The Morning After: Seahawks Bungle Chance at Stunning Victory Over 49ers

I turned to my son after Russell Wilson completed a 24-yard pass to D.K. Metcalf near midfield on the final drive and said, “What happens if they get it to the 1-yard line?!” What ultimately happened was beyond the limits of my imagination. Seattle did get the ball to the 1-yard line after John Ursua’s first NFL reception on 4th and 10. They then spiked the ball and stood around in the huddle until they were penalized for a delay of game. People in the stadium looked around at one another as if they suspected they were part of the largest prank show stunt in history. That did not really happen, right? Brutally, it did. There were other controversies to be sure, but this was something completely in the Seahawks control that they blundered and almost certainly was the difference between winning the NFC West and traveling Philadelphia next week having lost three of four.

Pete Carroll has been criticized for game management decisions all season, and over his tenure. There is an argument to be made this was the worst coaching fail of his career. Even the interception in the Super Bowl at least involved a play being called and run.

This undermanned, overmatched, Seahawks team fought and clawed their way back against a team with talent advantages at almost every position on the field. The coaching staff made adjustments after a failure of a first half, and had the 49ers on their heels. Seattle did not punt in the second half against the best defense in football.

All that, and they failed to even get out of the huddle. My focus goes to the head coach because all success and failure ultimately falls at his feet. He is responsible for everyone doing their job properly even if it is not his job to manage substitutions or call plays or execute them. That does not mean Carroll is the only one who deserves scrutiny here.

Brian Schottenheimer and his staff botched this terribly. Marshawn Lynch came onto the field about 20 seconds into the play clock and appeared to get caught halfway in-between as their was confusion about whether he was supposed to go in or not. Russell Wilson and the players share some of the blame for showing absolutely no urgency as the play clock wound down. You think Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and the like would have waited calmly for the play clock to expire? They would have been screaming and waving guys to get on or off and to hurry up with the play call.

It was a collective failure that Carroll is responsible for avoiding. He will fall on the sword as he did in the Super Bowl, but all of us Seahawks fans are getting skewered by the blade. These are scars we need not have.

If that was not torture enough, there was clear defensive pass interference penalty on the following play that was neither called nor reviewed. It was egregious enough that former official Terry Mcauley said he was surprised they were not stopping the game to review it, and multiple national reporters were voicing disbelief. In a cruel bit of irony, the team that was unfairly bounced from the playoffs last year due to a blown DPI call that led to the new rule allowing those plays to be reviewed, once again was indirectly impacted by the blown call this year. Had Seattle won, the Saints would have had a bye week.

There is no doubt the 49er defender was grabbing Jacob Hollister to deny a completion. The NFL chose to allow that sort of play to stand. It is unfortunate, but I will always place responsibility back on the team for things that were under their control.

The final play also went to Hollister and he was just short of the goal line. They reviewed that and there was some belief the ball crossed the plane, but it was far from obvious and not surprisingly upheld.

Three straight agonizing failures against your most bitter rival with the division title on the line. It was a tough way to end the regular season for sure.

Somehow, though, I came away from the game encouraged. Many of you noticed I did not post a Morning After column last week. That was one of the few times in the past 13 years I have missed a game. It was a combination of enjoying a rare chance to sleep in while getting time off work, taking care of my kids while my wife was out of town, and just a general feeling that my time was better spent elsewhere because the Seahawks season seemed to end after that game.

The injuries at running back, the surgery for Duane Brown, the continued slide of the offense, made any additional victories out of reach. The idea of even competing with a team like the 49ers was absurd.

The Marshawn Lynch news was a huge shot in the arm, and gave us all something to look forward to even if the outcome seemed almost certainly negative. The first half did little to change that perspective as the offense was held under 100 yards and without a point, and the defense did not force a punt.

It was a little miraculous that Seattle was only down 13-0. A quick three-and-out for the 49ers out of halftime and then a 62-yard touchdown drive that had three Wilson scrambles, two sizable Lynch runs, and three 3rd down conversions, made a game of it.

