Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A weird end to a weird season. It was always going to be weird. It’s 49ers versus Seahawks. The Seahawks play far too many bizarre games, and the 49ers entered with a C.J. Beathard-led energy that made this affair certain to be odd. It ended just as you’d expect, with a 26-23 loss.
And it was. Mostly, it was boring. At least for the first half, you’d have been better off taking a nap. By the conclusion of the first half, Seattle led 6-3, and both teams had combined for a tick over 200 yards. It was ugly, defensive football.
Just as was the case last year, the 49ers defense remained suffocating. Even those easy underneath yards they’d been known to concede in the past weren’t available. Russell Wilson was hurried constantly and it wasn’t until a fourth-quarter drive that Seattle’s offense looked like it had any semblance of competency.
Wilson dipped and shimmied and juked his way to so many would-be-sacks turned incompletions that, if nothing else, preserved a chance for Seattle later on.
They needed that preservation because the 49ers, with emergency-signed kicker Tristan Vizcaino, grabbed a trio of field goals, the third of which was the result of an absurd George Kittle one-handed grab.
George Kittle is just built different 😳pic.twitter.com/VtIsTxnyJp
— KNBR (@KNBR) January 3, 2021
It should have been followed with a touchdown, but C.J. Beathard missed a wide-open Kittle in the end zone and knew it immediately. But a drive later, Beathard was at his best. Seattle could not cover anything, and receiver after 49ers receiver found themselves wide open. Beathard continued to find them.
Of course, Jeff Wilson Jr. did what he always does, and finished the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. It was his seventh rushing touchdown and ninth all-purpose touchdown on the year. He also crossed the 600-yard mark for the first time his career, becoming the fourth unique 600-plus yard rusher for the 49ers over the last four seasons.
But Russell Wilson is, well, Russell Wilson.
He responded with Seattle’s first touchdown, escaping pressure and finding Tyler Lockett with a dart that should have made it a field goal game. Jason Myers missed the extra point, looming large with a 16-12 49ers lead.
But, again… Russell Wilson.
It played out exactly as you would expect. Seattle waited until as late as was possible, but Wilson managed to charge down the field. And who did he find on a fourth down, with a cross-field, absurd touchdown throw? Tyler Lockett.
Seattle took a 19-16 lead with 2:20 remaining.
Two plays later, C.J. Beathard, protected (or, not protected) by Justin Skule was strip-sacked, giving the Seahawks the ball back with 2:10 remaining inside the 49ers’ red zone.
Anyone who knows the NFC West and where these two teams are at in their seasons could feel deep in their gut that it was the only logical outcome. Nonsensical, absurd, and completely, unavoidably on-brand.
Alex Collins, the Seahawks’ fifth-string (we think) running back then added insult to injury, punching in a late touchdown with 1:49 remaining, pushing the lead to a 26-16 margin.
Of course, Beathard had to find Jeff Wilson for another touchdown with 31 seconds remaining to tighten the margin and give Wilson Jr. his 10th touchdown of the season. The ensuing onside kick failed, but the touchdown made the margin of the loss much more fitting.
The good news? This season was already over and the loss is a huge boost for the 49ers’ draft positioning.
With wins from the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers (leading the Chiefs 38-21 with two minutes remaining), San Francisco will draft, at worst, 12th. If the Denver Broncos win (at the time of writing this, they were leading the Las Vegas Raiders 31-24 with 6:29 remaining), the 49ers will draft 11th. That’s a four-spot jump from the 15th spot they were at when the day began.
If nothing else, this arduous season was rewarded with a nice draft pick.