49ers clinch NFC West, No. 1 seed on incredible tackle after inexplicable delay of game penalty dooms Seahawks


Amid the madness, the one easy answer at the end of Sunday night’s game was that the San Francisco 49ers emerged as NFC West champions and the No. 1 seed in the NFC with an unbelievable win over the Seattle Seahawks.

And now, the madness.

The final minutes of Sunday night’s game were ridiculous. Russell Wilson made a ton of clutch plays after the Seahawks appeared dead, trailing 26-14 with less than four minutes left. Trailing 26-21 in the final seconds, the Seahawks took an inexplicable, horrendous delay of game penalty when they had the ball at the 1-yard line. Then on fourth down with the division title on the line, Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister was inches — maybe not even multiple inches — short of the goal line. Dre Greenlaw made the tackle of the season for the 49ers to hold Hollister out with nine seconds left.

The 49ers won 26-21. It was a “Sunday Night Football” game for the ages.

49ers squeak out a win

The 49ers controlled most of the game. Wilson made a fantastic 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett in the third quarter and the 49ers’ lead was cut to 13-7. San Francisco responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive in 2:21 to push the lead back to 19-7.

In the fourth quarter, Marshawn Lynch scored his first Seahawks touchdown since 2015. The crowd went wild, even throwing Skittles — famously Lynch’s favorite candy — on the field. It seemed like another huge momentum shift. And the 49ers went on a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by Raheem Mostert’s second touchdown run.

The 49ers didn’t answer once and it almost cost them. The Seahawks scored with less than four minutes left to cut the 49ers lead to 26-21. An unnecessary roughness penalty killed the 49ers’ next drive. They punted back to Wilson, a master of clutch situations. Wilson drove the Seahawks downfield, and they were at the 1-yard line after John Ursua’s catch on fourth-and-10. Then came the delay of game and the wackiness that followed.

After Ursua’s catch, offensive tackle George Fant was down with an injury, the Seahawks couldn’t afford the time runoff if play had to be stopped, so Fant managed to get to the line. The Seahawks spiked the ball. Then there was confusion. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch in the game, presumably with the ghosts of Super Bowl XLIX — when they didn’t give Lynch the ball at the 1-yard line — somewhere in their heads. And the play clock simply ran out. The ball moved back to the 6-yard line. That penalty likely cost the Seahawks the game and the division.

And still, there were three plays to go and the 49ers had to hold the Seahawks out of the end zone. On fourth down, Greenlaw made as big of a defensive play as you’ll find in the regular season, stonewalling Hollister before he could score. The tackle by Greenlaw, a rookie fifth-round pick who has played well since replacing injured Kwon Alexander in the starting lineup, was the difference between the 49ers having the No. 1 seed or going on the road to play the Eagles as the No. 5 seed next weekend.

The 49ers will be happy to have a week off after so many unbelievably close games the past few weeks. No game was closer than the last one.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates his touchdown with Emmanuel Sanders. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates his touchdown with Emmanuel Sanders. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Seahawks rallied in second half

The 49ers started fast. They took a 3-0 lead and then got an impressive 30-yard rushing touchdown from rookie receiver Deebo Samuel, who has added a much-needed playmaking element to the 49ers’ receiving corps. It was also a fantastic play design from coach Kyle Shanahan. Another field goal gave them a 13-0 lead. They were absolutely dominating the Seahawks, which looked like a run-first team that had lost their top three running backs. There wasn’t much offense at all to speak of.

The Seahawks are also a very good team, Wilson is a world-class quarterback and they weren’t going to go away quietly. Wilson heated up in the second half and was impressive on the final drive, peppering his receivers with big throws. The 49ers needed one big break, and got it with the delay of game call that pushed the Seahawks back to the 6. They also needed one big defensive play, and Greenlaw provided it. The Seahawks are the No. 5 seed, and they’ll start the playoffs at the Philadelphia Eagles next week.

The 49ers ended the season as the NFC’s top team. They earned that title on Sunday night. Barely.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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