It took the 49ers just five plays to respond with a touchdown of their own. Then, a 14 play response from the Seahawks, capped by a memorable Lynch dive for a touchdown, made it 19-14. San Francisco once again had little trouble marching down the field for a touchdown that appeared to be the dagger.

Down 26-14, with just under six minutes remaining in the game, a comeback felt like a very long shot. The last two Seattle touchdown drives took seven and eight minutes. After the 49ers kicker gifted Seattle the ball at the 40-yard line by kicking it out of bounds, the Seahawks scored a touchdown in just over two minutes.

The 49ers had punted just once all game. They ran for 3 yards on first down. Then they ran for another 3 yards to drain the clock or force Seattle to use timeouts. Thankfully, their center decided to play beyond the whistle and was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty that both moved the team back and stopped the clock. A blown tackle by Tre Flowers nearly allowed San Francisco to convert a 3rd and 17, but Raheem Mostert was tackled a yard shy.

Seattle took over the ball at their own 27-yard line with 2:27 seconds to go and two timeouts. It was pretty shocking that the Seahawks were in position to win the game on the final drive.

Metcalf was the focal point of the drive and made some big plays. He finished with just a 50% catch rate (6 catches in 12 targets), but the 49ers had trouble with him all night. San Francisco was missing cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in the first matchup between these teams, and I expected him to give Metcalf trouble in this game. Instead, Metcalf’s play forced Witherspoon to the bench as San Francisco brought in Emmanuel Moseley. Having at least one matchup Seattle can exploit is big deal for any future games between these teams.

The running game was better than expected. Travis Homer played a nice game. He ran hard and showed quickness in compiling nearly 100 total yards from scrimmage. Lynch did fine in his first game back. More importantly, the offensive line played much better than the week prior.

George Fant replaced Jamarco Jones at left tackle. Nick Bosa finished with 3 QB hits, but no sacks. Wilson was only sacked once. Some of that was due to his wizardry in the pocket.

It was clear he knew what the stakes were. He was much quicker to scramble and take a few yards and hits than he usually is early in games. This felt like his best performance in months. His numbers were more impressive in Carolina, but this defense is the best in the league, and Wilson gave them fits.

Seattle found their rhythm on offense not with deep throws, but with short and intermediate patterns that they have struggled with the past six weeks after teams started to take away the deep ball.

This team was a few soul-wrecking plays away from scoring 28 points in one half against the best defense in football. They finished 8-14 on 3rd down. That is something to build on.

The defense had less to feel good about. It continues to baffle me how this coaching staff stands behind Lano Hill instead of putting Marquise Blair on the field. Blair saw a few snaps and forced a fumble. Hill saw many snaps and his only positive play was drawing a personal foul penalty. The coaches clearly feel Hill is more sound in his assignments, leaving the defense less vulnerable. I see a guy who is not close to making a positive impact in the game playing in front of a guy who has made a positive impact in every game he has played.

Blair very well might make some terrible coverage mistakes, but I fail to see how that is worse than Hill being so slow and late that he is not making any plays at all. Thankfully, it sounds like Quandre Diggs is due back next week. The defense is different with him out there.

The pass rush started off well with a couple of sacks and a decent amount of pressure, but it evaporated thereafter. Jadeveon Clowney played and was not all that effective. Seattle did not force a turnover. Mychal Kendricks was lost after being burned for a deep pass, but I’m not sure how much of a loss that really is.

Special teams deserves a shout for playing one of their most solid games of the year. Punting and punt coverage was excellent. David Moore had a nice punt return as well.

Seattle lost a tough one to a very good team. The question becomes whether they can take the progress shown in this game forward into the playoffs against an Eagles team that is not close to San Francisco in terms of talent. Duane Brown is at least one more week away. Al Woods is two games away. Should the Seahawks get past the Eagles, they would likely travel to Santa Clara to play the 49ers a third time. Both teams have to feel good about their ability to win what would be the rubber match.

It all starts with a win next week. Wilson has never lost three games in a row. We see how far he can take this team, starting in six days.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. Beautiful write up, Brian. Thank you for your contributions to Seattle fandom. Of course you don’t owe anyone anything if you take a week off, but I have enjoyed the morning after takes this entire decade.

