With the NFC West title and significant playoff implications on the line for both teams, the 49ers-Seahawks season finale came down to a matter of inches.
San Francisco won that fight for the most minute amount of turf thanks to Dre Greenlaw’s goal-line tackle of Jacob Hollister after a four-yard pass from Russell Wilson in the game’s final moments.
But the game saw a pair of occasions thwarted that would have put Seattle at the goal line with the opportunity to put the the game in Marshawn Lynch’s hands against the league’s best defensive line.
Brutal delay of game
Seattle thought it secured that moment when Wilson connected with John Ursua on fourth down to set up first-and goal at the one-yard line with 23 seconds remaining.
But the Seahawks didn’t set their offense in time and drew a costly five-yard delay-of-game penalty after Wilson spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down.
Instead of facing first-and-goal inside the one-yard line, Seattle found itself at second-and-goal at the six.
Head coach Pete Carroll took the blame for the penalty in his postgame news conference, telling reporters that changing personnel after not having Lynch in on the previous play led to hesitation but was his responsibility.
“That’s me all the way,” Carroll said.
Missed pass interference
After the penalty, Wilson looked to Hollister in the end zone on third-and-goal from the five with 15 seconds left. 49ers linebacker Fred Warner made clear contact with Hollister before the ball arrived.
But there was no pass interference flag. And officials declined to implement a review for potential pass interference, a responsibility that falls on officials in the game’s final two minutes.
The next play was the failed fourth-down attempt that saw Hollister fall short. The 49ers won the game and the NFC West. Instead of a No. 5 seed and a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles in next week’s wild-card round, the 49ers have a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
What the outcome means
The Seahawks would have earned a home game against the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round with a win. Instead, they’re the team traveling to play the Eagles.
And as any Saints fan will surely let you know, a Seahawks win would have secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye for the Saints. Instead, on a game with pass interference controversy, the Saints are the No. 3 seed and will host the Vikings next week instead of taking the week off with a first-round bye.
Would Marshawn have run the ball?
And, of course, either goal-line situation that didn’t come to be would have presented a potential Lynch carry at the goal line with the game on the line in a throwback to Seattle’s crushing loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Would head coach Pete Carroll hand the ball to Lynch in his first game back with the Seahawks? Or would he risk the wrath of Seahawks fans by using him as a decoy on a pass play?
We’ll never know.
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