 49ers raised the bar. The Seahawks beat the previously undefeated San Francisco 49ers 27-24 in a game that took 70 minutes, had seven turnovers, and approximately 7,000 holy shit moments. Even the players and coaches (but unfortunately not the announcers) involved were rendered nearly speechless.
“It was probably the craziest game I’ve ever played,” Russell Wilson told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game. “I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a game that crazy, that long, that back and forth.”
Wilson may have been thinking of the play where Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi took the ball from him like it was a rugby scrum only to immediately fumble and watch San Francisco recover and return it for a touchdown. Or perhaps he was thinking of San Francisco’s potential game-winning kick landing in the tunnel in the corner of the end zone. Or maybe how the Seahawks ran as many plays in overtime as they did in the first half (19).
If there’s something Wilson wants to forget, it’s San Francisco’s defense. A week after the Seahawks dropped 40 points on Tampa Bay, San Francisco’s defense allowed two first downs and forced four punts on Seattle’s first four drives. On the Seahawks’ first third down of the game, San Francisco defensive tackle D.J. Jones launched Seahawks backup center Joey Hunt into the air like he was an extra in The Longest Yard. He sacked Wilson about as quickly as you will ever see a quarterback sacked in shotgun formation. On Seattle’s final offensive play of the first half, wide receiver D.K. Metcalf dragged 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt behind him like Achilles did Hector of Troy, only if Hector revived himself, reestablished his feet inbounds, jarred the football loose, and recovered it. (Metcalf, like Achilles, was key to an unlikely come-from-behind win in overtime but wasn’t needed to seal the victory.) The 49ers defense held the Seahawks to just 4.6 yards per play, effectively turning Russell Wilson and the Seahawks into Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins. Most of Seattle’s points were scored because of the Seahawks defense, which turned three 49ers turnovers into 21 points in just over 15 game minutes.
This game was played on a tilt, and Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney is the one who knocked it off its axis. For most of the game, Clowney looked like the player everyone thought he would be after he took that Michigan running back’s head off. Clowney, whom the Seahawks acquired from the Texans on Labor Day weekend, finished with one sack, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, five (!) quarterback hits, and 10 pressures (all without a blitz), making Jimmy Garoppolo look like he was playing JV football. Garoppolo was so antsy in the pocket that he lost two fumbles, including Clowney’s touchdown and another that the edge rusher forced himself. When Garoppolo did get passes off, they were often too high, too low, or too slow. On the 49ers’ final drive of overtime, Garoppolo nearly threw three consecutive interceptions before a merciful punt. On the plays that Garoppolo managed to hit a 49ers receiver in the hands on Monday night, odds seemed 50-50 it would be dropped. The 49ers jumped out to a 10-0 lead and were able to move the ball even without tight end George Kittle, who missed the game with knee and ankle injuries. But their offense became inert once newly acquired receiver Emmanuel Sanders left with a rib injury. The only 49ers receiver who seemed remotely reliable after Sanders left was second-round rookie Deebo Samuel, who had eight catches for 112 yards.
Wilson had his signature MVP moment ruined and reborn in the same overtime period. Seattle effortlessly reached the 49ers’ 14-yard line on the first drive of the extra frame, but Wilson lofted a pass into double coverage that was intercepted. He got a second chance after 49ers kicker Chase McLaughlin, filling in for the injured Robbie Gould, shanked a 47-yard would-be game-winner, but Wilson proceeded to go three-and-out. Luckily Garoppolo matched, and the third time was the charm for Russ. Wilson couldn’t do much through the air, especially without receiver Tyler Lockett, who sat on the bench with a lower leg injury he suffered late in the game, but Wilson scrambled 18 yards to put the Seahawks near field goal range to set up kicker Jason Myers, who had missed a potential game-winner in regulation the week prior. This time he nailed it. It marked the first game the Seahawks won when committing four turnovers on the road since 1984.
The game puts the 49ers at 8-1 and the Seahawks at 8-2 with serious consequences in the balance. With the Packers at 8-2 and Saints at 7-2, the winner of the NFC West has a serious chance at the NFC’s top seed. Now Seattle has the head-to-head advantage. The next time these teams meet, not only will the division hang in the balance, but home-field advantage may as well. That won’t happen until Week 17, a game that happens on Sunday, December 29—one day after the College Football Playoff semifinals. As great as the football was this week, there might be another weekend with Bama-LSU and Seahawks-49ers before the year is over.