There will be no rematch between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game next month.
The Seattle Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. They own the NFC's longest current winning streak at four games and have won seven of their last eight games. They also just eliminated their division rival from the playoffs for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era.
Beast Mode, are the Niners eliminated from playoff contention? pic.twitter.com/SkReArZKOp— Mark Mazurik¹² (@MarkMazurik) December 15, 2014
On Sunday, the Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers 17-7 at Century Link Field, improving to 10-4 on the year and 6-1 at home. The defense stepped up once again, allowing just 67 yards of offense in the second half and holding the 49ers to just one score, a 10-yard touchdown run by Frank Gore. This year, Seattle's defense was downright dominant against the 49ers.
49ers vs Seahawks this season: Scoring 5.0 points per game 49ers vs all other opponents this season: Scoring 20.1 points per game— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 15, 2014
Russell Wilson had a relatively quiet day, completing 12-of-24 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Marshawn Lynch led the way on the ground with 21 carries for 91 yards and a go-ahead touchdown with 2:19 to go in the third quarter, a score that would put the Seahawks in the lead for good.
The controversy of the day came in the 4th quarter, with the Seahawks holding onto a 10-7 lead. On a 3rd and 5, Russell Wilson tried to hit Paul Richardson in the end zone, but took a hit as the pass fell incomplete. On the play, Nick Moody was flagged for leading with the crown of his helmet, which didn't look as if it was the case. The penalty gave the Seahawks a fresh set of downs, allowing Wilson to hit Richardson in the end zone two plays later for the touchdown that put the final nail in the coffin. More on that later. On to the recap!
On San Francisco's opening drive, Carlos Hyde and Frank Gore delivered two straight carries of at least 15 yards to move the ball into Seattle territory. The Seahawks caught a lucky break on Hyde's gain of 28 yards as Brandon Lloyd was flagged for an illegal block in the back. The drive would stall near midfield as KJ Wright brought down Collin Kaepernick who tried to dance out of the pocket.
The 49er way: Run the ball well. Abandon the run. Punt.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) December 14, 2014
Seattle's opening drive wouldn't fare much better. After picking up a first down, James Carpenter would be flagged for a false start. On the ensuing play, Wilson would be sacked by Ahmad Brooks, forcing Seattle to punt it away after moving just nine yards.
I wanna like Justin Britt, I really do. But it's hard watching him pass protect.— Scott Enyeart (@ScottEnyeart) December 14, 2014
On the Seahawks' second drive of the day, they got some help from Eric Reid. On the first play of the drive, Reid hit Doug Baldwin who was tiptoeing the sidelines about to go out of bounds as Reid came in and delivered a punishing hit, drawing a flag for the late hit. Four plays later, Reid was flagged for hitting a "defenseless" Paul Richardson. Watch the play in full speed and be the judge.
The Seahawks would need to settle for a field goal as Steven Hauschka opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal. 30 of the 62 yards gained on the drive came from penalties against Eric Reid.
Kaepernick made his first big play of the day, hitting Garrett Celek downfield for 31 yards. The Seahawks initially had everyone covered, but Kaepernick was able to extend the play by scrambling and throwing on the run. Carlos Hyde would wrap up the quarter with another big run, moving the Niners inside the red zone.
In the first quarter, it was Hyde, not Frank Gore, finding the open field on the run. Hyde had three carries for 45 yards while Gore had five carries for just eight yards.
Time of possession and total yards first quarter: SF 8:24 / 112 (60 rush) SEA 6:36 / 46 (13 rush)— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) December 14, 2014
On 3rd and 1, Cliff Avril would stuff Frank Gore at the line of scrimmage. The 49ers would opt to go for it as they were on the Seattle 10. Gore would break through the line of the scrimmage all the way to the end zone for the 10-yard touchdown. Gore tucked in behind Alex Boone who led the way with some impressive lead blocking, paving the path to the end zone for Gore.
49ers pulled right guard Boone and Gore ran behind huge hole for TD to make 7-3 49ers with 13:22 to play in first half.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) December 14, 2014
The rushing touchdown was the first allowed by Seattle in their last four games.
Russell Wilson made his first big play on the next drive, hitting Jermaine Kearse on the drive's opening play for 47 yards. The offensive line would continue to struggle with penalties however. Wilson would hit Paul Richardson for 22 yards, moving the ball to the San Francisco 8. The big gain was called back after a hold against rookie Justin Britt. Two plays later, Russell Okung would jump early. Just like that, the Seahawks were forced to punt it away.
So instead of first-and-goal at the 8, the Seahawks have to punt.— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) December 14, 2014
Kaepernick continued to move well, breaking free for a 22-yard gain out towards midfield. It looks as if the 49ers are finally letting Kaepernick be more mobile again. Two plays later, Kaepernick's mobility helped him avoid a sack, hitting Bruce Miller for 22 yards.
