SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As Jason Myers’ second, clutch, redemptive kick in as many quarters sailed true, Russell Wilson high-stepped off the Seahawks sidelines. Then, he screamed.
Coach Pete Carroll turned to his franchise quarterback who rallied Seattle yet again and hugged him. Then they each messed up the other’s hair.
They were beyond thrilled because they know—the 49ers know—the race for the NFC West title is now on. With six games remaining, the Seahawks (8-2) are a half game behind the 49ers for the division lead. And San Francisco comes to CenturyLink Field on the last Sunday of the regular season.
That’s the result of what Wilson called the craziest game of his eight-year career.
It was exhausting. It was sloppy. It was inexplicable. And it was thrilling.
The resilient Seahawks beat the previously undefeated Niners, 27-24 on Myers’ 42-yard field goal on the final play of overtime Monday night.
“That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Wilson said after his 24 completions in 34 throws for 232 yards, one touchdown and one, rare interception that had happened only other time in the NFL in the last half century.
“You talk about a Monday Night Football game. That felt like an NFC championship game right there.”
He would know. Wilson has won two of those.
This victory over the 49ers keeps Seattle’s hopes realistic it can host playoff games. The Seahawks can only do that by winning the division. And the only three times they have reached the Super Bowl they had home playoff games throughout the NFC’s postseason.
“This is a significant opportunity,” Carroll acknowledged after his 28th win against five losses and a tie in prime-time games leading Seattle. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”
It is now.
“This was the craziest game of my career,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said after his mammoth night rushing 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“We ain’t ever out of a game.”
Wilson’s second interception of the season almost lost this.
Overtime began with a Seattle oddity. Tyler Lockett was on the bench, out with a “bad” contusion in his lower leg, according to Carroll. Seattle’s leading receiver was on his way to a Bay Area hospital perhaps overnight. Josh Gordon was two (big) catches and 10 days into his Seahawks career.
So of course in overtime, with the West and perhaps Seattle’s realistic hopes for a productive postseason at stake, Wilson relied on…Malik Turner? And Jacob Hollister?
Wilson made three huge completions to those two reserves on the opening drive in overtime. But then, 14 yards from a winning touchdown, Wilson threw too low and short to Hollister, after the tight end had broken free behind San Francisco’s Dre Greenlaw.
Greenlaw intercepted the pass and returned Wilson’s second interception in 10 games this season 47 yards to midfield. The company STATS said Seattle’s fourth turnovers of this sloppy, thrilling game was the second NFL interception thrown in the red zone, inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, in overtime in the last 25 years.
One 49ers first down later, Wilson paced Seattle’s sideline. He wiped his brow. As fill-in kicker Chase McLaughlin lined up for a winning field goal, Wilson he clapped twice. He watched the kick on the video board at the opposite end zone.
McLaughlin pushed his kick wide left. Wilson turned to a Seahawks assistant coach and hugged him.
Yet the Seahawks’ offense could do nothing. It punted, with 1:57 left in overtime.
But Garoppolo (24 for 46, 248 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception) then threw consecutive incomplete passes on a 14-second drive.
Voila! Wilson and the Seahawks had another chance, from their own 36 with 1:25 and no times out left.
“We were going to win,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in the league. When you have him under center, I don’t care how much time is on the clock, we feel like we’ve got a chance.”
Wilson completed three consecutive passes. On a third down, the irrepressible quarterback found more open green space than in any other place in the Bay Area. He scrambled 19, crucial yards.
That put Myers in position to go from vilified last week for missing a kick that would have beaten Tampa Bay in overtime before Wilson won it in that extra period, to victorious and vaulted by teammates off the field. Myers followed his go-ahead kick late in regulation with the 42-yard field goal on the final play of Monday’s overtime.
“All week, I was trying to get my routine back and work on a couple things I wanted to work on,” Myers said. “But I know how sports are. And it always comes back around.
“When a game like that happened last week, I knew it was going to happen again. So I was preparing to get in that situation again.”
Carroll made a point of saying Monday’s ending was why Seahawks teammates encouraged Myers in the locker room immediately after the previous week’s escape past the Buccaneers. Why Carroll said that day of the Tampa Bay mishap: “Jason Myers, he’s our kicker.”
“I hope you can see why it’s so important to stay with your people, and hang with them,” Carroll said, adding the concept of “ostracizing,” like most others wanted to do to Myers is not in the coach’s or his program’s mentality or even vocabulary.
“Shoot,” Carroll said of Myers and his mates, “they are carrying him around in the locker room in there.”
All that drama preceded Myers leaning back and letting out a primal roar. He did that after drilling a 46-yard field goal with 92 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Seahawks a 24-21 lead.
On San Francisco’s ensuing, frantic possession, Seattle’s K.J. Wright dropped what would have been a game-ending interception on first down. Then All-Pro teammate Bobby Wagner did the same thing a few plays later.
That allowed the 49ers to move into position for fill-in kicker McLaughlin’s 47-yard field goal with 1 second remaining in regulation. That forced another Seahawks overtime.