    The result was disappointing but only in hindsight. Seattle is not as talented or deep as the 49ers, and Pete’s philosophy is showing more signs of rust and taking on water. That they could come a few blades of grass from winning this is almost unbelievable. I’m excited to see how the season turns out, no matter that the odds are pretty long now.

  2. Absolutely agonizing, and incredulous that Pete bungled yet another goal line opportunity for the stuff of legend… utterly inexcusable and the perfect encapsulation of the haphazard/carefree way with which he runs this team.

    Pete. Needs. To. Go. PLEASE.

  3. Crap…..that is the first word out of my mouth when I viewed the final play. As an avid Seahawks transplant that lives in Philadelphia, I am extremely nervous. The buzz around this city is defining with a quarterback with no talent around him playing on house money. Ever since the Miami lose, this city, this team, and this fan base held that belief of making some sort of run, any run to make the playoffs. This team has something in which the Seahawks team lacks….confidence. Two teams heading in opposite directions. I listen to 94.1 (the Fan) here in enemy territory and I hear the noise, hear the fans, and hear the city. They have nothing to lose and marvel of the play of Wentz with practice squad players by his side. I got it, they beat the Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants to make this date with the Seahawks. But to prove everybody wrong, to silence the critics, and to establish that this multi-million contract on Wentz was not a fluke, is damn right scary. I was at the last game when the Seahawks came in here and won 17-9, that was a different team then and it is now. This city has the vibe like it had in 2017. They are beyond confident on beating the Seahawks, and so does Vegas. And as I pointed out earlier……crap. Would of preferred the Cowboys over this team.

  4. Echo here: good article, Brian. So many other bloggers, needed to ignore the coaching in this game. They focused on the positives of a great 2nd half and basically ignored or downplayed the delay of game penalty. (However familiar an end game screw up feels at this point, THAT was totally unacceptable).

    And, as pointed out here, Homer, Blair and Ursua should have been used more. Maybe some other young guys, too. And not just for this game. (Another, oh well, shrug it off moment in our fandom).

    A few months back, somebody on a Seahawk Blog commented that, as an ex player, he’d come to realize that few people on the planet are as stubborn as football coaches. (Amen, only I can think of a more apt word than “stubborn).”

    Imagine a WHOLE game of Russ unleashed.

    1. “Stubborn” Let me call it out for you. Unadaptable or utterly stupid, probably the former. I have seen saying this for the last 2 or 3 years about PC, he is a one-trick pony, in a good way. He knows only one way, and if that one way does not work, then he toasted. Let’s imagine if Seattle didn’t hit the jackpots with the two drafts with Scot, then where would this team be. Probably average at best. If that is the case, then I don’t think Seattle fans would clamor to PC as their “god”.

  5. Hill missed multiple tackles on Debo Samuel runs and YACs. Honestly thought with Diggs on the field we force one more punt and take 4 points off the board.

    Shaq’s tackle on Samuel’s end around run that last drive was super impressive. Big time play. Didn’t hear Reed’s name once, and Ansah was only called out when he got juked and missed another tackle.

    Homer was far more impactful than I imagined possible, and the O Line was tremendous. I think they need the run game as much as Russ does. It builds a lot of confidence to DO the pushing around.

    Why on 4th and 1 at the end of the half they ran Lynch behind Swoopes – who was matched up against Bosa – is its own unanswerable question.

    Pete is building an infamous reputation for poor Timeout and 2 minute offense management. It may rival Andy Reid’s after last night. Can they not hire someone who’s sole job is to reference a Best Practices sheet in those situations? Including “if no play is called by the :25 mark of a new down, go with one of these 2-3 plays”?

    Have to admit it kinda burned me up when Pete commented that he knew ‘we were gonna score, so I wasn’t too worried’ about the delay of game.’ Those details (play calling, clock mgmt, timeouts) are too important to go on gut instinct. They need more discipline at the coaching level. And I don’t want to replace Pete, just supplement for specific circumstances.