Plays like that, are why you can't shut the door on Kaepernick's development. Dude has so many physical skills.— Joseph Hoyt (@JoeJHoyt) December 14, 2014
San Francisco's drive would stall as Kaepernick was taken down in the backfield on three consecutive plays, including a loss of 10 yards on 3rd down as Jordan Hill brought down Kaepernick.
The Niners have 9 plays of 10+ yards in the first half. Hawks have 2. Good news is Hawks defense got a stop when needed on Hill sack.— Ian Furness (@IanKJR) December 14, 2014
Seattle would try to add points on the board before the half, going into their 2-minute offense. After a sack for a loss of nine and a false start penalty on JR Sweezy, Russell Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for a 35-yard gain, putting the Seahawks into field goal range. On the play, Baldwin came down hard and would head off to the sideline. On the last play of the half, Wilson was picked off by Eric Reid on an all-or-nothing play that was either going to end in a touchdown or no points.
Unless they somehow didn't feel Steven Hauschka was in range at 47 yards... that's the only possible justification for that call.— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) December 14, 2014
The interception was also Wilson's first in his last 138 attempts, which was the longest active streak in the NFL. On the play, Russell Okung suffered a chest injury that resulted in him spitting up blood. Alvin Bailey would come in to replace Okung in the second half. Okung was visibly frustrated on the sidelines after the play.
During the half, Frank Gore was also ruled out with a concussion after trying to block Bobby Wagner earlier in the game.
On Seattle's opening drive of the half, penalties would once again stall the offense. After converting on a 3rd and 1, Ricardo Lockette was called for illegal motion. Wilson nearly hit Luke Wilson with an impressive pass on 3rd and 6, but Wilson was covered perfectly by Dontae Johnson, forcing the Seahawks to punt the ball away.
The Seattle defense would continue to pressure Kaepernick on third down as Bobby Wagner brought down Kaepernick, forcing the 49ers to punt it away.
Marshawn Lynch would start to get on a rhythm on the next drive with carries for 13 yards and 24 yards, moving the ball into field goal range. On a big 3rd and 10, Wilson would hit Paul Richardson for the first down, moving the ball into the red zone. Two plays later, Robert Turbin would blow through the line to move the ball inside the 5, setting up the 4-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch on the next play. Handshakes for everyone!
That drive is why Marshawn Lynch is the opponent the 49ers defense has always respected most.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 14, 2014
After getting pinned on a tackle during San Francisco's next drive, Carlos Hyde limped off the field after his right leg was pinned on a tackle. Suddenly, the 49ers were down to Alfonso Smith, their last available running back. Jordan Hill ended the drive with another 3rd down sack on Kaepernick. Had Kaepernick not missed a wide open Anquan Boldin on the previous play, the Niners would've had a fresh set of downs. How open was Boldin? This open:
After a nice return by Bryan Walters, Rusell Wilson ended the 3rd quarter with a 19-yard gain off the zone read, giving the Seahawks a chance to build on their lead early in the final quarter.
Seattle's defense really stepped up a notch in the third quarter, allowing just six yards of offense.
On a crucial 3rd down play, Seattle would catch a huge break. As Wilson was under pressure, he took a hit from Nick Moody as the pass attempt fell incomplete. Moody was flagged for roughing the passer, giving the Seahawks a fresh set of downs to work with. It was ruled that Moody hit Wilson with the crown of his helmet, which didn't appear to be the case.
Two plays later, Wilson hit Paul Richardson for the first touchdown of his career, giving the Seahawks a 17-7 lead with 13:20 to play. Richardson celebrating his first score with a shmoney dance.
Not surpringlsy, Twitter erupted after the call. Never mind the fact that the Seahawks defense gave up just four first downs and 67 yards of offense in the second half. Totally the refs fault, though.
NFL needs to be embarrassed by that flag-roughing the passer call. Absolutely changed game. Likely ended Niners season. And indefensible.— Jennifer Floyd Engel (@engeljen) December 14, 2014
After shutting down the 49ers's offense all throughout the second half, the Seahawks came up with their biggest stop of the day. On 4th and inches, O'Brien Schofield stuffed Bruce Miller, giving the Seahawks the ball back with a 10-point lead and 5:30 to play. San Francisco's drive ate up eight minutes of clock as they essentially shot themselves in the foot by not scoring on the drive while eating up so much time.
The Seahawks now prepare for the showdown of the year in the desert. Next weekend, Seattle will take on the Arizona Cardinals with a first-round bye on the line. If Seattle is able to win out (along with a loss by the Cowboys), the Seahawks will take the No. 1 seed in the NFC, which could potentially pave the way to a second straight trip to the Super Bowl considering how tough they are to beat at home. There's no telling what will happen this month, but you'll want to buckle up. It's going to be a wild ride.