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Seahawks Come Up Inches Short of NFC West Title

Struggling to find any answers for slowing down San Francisco’s offense and getting shut out in the first half, Seattle will have to settle for a wild card after falling mere inches short.

Throughout the 2019 season, the Seahawks have made a habit of finding ways to finish off close victories, including defeating the 49ers by three in overtime back in Week 10.

But in the biggest game of the season with an NFC West title within reach, Seattle didn’t have quite enough luck on its side to pull off a victory against its bitter division rivals this time around, as tight end Jacob Hollister fell inches short on a fourth down reception at the goal line in a 26-21 loss to San Francisco.

Finishing the season with an 11-5 record, Seattle dropped to the No. 5 seed in the NFC and will travel to Philadelphia to play the NFC East-winning Eagles next weekend in the wild card round.

Here are five key takeaways from Seattle’s Week 17 defeat at CenturyLink Field.

Russell Wilson nearly pulled off the impossible, but the rally proved too little, too late in a chaotic finish.

Trailing 13-0 at halftime, the Seahawks were playing catchup after a sluggish offensive performance to open the game. But after throwing for just 55 yards in the first two quarters, Wilson settled down and found his groove, leading three consecutive touchdown drives to bring his team back within five points with under four minutes to play. In the final two periods, he completed 18 out of 28 passes for 178 yards and connected with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf for touchdowns. After a quick three-and-out by Seattle’s defense, Wilson marched Seattle down to the San Francisco 12-yard line and then completed a 4th and 10 pass to rookie John Ursua to the one-yard line.

But after spiking the ball to stop the clock, coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks struggled to get the right personnel on the field, which led to a delay of game penalty. Two plays later, Hollister appeared to be mugged by linebacker Fred Warner in coverage, but the officials didn’t throw a flag for pass interference. Facing another fourth down from the five-yard line, Wilson connected with Hollister at the goal line, but two 49ers tacklers stopped him before the ball broke the plain.

For the most part, Marshawn Lynch was kept grounded in his return to Seattle.

There’s no doubt Lynch’s return brought a new level of energy to CenturyLink Field and when he leaped over the 49ers defensive line for a one-yard score to get the Seahawks back within 19-14 at the 9:55 mark in the fourth quarter, fans erupted. And if not for the aforementioned delay of game infraction, he may have had another chance to score from a yard out to win the game.

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But from a pure production standpoint, with the exception of his touchdown and a 15-yard run early in the third quarter that created quite the stir in the stadium, Lynch was silenced by San Francisco’s stout defense. The 33-year old veteran finished with 12 carries for 34 yards and was also stuffed on a 4 and 1 conversion with 49 seconds remaining in the first half. On a positive note, rookie Travis Homer enjoyed a successful first start, rushing for a team-high 62 yards on just 10 carries and also adding five receptions for 30 yards.

After disappearing in the first half, the Seahawks top two receivers awakened after halftime.

Just one week after Lockett and Metcalf were limited to one total reception against Arizona, both players continued their disappearing act during the first two quarters against San Francisco, combining to catch three passes for 35 yards. Wilson had minimal time to work with early in the game thanks to a constant onslaught from the 49ers’ vaunted defensive line, which prevented either receiver from creating separation.

But coming out of the break, the offensive line ratcheted things up in protection and Wilson rediscovered his magical abilities maneuvering the pocket, opening up opportunities for his receivers to do damage. As Seattle rallied back from a 13-point deficit, Metcalf caught four passes for 56 yards and scored the team’s final touchdown, while Lockett scored a touchdown earlier in the half and made two key third down receptions late in the fourth quarter. While the Seahawks fell short, their reemergence is good news heading into the postseason.

Missed tackles and poor pursuit angles remain problematic at all three levels of the defense.

After giving up 253 rushing yards to Arizona in Week 16, Seattle once again left a bunch of tackles on the field. Carroll acknowledged after the game that his team wasn’t good enough getting ball carriers to the ground, specifically crediting receiver Deebo Samuel for making defenders look silly in space. The rookie out of South Carolina made two huge plays on San Francisco’s first touchdown drive late in the first quarter. First, Jimmy Garoppolo hit him in stride across the middle and he raced past two tacklers for a 30-yard gain.

Moments later, Samuel took a pitch on an end around with lead blockers out in front, spinning out of another tackle attempt to score a 30-yard touchdown. Later in the game, Seattle’s defense broke down again as running back Raheem Mostert slipped through an arm tackle and two other defenders took poor pursuit angles, allowing him to extend the lead to 26-14 with a 13-yard score.

The turnover well runs dry at the wrong time, as Seattle can’t force any quick possession changes.

Starting in Week 10, the Seahawks generated a whopping 16 turnovers during a five-game span, including intercepting nine passes. Much of that success corresponded with the arrival of safety Quandre Diggs, who picked off three passes in his first four starts to buoy Seattle’s once-maligned defense. But without Diggs, who was inactive again with a high ankle sprain, the team hasn’t been able to produce a single turnover against the Cardinals or 49ers over the past two weeks. Given the defense’s inconsistencies slowing down opponents all year long, getting back to creating turnovers will be crucial to getting back on the winning track in the playoffs.