    1. “Have to admit it kinda burned me up when Pete commented that he knew ‘we were gonna score, so I wasn’t too worried’ about the delay of game.” PC is an egoistic and narcissistic person who RARELY admitted to his own mistakes, publicly. I think he did it once that I know this year for the first time. That said, you think he would let a silent “whisper” to tell him what to do in certain situations? Please. He is an old person. As you get older, you RARELY change, especially if you are “successful.” If Seattle fans want a team that will go 10-6, 9-7, and one and done in the playoffs, then please keep him. Don’t complain or b**** about it.

  6. Depending on which fan you want to listen to this game was lost on any one of several plays. They each plead their case for which one was “the” one. The word “several” is what we should pay attention to. With a minute plus on the game clock, inside the 12 yard line, the Hawks had 8……..EIGHT……..chances to score. And didn’t. They slept on the chance for the number one seed in the NFC all through last week’s game, and for home field advantage through the entire final offensive series yesterday. Motivation shouldn’t have been the problem, but there is, or more accurately are, problems. Injuries, you bet. Talent, to a degree. Poor coaching, yup. This bunch has been over achieving all season long, but there’s a limit to how far that will take you. For all that this is a feisty bunch, there’s too much quality in the opponents ahead for them to win on guts.

    Resolving the talent part of the equation for next season looks promising. There’s a young cadre of talent here that is gaining some experience, out of necessity, in these closing games. There is a pretty good amount of both cap and draft capital on the books that JS and company should be able to bring in some talent upgrade. The injury thing is somewhat disturbing in that there’s still a lot of soft tissue stuff that was supposed to be addressed by last off season’s change in S&C staff. Not happening. The deficiencies in coaching are related in that Pete has a good overview as evidenced by a decade long record of achievement. Second only to the “almighty” Pats. That’s the good news. But the current bunch seems to be awful slow at in game adjustments. And not all that sharp at pregame planning either. First half low performance is repeatable in nearly every game, and they don’t seem to be able to adjust until the relatively lower pressure of half time. In game……….they very often suck at making effective changes. That’s also reflected in the poor clock management. They just seem to be less nimble minded than their record sometimes shows.

    So now we’re on to the “Walking Wounded Bowl” in Philly. I see a lot of fans thinking that game is a caker since we beat them earlier this year. They’re already projecting a “revenge” game in Clara. Hopefully the team isn’t going to make that same mistake, though I saw a quote attributed to Clowney this morning that indicates he’s already looking ahead in that way. Personally Christopher may have it right in relaying the Philly perspective. It is a different group of players, even though their injury picture resembles the Seahawk one in mass, and they do have some momentum. They’ve got home field advantage, which some Hawk fans dismiss. But then some of them were touting the Niners never having beaten Russ at home………………………’d that work?

    It’s been a frustratingly thrilling year for this team and we fans. It’s turned out better than I had expected based on the talent, both players and coaching staff. I expect a loss in Philly, but maybe I’ll be as wrong about that as I was about the season record. Hopefully…………..

  7. Marshawn Lynch was wearing a beanie and couldn’t find his helmet. This is a veteran player and future HoFer. You think Knute Rockne wouldn’t have misplaced his helmet in the biggest game all year? You think George Blanda would have trotted out there too late? Or Jonny U? Or Jim Brown would be casting about, unready for the call?
    Coaches shouldn’t have to worry that Marshawn Lynch isn’t ready at the most crucial moment. That’s not on them. That’s on him.

  8. “My helmet, my helmet, my kingdom for a helmet,” cried Marshawn, who wouldst fly o’er the defense from the one foot line. If he but could.

    But again, all I require is my very own booth on high, a headset, and a modest six figure salary to whisper strategy in Pete’s ear as those pesky last minutes dwindle down at the waning of each half. I await a call from the Hawks Front Office with ill concealed impatience.

  9. Last week is over and I’m late to this thread. However the thing I gotta mentioned and surprised nobody else has is the PC 1st half decision to go for it on 4th down rather than kick a makeable FG near the end of the half. With a half remaining, take what should be a sure 3. If this would have happened, Hawks could have won with a 4th quarter FG.

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