Despite the difficult 2021 campaign for the Seattle Seahawks, they still continue to own the San Francisco 49ers.
Russell Wilson had his best game since returning from finger surgery and the defense came up with a key goal line stand to give Seattle a 30-23 victory to snap a three-game losing streak.
“It feels amazing. It feels amazing. We had a couple ugly losses here for a bit. So it feels good to get an ugly win," defensive end Carlos Dunlap said.
Dunlap batted down a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo at the line of scrimmage on the final fourth down play for the 49ers to clinch the victory for the Seahawks. It's the 17th time in the last 20 meetings, including the playoffs, that the Seahawks have beaten the 49ers dating back to December 2012.
"Really happy that our guys got a chance to get in the locker room and have fun and get a great win. No matter when you get one it's great, and this one was much needed," head coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle won the time of possession battle for the first time all season long. They ran a season-high 68 plays on offense after only twice eclipsing the 60-play mark this year and two straight games with fewer than 50 plays run. They overcame three turnovers on offense by forcing three turnovers on defense and dominating the special teams portion of the game, including a touchdown on a beautifully executed fake punt.
"That was one of the wildest games I've ever been a part of... From the fake punt, to the safety to the turnovers... 96 yards to be stopped on fourth down. Crazy," 49ers tight end George Kittle said.
The current iterations of the Seahawks and 49ers may not be as good as their counterparts from seasons past. However, the theater of Sunday's game at Lumen Field was just as wild as soon of those previous contests.
Here are the takeaways from the Seahawks win over the 49ers:
-- Special teams performance was critical with a touchdown scored and forced turnover.
There may not have been a more decisive difference between the Seahawks and 49ers than the performance of the teams' special teams units.
The Seahawks scored on a 73-yard touchdown from Travis Homer on a fake punt, forced a fumble from Travis Benjamin on the opening kickoff of the second half, and Michael Dickson averaged 51.3 yards per punt with two of his four kicks landing inside the 49ers' 20-yard line. DeeJay Dallas also had a nice day with kickoff returns, averaging 25.8 yards a return on his five kick returns.
"The big special teams play to start the game off was great design by [special teams coaches] Larry Izzo and Tracy Smith to take advantage of something they saw, and then perfect execution by the guys. Then of course Homer does the score, [Nick] Bellore, everybody did great on that one. That was just an amazing play."
The 49ers had double teams set up on both of Seattle's gunners with just six players on the line of scrimmage. That gave Seattle an 8-on-6 numbers advantage at the line of scrimmage. When the ball was snapped directly to Homer, Dallas, Jon Rhattigan and Cody Barton sealed the edge with Homer easily getting out into the open. Bellore made the one necessary block on punt returner Brandon Aiyuk and Homer cut back to run untouched for the score.
"It was pretty exciting to see Homer take it like that and he was so kind to slow down a little bit so I could get out in front of him a little bit. You don’t envision it working that well, but it’s always great to see," Bellore said.
Bellore then forced the fumble from Benjamin that would have led to a touchdown if Gerald Everett hadn't dropped a would-be touchdown into the arms of a 49ers defender.
"it was just kind of super lucky," Bellore said. "I just put my arm out there and luckily the ball came out. I would like to say that I meant to do that. Officially, I did mean to do that. Unofficially, I was just glad to see it out.
-- Gerald Everett had a nightmare day.
The Seahawks had three turnovers against the 49ers. All three turnovers came on plays involving Gerald Everett.
Everett lost two fumbles and had a sure touchdown catch turn into an interception when he juggled a pass at the goal line that bounced into the waiting arms of cornerback K'Waun Williams.
"Heartbreaking day," Carroll said of Everett. "He is a tough, competitive, come-through guy, and those plays just went the other way."
