It had all the makings of December 2019. The San Francisco 49ers were in their white throwback uniforms. The San Francisco 49ers were on a hot streak. The San Francisco 49ers were a better team than the Seattle Seahawks. But, that never matters in this divisional match-up, and the San Francisco 49ers made every possible mistake and lost, 30-23, to fall to 6-6 and to the seventh-seed in the NFC Wild Card. The 49ers have now 17 of their last 20 games to the Seahawks.
“Seattle could literally be 0-16 going into Week 17 and playing us and it’s always going to be like this,” said linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. “Every time we play each other we know it’s going to be a fight to the last play.”
Just like in 2019, it came down to the wire, but this time the 49ers three yards short of the end zone. With 22 seconds left in the game, on 4th-and-goal, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw to wide receiver Trent Sherfield, who was as open as a receiver could be. But Seattle DE Carlos Dunlap tipped it, and that was it. Game. Set. Match.
“I knew it was [a touchdown],” Garoppolo said. “We ran that on them. We’ve done that before on them and it had been successful. We were right there.”
They were, but it was not to be.
And the reality is, San Francisco never should have been in that position to begin with. Special teams blunders, penalties and turnovers sealed their fate long before that final drive.
“I know we’re all disappointed, very frustrated,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “…I thought we had opportunity at the beginning of the game to kind of, I just really felt like we were ready to go…They missed a field goal, but we followed with a safety, then I think we followed it with a pick. So I felt like it went, you know, about an hour it seemed like where we barely had the ball, which is our fault. So it was just frustrating. I was glad with the guys, no matter how many bad things did happen, they kept fighting, never quit. It was a hell of a job by the defense getting that turnover on the one-yard line like they did. I really believed we were going to go down and score. Guys made a lot of big plays on that last drive. We came up short on that fourth down, and I think that was Dunlap getting his hands up. I think he was going to have Trent [Sherfield] there in the end zone, but he made a hell of a play. We shouldn’t have let it get to that point.”
Special Teams Mistakes and Turnovers
The Seahawks went three-and-out on their first drive, but then snapped it to Travis Homer on a fake punt, and Homer took it 73-yards for a touchdown. Later, Travis Benjamin fumbled the kickoff to start the second half. Kicker Robbie Gould missed an extra point.
Garoppolo threw two interceptions, one of which the Seahawks capitalized on with a touchdown that gave them the lead, and ultimately the win.
““Those two picks weren’t good plays,” Shanahan said. “He’s got to be better with the ball.”
Garoppolo was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
“It’s brutal,” said tight end George Kittle. “Losing sucks. Had all the opportunities, turnovers, fake punts for touchdowns. When you give Russell Wilson a chance, he’s going to take advantage of that opportunity. We weren’t clean enough on offense. I think our defense played a heck of a game. They did about everything they could to keep us in the game and give us an opportunity. Our offense, we didn’t really do anything in the second half. It’s hard to win in Seattle if you don’t really do anything in the second half.”
That being said, Kittle had nine receptions for 181 yards and two touchdowns, one of which included some very fancy footwork to stay in bounds. So, on the positive note, the tight end had a day.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 5, 2021
The 49ers committed 10 penalties for 86 yards, including two roughing-the-passer penalties on a Seahawks’ touchdown drive that probably wouldn’t have been a touchdown drive.
“Yeah, we definitely blew it,” said defensive end Nick Bosa. “We knew it was going to be this type of game whenever we play them. We have to a much better job of not giving away the the game.”
Bosa did record his 12th sack of the season.
The game started on a scary note, when punt returner Trenton Cannon was taken off the field in an ambulance. Cannon has a concussion and will stay overnight at a Seattle hospital.
“Concussions are very concerning, but all the stuff you’re really worried about, he’s cleared,” Shanahan said. “He remembers it all. It’s a concussion. They’ll keep him overnight for that.”
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. Wilson took that opportunity to pick on rookie cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who was later replaced by Dontae Johnson.
The 49ers are not sure of the extent of Moseley’s injury, but his absence further highlighted just how thin the 49ers are at corner.
The 49ers are now, quite literally, on to Cincinnati, where they will be next weekend to take on the Bengals.
“It’s one of those losses that you can’t let this stick with you for too long,” Garoppolo said. “Watch the film, be hard on ourselves like we always are. We’re very critical of all the little things but Cincinati is going to come up really quick and we have to be able to move on. We’re going out there so get your mind ready for long travel and this train ain’t stopping, so have to be ready for it.”