The Seahawks had been doubted after building a 7-2 record on the backs of a bunch of also-rans, but who is questioning them now after knocking off the 49ers, the NFL’s last unbeaten team?
Sure, the Hawks got a little lucky again — a missed overtime field goal saving them from another self-inflicted loss.
Some might say “It’s better to be lucky than good,” but you also could say, “Good teams win the close games.” And that is what the Seahawks have done on the way to an 8-2 record. The Seahawks are now 5-0 in games decided by four points or less and they have rallied from 10 down to win three times, most in the NFL.
Sure, their seven-win margin of victory (3.3 points) had been the lowest for a team with that many wins since 2004 — and had come against a .304 strength of victory mark.
But, after the half-lucky, half-good 27-24 win over San Francisco, their strength of victory (.404) is behind only Green Bay and New Orleans among the NFL’s top teams (seven wins or more).
The Seahawks’ only two losses, to New Orleans and Baltimore, came in games where they made a ton of mistakes and basically beat themselves (OK, Lamar Jackson played a big role in the Ravens’ win, too).
Sure, the Seahawks could be 6-4, if not for missed winning field goals by the Rams and 49ers, but Seattle also could be 10-0 if it had not handed points to both the Saints and Ravens.
You could say they didn’t really deserve to beat the 49ers either, especially after turning the ball over four times. Russell Wilson’s overtime interception in the red zone sure seemed like the end — until Chase McLaughlin whiffed on a potential winning kick from 47 yards.
Jason Myers then redeemed himself from a terrible game against Tampa Bay with the kick that kept the Hawks in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The game was costly for both clubs, with the 49ers losing Emmanuel Sanders and several others to injuries and Seattle going without Tyler Lockett (leg bruise) at the end after losing Luke Willson (hamstring).
But the Hawks now have a bye to get healthy for the final playoff push, while the banged-up 49ers head straight to a game against Arizona.
Both teams have pretty tough slates upcoming. After Arizona, the 49ers face Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans. The Seahawks come off their bye to play at Philadelphia, home vs. Minnesota and at Los Angeles — all in prime time. So the next month will set the pecking order in the NFC for the playoffs, with the season finale between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle possibly determining the NFC West champ and even the No. 1 seed.
PASS RUSH ARRIVES
Jadeveon Clowney led a breakout game for the pass rush. He basically was responsible for two touchdowns (scoring one on a fumble scoop and creating another with a forced fumble) while constantly pressuring Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jarran Reed had his first big game, too, getting 1.5 sacks, including the forced fumble that Clowney scored on.
Seattle held the 49ers to 87 rushing yards, sacked Garoppolo five times, hit him 10 times and forced two fumbles. The Hawks also shut down the long passing game, with some help by a bunch of drops from the 49ers’ pedestrian receivers. Garoppolo completed just 3 of 18 throws for 59 yards and an interception on pass attempts that traveled at least 10 yards in the air.
Pete Carroll was ecstatic about the pass rush: “What a fantastic game, you know. Yeah, we would’ve liked to have seen it a little earlier, but … this is where we kick into high gear.”
OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
John Schneider’s trades are paying dividends. In addition to Clowney’s big game, Quandre Diggs had a touchdown-setting interception in his debut and Jacob Hollister came up with another big game as he ascends to the No. 1 tight end role.
Diggs started alongside Bradley McDougald, giving the Hawks experience on the back end. “That’s why we traded for him,” Carroll said. “We thought that he might be able to give us something with more experience than we had back there. It has felt like we’re letting some things get away from us, just because we’re just so inexperienced. He did exactly what we hoped he would do tonight. He covered some really nice hits and he’s a good ball player.”
If the Hawks had not turned the ball over a season-high four times, this game would not have been as close. The defense also got picked on by the refs, with Shaquill Griffin’s first-quarter interception getting negated by a very iffy (and unnecessary) holding call. There were worse calls and non-calls throughout the game (like the one on Neiko Thorpe’s punt tackle and the ridiculous in-the-grasp sack call when Wilson had escaped). But the Hawks overcame all of the mistakes by themselves and the refs, and the 49ers couldn’t get out of their own way (three turnovers, a bunch of drops and the big missed field goal).
Speaking of pass rush, Shaquem Griffin played as much as Ziggy Ansah (14 snaps) and was in the game late instead of Ansah. Griffin didn’t do a lot, but it’s worth watching to see whether he gets more pass-rushing action going forward.
There was a lot of hype around Josh Gordon, and he came up with two big third-down catches for 27 yards. He played 28 snaps and had two targets. Figure to see him more. Jaron Brown was deactivated while Malik Turner stayed up (and came up with a couple of nice plays himself).
The Seahawks have won back-to-back overtime games. The last time they won two OT games was 2013, and we all know how that season finished.
Wilson always beats great teams. He is 6-0 against clubs that are at least eight games over .500.