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John Blanchette: Amid some minor concerns, Seahawks cash in on late heroics against Niners

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 3, 2021

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers with fellow receiver David Moore (83) on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers with fellow receiver David Moore (83) on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (Associated Press)
By John Blanchette For The Spokesman-Review

On a day that changed nothing – not their playoff seeding, not their maddening version of momentum – the Seattle Seahawks could at least savor the sentimental moments in their 26-23 escape over the San Francisco 49ers.

Rewind Sunday’s tape to the start of the second quarter, for instance.

During an incremental and otherwise nondescript drive down the field, receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf matched each other milestone for milestone, record for record, in a fashion that suggested it was all being orchestrated by quarterback Russell Wilson. It started with Lockett somehow escaping notice near the sideline for 26 yards that put him over 1,000 for the season – and with Metcalf gave the Seahawks two receivers at that level for the first time in 25 years.

Then Metcalf got four yards on a drag route that erased Steve Largent’s single-season yardage record. Finally, Lockett became Seattle’s single-season reception leader on a short out route – he’d make it to 100, including a couple of spectacular touchdowns, by day’s end.

But records don’t pay the bills.

So undeniably, the day’s highlight came in the final 23 seconds – onside kick corralled, game decided. But rather than go into victory formation, Wilson flipped one of those little fingertip chest passes to David Moore sweeping in front of him for five unnecessary yards.

Why not kneel it out?

“We called that play because David had $100,000 if he gets that catch,” Wilson revealed.

Remember this the next time you’re tempted to go into terminal eye-roll when an athlete goes into a rote spiel about team chemistry or “having each others’ backs.” You take care of teammates. Moore had a $2.1 non-guaranteed tender reworked down to $900,000 just to stay with the Seahawks this year – plus a bonus incentive for 35 catches.

That catch was No. 35.

“I knew it earlier in the week, to be honest,” Wilson said. “But during the game Tyler was making all the catches, and DK a few here and there. I tried to get one to him earlier, but they kind of covered it. So when we got the ball back, we were going to kneel it but (quarterbacks coach Austin Davis) said, ‘Let’s get it done.’ ”

Great, Russ. Now, how about getting fantasy leaguers a few more yards, or maybe covering the spread?

Somehow, the Seahawks managed not to get that done against a team down to its third-string quarterback and with the NFL’s most crowded injured reserve list.

In fact, they were 10 points down a minute into the fourth quarter, having managed all of three yards after halftime and looking very much ready for the season to be over. Only then did the line begin to crowbar holes for Chris Carson – and Alex Collins, who scored a touchdown fresh from the practice squad. Only then did Wilson start to scramble and sizzle, and produce his 35th career fourth-quarter game-winner. And only then did Seattle’s resurgent defense find a second wind, including a strip sack by Benson Mayowa that led to the clinching points.

“We always like to see our guys come through and outlast the other guys and find a way to win a football game,” said coach Pete Carroll, “even if it goes down to the last second.”

With four straight wins and six in the past seven games, Carroll has some cause to bristle when it’s suggested the Seahawks are not exactly running downhill toward the playoffs – where they’ll open against their NFC West rivals, the Rams. The remarkable makeover of the defense – the NFL’s sad sack(less) back in October – argues against it, too.

Plus, the offense set a franchise record with 459 points this season. How it managed to get there with the nap it took for three quarters Sunday is a mystery – but the whole second half of the season has been a mystery. Toss out the laugher against the New York Jokes, er, Jets, and the Sea- hawks have averaged barely 20 points a game since mid-November.

Before that? Two touchdowns more.

“There’s a patience to it that nobody wants to see,” insisted Carroll, “but we’re feeling OK about it. We just need to make sure we come out of it, once we need to win.”

Well, if that’s all it takes.

But 2020 was a long slog for everyone. To come out of it 12-4 is an accomplishment, and while the playoffs are almost a birthright to veterans like Bobby Wagner, they’re a gift to a newcomer like Jamal Adams – who, alas, will have to deal with another shoulder injury this week to be ready.

“I went from 1-6 to 6-1 in one season,” said defensive end Carlos Dunlap, acquired from Cincinnati in October. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”

You might say all the Seahawks feel like a million bucks.

Well, David Moore, anyway.

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