The Seahawks didn’t get the help they needed Sunday.
But, after what was mostly a really long slog of an afternoon in Glendale, Arizona, they did at least get a victory that allows them to head into the postseason with just that much more of a good feeling, even if the result ended up not really meaning anything.
Trailing by 10 early in the fourth quarter and with the offense looking lifeless, Seattle mounted two long drives to pull out a 26-23 victory over the 49ers and finish the regular season 12-4.
The results of the day — a Seattle win but also victories by the Saints and Packers — means the Seahawks will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC and meet the Los Angeles Rams at 1:40 p.m. next Saturday at Lumen Field in the wild-card round. The game will air on FOX.
That means 13 days after Seattle beat the Rams to win the NFC West it will have to do so again to advance to the second weekend of the playoffs.
“We understand what they bring,” Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the Rams. “We understand the stakes. And we’ll be ready.”
The Seahawks certainly will need to be more ready than they looked for much of Sunday against a 6-9 49ers team playing with backups at a number of key spots, including at quarterback with C.J. Beathard.
After Seattle took an early 6-0 lead on two Jason Myers field goals, the displaced 49ers scored on four consecutive possessions to grab a 16-6 lead with 14:22 to play in the game.
At about that same time, it was becoming obvious Green Bay wasn’t losing to Chicago (the Packers won 35-16) and the Saints weren’t losing to the Panthers (New Orleans won 33-7), games Seattle needed to go the other way to have a shot at the No. 1 seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
But if anyone thought the Seahawks might pull their starters at that point and just concede a bad day all around, Seattle coach Pete Carroll proved true to his word that he would play to win and left everyone in.
After Jeff Wilson’s touchdown that put the 49ers ahead by 10, the 49ers had outgained Seattle 240-109 for the game, holding the Seahawks to 2.9 yards per play. In the second half at that point, San Francisco had a 145-3 yardage advantage. But something suddenly clicked, as so often has for the Seahawks in the Carroll/Russell Wilson era (the game proved to be Wilson’s 35th fourth quarter or overtime comeback in 159 games since 2012).
Seattle got Wilson moving with a lot of rollouts and bootlegs — and other times Wilson simply keeping plays alive — and went on marches of 75 and 85 yards to take the lead.
After the first touchdown, though, usually reliable Myers missed the extra point, which left the score at 16-12 with just over 10 minutes left.
That meant that, when Seattle faced a fourth down at the 49ers’ 4-yard line on its next drive with 2:26 left, the Seahawks had no choice but to go for it.
Wilson dropped back and moved a little to his right to avoid blitzing linebacker Fred Warner, who was slowed by running back Chris Carson, then threw to the left to a crossing Tyler Lockett, who was able to corral the pass and get two feet down before heading out of bounds.
The reception was the 100th of the season for Lockett, setting a Seahawks season record on a day when DK Metcalf also set a record for most receiving yards in a season at 1,303.
“He threw it where it was either me or nobody could get it,” Lockett said. “And luckily I was able to secure the catch.”
Benson Mayowa forced a Beathard fumble on the next drive, recovered by Rasheem Green, which Alex Collins then turned into an 8-yard touchdown shortly thereafter, and the Seahawks had scored 20 points in the span of nine minutes and five seconds.
The comeback not only avoided Seattle heading into the postseason on a downer, but also at least soothed some of the angst created by the inability of the offense to do much of anything in the first three quarters.
“This was a difficult day for us,” Carroll said. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to on offense early on. … But all in all, when it came down to it, we had to win in the fourth quarter, and our guys did.”
Indeed, Wilson was 9 for 13 for 80 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone — somewhat mirroring the way the offense came to life last week in the second half against the Rams — while Seattle rushed for 91 yards on 14 carries in the final 15 minutes (with Wilson getting 26 yards on three carries).
“It’s a little frustrating,” Carroll acknowledged of the slow start. “You guys, you’re wondering about it, but I’m not worried about it. We are going to keep playing and try to play really good football, not give it to them and play championship ball and see how far that takes us.”
Indeed, that becomes the focus now, with Seattle hoping that safety Jamal Adams will be able to play Saturday. He injured his shoulder in the second half, but Carroll said the initial appraisal of trainers is that Adams will be able to play against the Rams.
While the offense again lagged at times more than it did during the lights-out first half of the season, the defense was mostly the same stout crew it has been for most of the past two months, save for a few missed assignments and San Francisco’s 73-yard touchdown drive.
Before the 49ers’ touchdown, the Seahawks had gone seven consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown, and have allowed just six in the final five games, which includes a last-minute drive by the 49ers on Sunday that cut the lead to 26-23 (Seattle got the onside kick to assure it was only a garbage-time score).
Not getting the No. 1 seed means Seattle is assured of being home against the Rams, but then could have to go on the road in the divisional and conference rounds to make the Super Bowl — possibly having to travel through New Orleans and Green Bay.
But with Wilson showing again Sunday that the Seahawks are never out of anything, the defense having made a stunning transformation from the first half of the year, and Seattle winning six of its last seven after a midseason slump in which it lost three of four, anything seems possible.
“Obviously, we would have loved this game to go a different way,” Wagner said. “But thinking about where we came from to where we’re at now, everything that we had, the ups and downs of growth, I’m confident in our group. Confident in both sides of the ball, special teams, and pressure teams and looking forward to proving that in the playoffs.”