Everett lost a fumble on Seattle's second offensive possession on a quick screen when the ball was knocked free by D.J. Jones and recovered by Emmanuel Moseley.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Seattle was gifted terrific field position after the fumbled kickoff return by Travis Benjamin set Seattle up at the 49ers' 28-yard line. The Seahawks moved to the 49ers' 5-yard line before Wilson saw Everett coming wide open at the goal line. The throw hit Everett square in the hands but he was unable to catch the ball as it spit free to Williams for an interception.
Then as the Seahawks were looking to seal away the game with just over four minutes left to play, a shovel pass from Wilson to Everett from the 2-yard line was knocked free by linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and recovered by Dontae Johnson to give the 49ers' hopes alive.
"The one thing I told Gerald is I always will believe in him," Wilson said. "He's a tremendous football player and he's been great for us this season. I went over to him, just talked to him, you know, you're going to help us throughout this game and the rest of the season. Just keep your head clear. I have no doubt what Gerald Everett is going to do, how he's going to respond.
-- Dee Eskridge makes key plays in biggest showing so far.
Wide receiver Dee Eskridge had his most meaningful contributions to the team since being Seattle's top selection in the NFL Draft this spring.
Eskridge caught three passes for 35 yards and scored his first career touchdown in the win over the 49ers.
Eskridge made two big plays on Seattle's final drive of the first half. He caught an 11-yard pass on third-and-2 that required him to skirt a tackle and get out of bounds to stop the clock with 26 seconds left as the Seahawks were out of timeouts. Two plays later, Wilson hit Eskridge on a pass that was completed at the 3-yard line and required Eskridge to break a tackle from Deommodore Lenoir to find his way into the end zone.
The touchdown was the first of Eskridge's career as he missed half of the season due to concussion-related issues.
"It felt amazing," Eskridge said. "It felt amazing."
Eskridge also picked up a 17-yard completion on a throw from Wilson in the third quarter.
"It so cool to see Dee Eskridge get in the end zone," Wilson said. "He has worked just so hard to get back, and I know any time your injured it's tough and he went through some severe stuff."
-- Russell Wilson posts best outing since surgery.
It still wasn't peak Russell Wilson, but it was much closer than it's been the past few weeks.
With very little help from the rushing game, the offensive onus again fell on Wilson's shoulders Sunday against the 49ers. Unlike the past three weeks against the Packers, Cardinals and Washington Football Team, Wilson was able to deliver enough to lift Seattle to victory.
Wilson completed 30-of-37 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception that wasn't his fault. With new addition Adrian Peterson, Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer combining for just 58 yards on 24 non-fake punt carries, Wilson had to deliver without much assistance.
Wilson's accuracy was still a bit amiss at times. Early throws on screen passes weren't put in great locations for his receivers to catch. Wilson overthrew DK Metcalf once in the end zone and missed five yards out of bounds on a throw in the third quarter. But Wilson also delivered his single best throw since surgery, dropping in a perfect throw to Tyler Lockett for a 12-yard touchdown that gave Seattle their decisive lead in the fourth quarter.
"Russ was strong. Good, solid football game. Made some great throws in the game," Carroll said. "The play to Tyler for the touchdown, that orchestration of that route and the concept and the call, was a great call, by Shane [Waldron] and great execution by the guys, and great toss. You know, really we should have scored the other time down there. Gerald had a chance. He's in the end zone, that's a touchdown. We had the other one, too. Russ had a couple more touchdowns in him today that didn't show up. I thought he played a really good game."
Wilson was sacked four times with a couple of those being on his shoulders for moving into pressure.
But given just how poorly the offense had performed in recent weeks, it did feel like a step toward normalcy for Wilson and the unit against the 49ers.
"I think you're just getting back into the groove of it all," Wilson said. "I never missed a game in any sport, so you get back to the field and we played some really good football teams, too, so there are some challenges there, but obviously I think that I just stayed the course.
"I'm just going to stay focused on what I need to do. I know what kind of player I am. I know what kind of throws I can make. I know what we can do, and I'm just going to keep swinging."
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 05: Bobby Wagner #54 and DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 30-23 at Lumen Field on December 05, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)