Marshawn Lynch returned to Seattle, Richard Sherman made his second trip in a different uniform, and the NFC West was on the line; Week 17 between the Seahawks and 49ers delivered another classic rivalry game. Seattle left it until the end but came up short, as they dropped a 26-21 contest and stuck in the NFC’s five seed, while San Francisco takes the division and home-field throughout the playoffs.
Lynch’s return, Travis Homer’s emergence and more will be the focus of this week’s All-22 Musings:
[SF 1-10 SF 21] (13:49) T. Coleman left end to SF 25 for 4 yards (M. Kendricks)
Excellent backside pursuit from Mychal Kendricks to drag down Tevin Coleman for a four yard gain, but Rasheem Green deserves all the praise here: Look at the way the sophomore swallows up a double team to enable Kendricks to pursue unabated. Green didn’t begin the season a great, or even good run defender, but it’s evident he’ll end the season as one.
[SF 2-6 SF 25] (13:07) (Shotgun) J. Garoppolo sacked at SF 19 for -6 yards (Q. Jefferson)
Quinton Jefferson is a perfect rotational player: He’s strong against the run, and does well to take advantage of pass rush opportunities created by the players around him (see his Week 1 sack of Andy Dalton). However, this is perhaps his cleanest sack of the year, totally created by himself one-on-one. A swipe of the guard’s hands, swim and finish.
[SF 1-10 SEA 28] (9:15) R. Mostert left tackle to SEA 27 for 1 yard (E. Ansah; K. Wright)
One of the most exciting developments to come from the Seahawks’ win in Philadelphia in the regular season was Ezekiel Ansah’s play. He looked strong, healthy, and outright dominant. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got over the rest of the year. However, here we again see that functional strength as he sheds Kyle Juszczyk and blows up the 49ers’ run.
[SEA 3-8 SEA 27] (6:50) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short left to DK. Metcalf pushed ob at SEA 37 for 10 yards (A. Witherspoon) [A. Armstead]
Around the midpoint of the season, DK Metcalf suddenly became a fairly legitimate possession receiver, and it hasn’t stopped since. His body positioning is consistently excellent, as it is here—with his frame, there’s no way for a defensive back to get back into the play legally.
The end zone view brings us a great shot of Mike Iupati finding work (and a wonderful toe tap from Metcalf):
[SEA 2-8 SEA 39] (5:50) J. Jones reported in as eligible. M. Lynch right tackle to SEA 44 for 5 yards (M. Harris)
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Marshawn Lynch’s first carry in his return, if for no other reason then the way he jumps into the backsides of his linemen accurately represents how excited an entire fan base was in that moment.
[SEA 3-4 SEA 23] (14:20) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short right to T. Homer to SEA 29 for 6 yards (K. Williams)
Travis Homer’s traits as a prospect seemed to indicate he would have a good chance at developing into a good passing down back, and this play does nothing but stoke that flame: He reads both linebackers and sees they drop into coverage so he is free to release into the flat, and then maximizes his yards after the catch.
[SEA 1-10 SEA 29] (13:46) T. Homer left end to SEA 37 for 8 yards (M. Harris)
Homer’s explosiveness jumps off the screen on any play where he has the ball, but this carry is downright Rashaad Penny-esque. The way he takes the outside carry and presses the edge before planting his foot and exploding up-field is tremendous.
[SF 3-10 SEA 15] (6:46) (Shotgun) J. Garoppolo pass short middle to D. Samuel to SEA 5 for 10 yards (M. Blair). FUMBLES (M. Blair), and recovers at SEA 7. D. Samuel to SEA 7 for no gain (T. Flowers)
The decision to start Lano Hill over Marquise Blair is one of the few decisions this year that’s difficult to understand (never mind agree with), and this exemplifies that confusion. In Week 17, Hill was playing in work-safe steel toes, while Blair has absolute trust in his eyes, and runs and hits with a vengeance.
