In one of the mostly highly anticipated games of 2014 season, the Seattle Seahawks traveled to San Francisco to take on the 49ers on Thanksgiving night, the first meeting between the two rivals since the previous year’s NFC Championship game.
It was Week 13, and the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks were primed for another fight, singularly focused on earning home-field advantage again. To do so, they would presumably have to get through their Bay Area nemesis, who they sat tied with, at 7-4, as the NBC crew rolled into Levi’s Stadium.
What followed was a 19-3 shellacking by Seattle, as San Francisco hardly put up a fight. In previous seasons, the Seahawks and 49ers had split their season series, with the home team holding serve; as Richard Sherman bit into a turkey leg at midfield, it felt like a change.
When the two teams met again, in Week 15, that change seemed certain: San Francisco failed to find revenge, losing 17-7 in their third of four straight losses to drop them to 7-7. Eight days later, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh parted ways with the team, and the rivalry that defined the decade was over.
In the same style as the weekly All-22 Musings, relive the game that put an end to the defining rivalry of the decade, before that rivalry starts anew on Monday Night Football:
[SF 2-3 SF 20] (14:13) (Shotgun) C. Kaepernick pass short middle to M. Crabtree to SF 25 for 5 yards (K. Chancellor). SF-M. Crabtree was injured during the play. Caught at SF 24. 1-yd YAC
Kam Chancellor, lurking underneath and then crashing down onto the receiver, was one of the most satisfying sights in football from 2011 until his untimely retirement. So often, we saw Chancellor use an early opportunity over the middle to set a tone, and that was the case here, on one of San Francisco’s first plays from scrimmage.
(An aside: Behind Clinton McDonald, Jordan Hill may have been the best interior rusher Seattle had in this period—it’s a shame he struggled with injuries.)
[SF 2-10 SF 25] (13:41) F. Gore left tackle to SF 29 for 4 yards (B. Wagner; E. Thomas)
Earl Thomas, lined up some 15-odd-yards off the line of scrimmage, only to arrive at the ball first (with Bobby Wagner), and limit Frank Gore to a four yard gain. When the term “range” is used to describe Thomas’s play at free safety in Pete Carroll’s defense, the mind goes to defending the pass, but he was just as unavoidable defending the run.
[SEA 3-16 SEA 20] (11:00) (Shotgun) M. Lynch up the middle to SEA 31 for 11 yards (C. Borland, A. Bethea)
While Darrell Bevell’s patented 3rd-and-long draws are not missed at all, Marshawn Lynch rumbling, tumbling, but maintaining balance and breaking tackles in the open field is missed badly.
[SF 3-5 SF 36] (9:25) (Shotgun) C. Kaepernick sacked at SF 29 for -7 yards (C. Avril)
No Seahawk looped inside from the edge as effectively as Michael Bennett, while nobody could corner quite like Cliff Avril (with all due respect to the relentless Chris Clemons). And combined? No duo tormented Colin Kaepernick like Bennett and Avril, as we saw twice at CenturyLink Field the previous season.
[SF 3-8 SF 30] (5:39) (Shotgun) C. Kaepernick pass deep right intended for B. Lloyd INTERCEPTED by R. Sherman at 50. R. Sherman to SF 45 for 5 yards (B. Lloyd)
Richard Sherman’s ability to keep leverage against an opposing receiver separated him from, well, every receiver he faced over a several year span. On the first of two interceptions on the night, Sherman runs Brandon Lloyd’s route for him, and is ready to take hold of the pass that was rightfully his the whole way.
[SEA 3-7 SF 34] (3:02) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short middle to D. Baldwin to SF 10 for 24 yards (P. Cox) [J. Smith]. Caught at SF 26. 16-yds YAC
The little skip to get on the wrong side of Chris Borland is vintage Doug Baldwin, finding space however he deems necessary. The fluidity with which he can change direction, flipping his hips like it’s nothing, is classic too. There’s a lot of Baldwin in Tyler Lockett’s game, unsurprisingly, and this play has all the makings of a Russell Wilson-Lockett connection.
[SF 1-10 SF 20] (1:29) F. Gore up the middle to SF 22 for 2 yards (M. Bennett)
Stunts, penetrating through impossible gaps, or chasing down a quarterback from behind; Bennett had a few defining traits as a pass rusher, but as a run defender, it’s hard to think of him as anything but scrappy. Undersized playing inside, tiny shoulder pads; it epitomized his play from the interior, and that’s what we see here, fighting off blocks and stopping Gore for little gain.
[SEA 3-9 SEA 36] (13:00) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short right to T. Moeaki to SF 1 for 63 yards (P. Cox; C. Culliver). Caught at SEA 48. 47-yds YAC
A pair of reminders, one more needed than the other: Wilson is simply absurd, and Tony Moeaki played for Seattle. That Wilson spin out of the pocket, away from a rusher, popped up seemingly every time the 49ers faced the Seahawks. (Great balancing act by Moeaki along the sideline, too.)
