© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
There is no such thing as normalcy when the Seattle Seahawks are involved. They are innately weird, and that weirdness seems to only get ratcheted up when they play the 49ers.
No matter how poorly the Seahawks play, it seems imminent that a Russell Wilson team will always have a chance to win. Despite being 3-8 entering this game, that remained the case on Sunday, as the 49ers lost 30-23 in nonsensical fashion.
What turned San Francisco’s season around over the last five games was a recipe — sparked, in large part, by the use of Deebo Samuel as a running back — in which the 49ers stopped beating themselves. They had started to win the turnover battle, commit fewer penalties and convert on third downs consistently. All of those areas were major points of failure through the first six games of the season.
Those issues resurfaced, in part, on Sunday.
- Turnover battle: Even, at 3-3, but included two damning interceptions, and a safety, which doesn’t count as a turnover, but is in some ways worse than a normal turnover.
- Penalties: 10 for 86 yards. The most they’ve committed all season and the most penalty yards since their loss to Indy
- Third-down conversions: 3-for-10.
The tied turnover differential was not for a lack of effort on the 49ers’ part, as they forced four first-half fumbles (one recovered) against Seattle, including one sack-fumble for a 23-yard loss. They were able to even the differential thanks, in large part, to Gerald Everett, who fumbled twice, and was the cause of K’Waun Williams’ goal-line interception.
- Games with a positive turnover differential: 4-0
- Games with a negative turnover differential: 1-4
- Games with an even turnover differential: 1-2
In an extremely on-brand series of events, both teams turned the ball over to start the second half with the 49ers leading 23-21, and San Francisco committed a safety, all in the span of fewer than five minutes.
A Travis Benjamin kick return ended with the ball in the hands of Seattle’s Travis Homer, as Benjamin was swiped with relative ease. But Everett, who fumbled earlier in the game, dropped what was a seemingly sure touchdown, then kicked it up for K’Waun Williams to intercept.
Williams, though, reacted quickly and ran the ball out of the end zone, which would immediately haunt the 49ers. After a pair of ineffective carries inside the five-yard line, Tom Compton got beaten as bad as you can possibly get beaten, by Carlos Dunlap, leaving him in the lap of Jimmy Garoppolo for a safety.
Seattle failed to turn that into points, thanks to their offensive line getting bombarded by the 49ers’ defensive line. And just as the 49ers got what seemed like a substantial 3rd-and-5 conversion inside their own 15-yard-line from Garoppolo to Aiyuk, it was made moot.
Garoppolo turned into the worst version of himself, overthrowing a double-covered George Kittle over the middle of the field, and leaving the ball in the lap of a center-fielding Quandre Diggs.
Finally, Seattle made the 49ers pay for their errors, as Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett found each other in the most typical of ways. Wilson threw a back-corner fade to Lockett, who caught it, absurdly, but unsurprisingly, over his shoulder to give Seattle the 30-23 lead.
And Seattle really should have ended the game earlier, or at least make it a two-score game. They had the opportunity to take a field goal with less than six minutes remaining, but went for, and converted a fourth down.
On third down, they trusted Everett. Three of Seattle’s receivers motioned out wide to the right, Wilson faked a screen, and instead tossed a shovel to Everett, who fumbled again. The 49ers recovered, and embarked on the defining drive of the game.
After driving down to the Seattle 7-yard line, despite four shots at the end zone, the 49ers couldn’t find their way in, throwing on both third and fourth down unsuccessfully. It wasn’t Dre Greenlaw’s goal-line stop, but the energy and similarities are tough to ignore.
Even with the loss, San Francisco, at 6-6, is still holding on to the seventh, and final, NFC Wild Card spot.