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Missed chance at division has Seahawks heading to the road

December 31, 2019 GMT
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Seattle Seahawks' John Ursua, left, makes a catch at the one-yard line to give the team a first down with less than a minute left as San Francisco 49ers' K'Waun Williams tackles during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. The 49ers won 26-21. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
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Seattle Seahawks' John Ursua, left, makes a catch at the one-yard line to give the team a first down with less than a minute left as San Francisco 49ers' K'Waun Williams tackles during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. The 49ers won 26-21. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — As he went back through the final plays and how it all transpired, it still seemed shocking to Pete Carroll that the Seattle Seahawks didn’t find the end zone.

So many chances. So many missed opportunities to ensure the Seahawks would be celebrating an NFC West championship and home playoff game rather than the reality of being a wild-card team headed on the road to open the postseason.

“It’s amazing it didn’t happen,” Carroll said on Monday after Seattle’s 26-21 loss to San Francisco. “We’ve all been around, you’ve watched us long enough, you’ve watched (Russell Wilson) pull it out and our receivers and all of that. It’s just an unusual occurrence that it didn’t almost to me.”

While Carroll was trying to spin Seattle forward into a playoff matchup with Philadelphia on Sunday, there should be some level of regret for the Seahawks for what they missed out on against the 49ers. They were outplayed for much of the night by San Francisco, only to have the ball in Wilson’s hands in the dying moments of the fourth quarter with a chance to win the division with a touchdown.

Seattle ran eight plays from the San Francisco 12-yard line or closer in the final minute. For as masterful as he was in the fourth quarter, Wilson was just 2 of 8 passing on those eight snaps, with one being a spike to stop the clock. Both completions saw the receivers — John Ursua on the first and Jacob Hollister on the second — stopped inches from the goal line.

And that doesn’t include the costly delay-of-game penalty that ruined what could have been a storybook finish in Marshawn Lynch’s return.

It was chaotic and wild, and ultimately a thud of a conclusion for Seattle.

Lynch’s return provided Seattle a needed spark after its Week 16 loss to Arizona. He was serviceable with 12 carries for 34 yards and sent the crowd into a frenzy when he scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.

But it ultimately ended up coming in a loss and muted the momentum that accompanied his return.

“It felt good, but at the end of the day, you know, I play to win,” Lynch said.

WHAT’S WORKING

The Seahawks are never out of a game and that makes them dangerous for the postseason. Seattle trailed 26-14 with 5:55 left and was left kicking itself for losing. Wilson is a big reason for that. Taking away the chaos of the final eight snaps, Wilson was 7 of 11 for 88 yards on the final two drives.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Seattle’s pass rush continues to have zero impact. Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked twice on San Francisco’s opening drive, once on a cornerback blitz by Tre Flowers. It was the only two times all night Garoppolo was hit. Jadeveon Clowney has clearly been slowed by the core muscle injury he’s playing through, and none of Seattle’s other pass rushers has been able to make up for his absence.

STOCK UP

Hello, Travis Homer. The rookie sixth-round pick stepped into the starting role at running back and was more than an acceptable replacement. The rookie showed flashes of explosiveness, was excellent in pass blocking and became a key receiver out of the backfield late in the game. Homer finished with 62 yards rushing on 10 carries and caught five passes for 30 yards. If nothing else, the performance by Homer should justify his status as Seattle’s No. 3 running back going into next season assuming Chris Carson (hip) and Rashaad Penny (knee) both return from their season-ending injuries without issue.

STOCK DOWN

Remember when Seattle playing at home was seemingly an automatic loss for the opponent? The Seahawks went 4-4 at home this season with losses to New Orleans, Baltimore, Arizona and San Francisco. Over the past three seasons, Seattle is 14-10 at home. While it’s still a difficult place for opponents, CenturyLink Field doesn’t appear to have the same intimidating aura as in the past.

INJURIES

Seattle lost linebacker Mychal Kendricks to a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury was suffered in the third quarter and was confirmed on Monday. Carroll said Jaron Brown suffered a knee sprain in the first quarter and won’t be able to play for a couple of weeks. Seattle is hopeful Malik Turner will be cleared from concussion protocol to play against the Eagles.

Seattle does expect safety Quandre Diggs to practice on Wednesday after missing the past two games with a high-ankle sprain. Carroll is also holding out hope left tackle Duane Brown could be back following minor knee surgery, but it’s likely Brown is another week away.

KEY NUMBER

6,106 — The total number of yards allowed by Seahawks this season, the second most in franchise history. Only the 2000 team (6,391) allowed more total yards. Seattle also allowed 6.0 yards per play, second most in team history.

WHAT’S NEXT

Seattle will face Philadelphia for the second time in two months. The Seahawks won 17-9 in late November in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Seattle led 17-3 before a late scoring drive by the Eagles. The difference this time is Seattle will be without Penny, who rushed for 129 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But the Seahawks struggled to protect Wilson that day as he was sacked six times.

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