[SF 1-10 SF 36] (10:18) F. Gore right tackle to SF 35 for -1 yards (B. Wagner)
Bobby Wagner gets the credit for the tackle, but look at Bennett, systematically demoralizing every blocker that tries to engage him, blowing up San Francisco’s best laid plans, allowing Wagner to get to Gore clean.
[SF 1-10 SF 20] (5:40) F. Gore right guard to SF 18 for -2 yards (B. Wagner)
Bennett may deserve the majority of the credit on the previous play, but this is all Wagner, as he puts together a masterclass in linebacker play. Patiently reading Gore’s movement, letting him choose the hole—only to quickly make him know it was the wrong one. Phenomenal tackle for loss by a linebacker who, some five years later, remains a phenom.
[SEA 1-20 SEA 12] (4:00) (Shotgun) M. Lynch up the middle to SEA 20 for 8 yards (J. Smith)
Rocking back-and-forth split-legged as he runs, and a weird flip upwards to try and get up; from start to finish, an entirely classic Marshawn Lynch run.
[SF 1-10 SF 33] (:12) (Shotgun) C. Kaepernick scrambles left tackle to SF 38 for 5 yards (E. Thomas)
It’s a little ironic, but watching Thomas try and defend Kaepernick, it’s hard to shake the idea that Earl Thomas, in his prime, is the perfect defender to spy Lamar Jackson, who is otherwise spy-proof.
[SEA 1-10 SEA 18] (14:56) R. Wilson pass deep right to J. Kearse to SEA 35 for 17 yards (P. Cox). Penalty on SF-P. Cox, Illegal Contact, declined. 0-yds YAC
A fine bit of route running from Jermaine Kearse on a 17-yard throw and catch: The second inside step sends Perrish Cox heading the wrong way, and then the shoulder-to-shoulder contact creates separation for an easy completion. Wilson’s trust in Kearse was unwavering, and it’s little moments like this that show why.
[SEA 1-10 SF 42] (10:58) M. Lynch right end pushed ob at SF 9 for 33 yards (E. Reid)
Another healthy dose of vintage Lynch, as he steps out of a tackle and rumbles down the sideline, only to slow down to engage defenders in order to finish the run and gain a handful of extra yards.
[SF 1-10 SEA 38] (4:31) C. Kaepernick sacked at SEA 44 for -6 yards (B. Irvin)
Some outstanding open field defending from Bruce Irvin, squaring up, and bringing down Kaepernick—who at the time, was as difficult of a proposition for a defender as anyone in the league. There’s a reason why Carroll and Seattle have tried—with Barkevious Mingo and Mychal Kendricks—and failed, to replicate everything that Irvin brought to the Seahawks’ defense.
[SF 2-10 SEA 21] (2:33) (Shotgun) C. Hyde right tackle to SEA 19 for 2 yards (B. Wagner)
Over the past decade, it’s hard to think of a more unwelcome sight for a running back then Chancellor, unblocked and squared up. Carlos Hyde’s little stumble saved him from getting lined up clean by Chancellor and even then, it’s a punishing hit.
[SEA 1-10 SEA 20] (1:06) M. Lynch up the middle pushed ob at SEA 36 for 16 yards (A. Lynch)
Lynch will always be remembered for his physical, punishing, never-say-die running style, but his ability to open up and reverse field will remain underrated. Lynch was the total package as a running back, and somehow, a carry like this was the norm for him.
[SF 1-10 SEA 46] (7:13) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C. Kaepernick pass short right intended for S. Johnson INTERCEPTED by R. Sherman at SEA 31. R.Sherman to SEA 32 for 1 yard (S. Johnson)
While it’s easy to write Sherman’s second interception of Kaepernick off as a desperate, poor decision from the 49ers’ signal caller, it was really an outstanding play by Sherman to get his body turned around a second time, and pull the ball down. This one sealed it, and all there was left to do was chow down on a turkey leg.
[SEA 3-12 SF 23] (2:17) (Shotgun) R. Wilson scrambles left end to SF 13 for 10 yards (C. Culliver)
An absolutely vintage escape from Wilson, avoiding tacklers at nearly every turn, and somehow turning a certain sack to a 10-yard gain. All that was missing was the pump fake four yards beyond the line of scrimmage that somehow makes a defender jump. Seattle would attempt the 4th and 2 and fail to convert, but it didn’t matter: The game, and rivalry, was finished.
Though the Seahawks had dominated San Francisco at home, and saw victory in the most important clash between the two, in the NFC Championship Game, Week 13 of the 2014 season was the first time in the Wilson-Kaepernick era that the road team had been victorious. Not only did it swing the league’s best rivalry in Seattle’s favor, it put a close to it entirely.
Until now. On Monday Night Football, the 8-0 49ers and 7-2 Seahawks will renew a rivalry that has been laying dormant for too long.