[SEA 2-7 SF 47] (2:39) (Shotgun) T. Homer left end to SF 40 for 7 yards (A. Witherspoon)
This play is really a wonderful design, and one that maximizes the target’s strengths. Seattle leaves Nick Bosa unblocked so that he jumps inside, and then it’s a quick shovel pass to Homer to get a dynamic player into space.
[SF 2-11 SF 24] (14:22) J. Garoppolo pass short right to G. Kittle to SF 20 for -4 yards (K. Wright)
K.J. Wright’s timing when he defends screen passes is just out of this world, like he was born to defend them. He has simply never arrived late when breaking on a screen.
[SEA 1-10 SEA 49] (10:48) J. Jones reported in as eligible. M. Lynch right end to SF 43 for 8 yards (S. Thomas)
An easy criticism lofted towards the Seahawks’ signing of Lynch last week was how out of shape he likely was, while an easy response was that, well, his game was never predicated on athleticism. While his stamina understandably lacked in Week 17, this carry shows that he does still possess some burst to the outside. At the very least, it’ll prevent his presence on the field from being an absolute tell that a run between the tackles is coming.
[SEA 2-2 SF 43] (10:08) M. Lynch left tackle to SF 28 for 15 yards (J. Ward; M. Harris)
Rumbling into the second level, split-legged with his wide-base; if this run is as good as it gets in Lynch’s return to Seattle, I am perfectly content.
[SEA 3-9 SF 14] (5:53) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short left to T. Lockett for 14 yards, TOUCHDOWN
The Russell Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett connection out of structure remains one of the most difficult to guard plays in all of football. The way Wilson drags his back foot to make sure it’s a forward pass is some unbelievable awareness, as well.
[SEA 1-Goal SF 1] (9:59) J. Jones reported in as eligible. M. Lynch up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN
It was absolutely glorious, watching Lynch fly through the night sky into the end zone, but in the moment I didn’t appreciate how smart of a play it was, too. The entire San Francisco front goes low and crashes down, so Lynch goes over the top with absolute ease.
[SF 2-4 SEA 33] (7:17) M. Breida right end to SEA 34 for -1 yards (Sl. Griffin)
Shaquill Griffin has been a ridiculously strong, disciplined tackler all season, and this is as good as it gets. Just flawless form after evading blockers and sorting through traffic to find, and take down, Breida.
[SEA 2-10 SF 47] (5:24) (Shotgun) T. Homer left guard to SF 34 for 13 yards (D. Buckner)
All season long, Iupati has been at the center of the Seahawks’ explosive runs, and it was the same in Week 17. First helps Joey Hunt before climbing to the second level and springing Homer into the secondary.
[SEA 2-8 SF 14] (3:40) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short left to DK. Metcalf for 14 yards, TOUCHDOWN
Early on in the season, Metcalf was frustratingly ineffective on jump balls and above the rim, due in large part to mistimed jumps. Between his touchdown in Week 15, and the one above, it’s difficult not to be excited with the progress we’ve seen in that area. There’s no reason for Metcalf not to be a dominant player in contested catches, so to see that development continue would be encouraging.
[SEA 2-5 SEA 32] (2:01) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short left to DK. Metcalf to SEA 42 for 10 yards (E. Moseley)
This pass and catch is all about trust and timing, and Wilson and Metcalf absolutely have that. Wilson releases as Metcalf makes his break, trusting Metcalf will get his head turned and find the ball—which he does. It’s just the beginning of a dynamic, dangerous partnership.
[SEA 4-10 SF 12] (:42) (Shotgun) R. Wilson pass short right to J. Ursua to SF 1 for 11 yards (K. Williams)
A lot of people have been clamoring for more John Ursua snaps, targets, and game-day activations, and this won’t quiet those demands. Ursua does really well to move into space as Wilson is forced out of the pocket and to his right. If nothing else, Ursua is a savvy wide receiver.
At 11-5, Seattle will travel to the 9-7 NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles for the wild card round. Earlier this season, the Seahawks left Philadelphia with a victory after a dominant defensive line showed up; to repeat the result, Seattle will need a repeat performance from their defense.