That’s the focus now that the Seattle Seahawks are done with a regular season in which they won 12 games (or more) for just the fifth time in team history. Seattle made it to the Super Bowl three of those years and will hope to repeat that history beginning next weekend.
For much of Sunday, Seattle looked far from a Super Bowl team, pushed around by a beat-up 49ers team playing out the string, the offense continuing its recent downturn.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a fourth-quarter eruption.
We’ve seen lots of these before – this was Russell Wilson’s 35th fourth-quarter or overtime comeback in 159 regular-season or playoff games. But this was one of the more extreme, from down 16-6 to before-you-know-it ahead 26-16 and holding on to a 26-23 victory.
On to some grades.
Quarterback: For three quarters, it was time to brace yourself for another week of stories about what’s wrong with Wilson – he was 11 of 23 for 101 yards in the first three quarters. Then, he turned in a mammoth fourth quarter, going 9 of 13 for 80 yards and two touchdowns while running twice for 27 more yards. Seattle will hope it can get back to a more conventional-looking offense in the playoffs and not have to use Wilson’s legs so much. But Wilson showed again he still has that when it’s needed – he finished the year with 513 yards rushing and 6.2 per carry.
Running back: The running game was stagnant for most of the day just as the passing game was. But then it, too, suddenly woke up. Chris Carson had 32 yards on four carries in the final quarter to finish with 44 on 11.
And when Rashaad Penny went out with cramps after managing just 19 yards on six carries, Alex Collins came on to get 29 on five and Seattle had 91 on 14 overall in the final 14 minutes.
Collins’ play might have earned a spot on the 53-player roster for the playoffs given that Carlos Hyde missed the game with an illness that held him out all week .
Wide receiver: A really nice, record-setting day for Lockett, who is the team’s best receiver in these kinds of games when the opponent is determined to take away the deep pass.
Lockett had 12 receptions for 90 yards on 14 targets, with 47 yards after the catch and the fabulous touchdown on fourth down to win it.
That made up for an off game from DK Metcalf, who had just three catches for 21 yards on nine targets.
Metcalf came into the game having usually played well against the 49ers – 24 catches in three previous games against San Francisco.
Seattle got nothing out of its third and fourth receivers, other than one catch for 5 yards from David Moore on the final offensive series.
Tight end: There was not a single target to a tight end in the first half, though Wilson appeared to be trying to find Jacob Hollister a couple of times.
Will Dissly then had a drop early in the third quarter of a pass that might have been tipped at the line. But he rebounded with a 20-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter that helped set up Seattle’s first touchdown.
Offensive line: For the second consecutive game, Seattle had backups Jordan Simmons and Cedric Ogbuehi at left guard and right tackle due to injuries, and in this game that appeared to matter a little bit, especially early, when Wilson was sacked twice in the first half (though one came on a blitz when there appeared to be some confusion, making it hard to tell who was to blame).
Wilson, though, ended up not being sacked in the second half and was hit just four times in the game.
Defensive line: A pretty solid day here overall, with the one big negative being Jarran Reed was sidelined with an oblique injury. Carroll said he didn’t have a forecast for whether that would keep Reed out against the Rams.
But there were a lot of solid moments: Benson Mayowa had two sacks, including the forced fumble at the end that set up Seattle’s final touchdown and had six on the year in 13 games; Carlos Dunlap, looking fully healthy as the playoffs now begin, broke through to get pressure to force an incompletion on a third down and then batted down a pass on third down once the 49ers reached the Seattle 18; Rasheem Green had a sack on a third down after the 49ers reached the Seattle 4 midway through the third quarter.
Linebacker: Especially against the run, this felt like a good day for much of the game.
Bobby Wagner led the charge to stop an early third-and-one by 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk for no gain, forcing San Francisco to punt following its first series.
K.J. Wright had a dominant series in the second quarter, when he made one tackle for a 5-yard loss on George Kittle .
And rookie Jordyn Brooks, as advertised, played more and had a team-high nine tackles.
Secondary: With the caveat that it’s always hard to know immediately after the game who is to blame for what, it felt like there were a few more coverage busts in the secondary than we’ve seen in recent weeks – a trend that, if so, needs to stop now.
Also really worrisome is Jamal Adams’ shoulder injury, though Carroll said the early indication is that he’ll be able to play next week in what would be the first playoff game of his career.
D.J. Reed again started at right cornerback and again played well, with one notable play coming when he broke up a third-down pass to Kittle midway through the fourth quarter that led to the punt that led to Seattle’s go-ahead touchdown. Another highlight: an Adams blitz that helped force an incompletion on a third down on the 49ers’ second drive.
Special teams: We’ve sung the praises of special teams all year. But this was not the best overall effort.
Jason Myers missed a point after touchdown that potentially loomed critical – though it oddly had the effect of setting up the winning TD because Seattle had to go for it, down 16-12, and got it on fourth-and-four. Maybe Seattle goes for it anyway to avoid overtime, but probably not. Still, Myers has missed four PATs this year, though he did hit two more field goals and ends a perfect 24 for 24 there.
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