The San Francisco 49ers fell to the Seattle Seahawks 24-21 on Monday night, suffering their first loss in what has thus far been a magical 2019 campaign.
Levi's Stadium played host to what was an instant classic, a seesaw battle between bitter NFC West rivals in what is likely to be a game that both teams will look back on when the postseason seeding shakes out later in the year.
Entering Monday night's contest, the Niners were the sole remaining team in the NFL with an unbeaten record of 8-0. However, the perennially dangerous Russell Wilson-led Seahawks were right on their heels with a healthy 7-2 record. As fans fully understand, divisional opponents are always a crapshoot when it comes to picking favorites, particularly when both teams are pretty evenly matched, as was the case in Niners-Hawks showdown.
What wasn't exactly obvious was how competitive the game would ultimately shape up to be. And competitive it was.
San Francisco jumped out to an early 10-point first quarter lead, following a Chase McLaughlin 43-yard field goal after a 13-play, 50 yard opening drive and a Jimmy Garoppolo-to-Kendrick Bourne touchdown pass from 10 yards out. From there, the game ground to an all-out defensive scrum, capped off by a Seattle strip-sack which led to a subsequent recovery and score by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney late in the first half.
The two fierce rivals headed into their respective locker rooms with San Francisco leading 10-7 at the half.
In the third quarter, turnovers would be committed by both teams, however, only one squad would manage to capitalize on their opportunities. The Seahawks received the ball to start the second half, proceeded to drive into 49er territory, only to cough the ball up on the SF 44-yard line, recovered by DeForest Buckner.
On the ensuing drive, Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense managed to move the ball effectively deep into Seahawk territory but failed to convert on a big fourth-and-two on the SEA 33, turning it over on downs. After another Seattle punt, Jimmy G made a rare mistake, surrendering an interception to Quandre Diggs, who nearly took it to the house, finally being stopped at the SF 16.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawk offense took full advantage of the miscue, scoring on a three-yard pass from Wilson to Jacob Hollister. Seattle had grabbed their first lead of the evening.
On the very next 49er drive, Garoppolo put the ball on the turf following a Clowney sack, recovered by Seattle's Poona Ford at the 24-yard line of San Francisco. Again, working with a short field, the Seahawk offense punched it in for six with a Chris Carson, one-yard touchdown run.
The Niners would get back on the board, though, thanks to a bizarre sequence beginning with a strip-sack of Russell Wilson. While the Seattle quarterback was being wrestled to the ground, the ball was broken loose but immediately snatched out the air by a Seahawk offensive lineman. After the big guy took a few steps, the ball was punched out again by a San Francisco defender and ultimately recovered by DeForest Buckner, who strolled into the end zone. Jimmy G converted a crucial two-point conversion, narrowing the deficit to just three points (21-18).
The two teams would go on to exchange fourth quarter field goals, the second coming from San Francisco's McLaughlin by way of a clutch 47-yard boot with one second left on the game clock. Indeed, this game was headed straight for overtime.
Overtime provided even more roller coaster emotional fodder. The Seahawks received the overtime period's opening kickoff and drove straight down to the 14-yard line of San Francisco. Things looked grim for the Niners until Dre Greenlaw picked-off Russell Wilson and returned the ball to the SEA 49, effectively pulling San Francisco out of the fire and flipping field position as well.
A few plays later, following a failed challenge on a third-and-two that came up short, McLaughlin and the Niners had a chance to send the fans home happy with a 47-yard field goal try. There would be no such luck in Levi's Stadium tonight, however, as the attempt by rookie Chase McLaughlin missed wide left.
Both teams traded consecutive three-and-outs before Wilson inevitably took over as the seconds wound down in the overtime period. With four seconds showing on the game clock, the Seahawks' kicker, Jason Myers lined up and nailed a game-winning 42-yard dagger to the hearts of the 49er faithful. Seattle walked away with a 27-24 overtime win, in San Francisco, putting themselves firmly in position to take over the NFC West division-lead should the Niners falter down the stretch.
Next week San Francisco will look to get back in the win column as they will host Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) at Levi's Stadium. From there, the road doesn't get any easier, as the 49ers will face three consecutive division-leaders in the Green Bay Packers (8-2), Baltimore Ravens (7-2), and New Orleans Saints (7-2). Both the Ravens and Saints games also happen to be consecutive road games. Week 16 brings the struggling Falcons (2-7) to San Francisco, but then the season wraps up with a home game against the 2018 NFC Champion LA Rams (5-4) before culminating in what will likely be an all-out war for the division title, up in Seattle, at CenturyLink Field.
For Niner fans, these next seven games will go a long way toward showing what the team is made of. Should San Francisco emerge with the NFC West crown, this season will have serious Super Bowl implications.
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