With their season on the verge of implosion, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to take on the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 at CenturyLink Field—a venue that has not been kind to San Francisco in recent seasons.
Entering at 7-6, the 49ers were watching their playoff hopes slip away after a 24-13 defeat at the hands of the Oakland Raiders a week ago. Meanwhile, the surging 9-4 Seahawks entered the contest as the No. 5 seed in the NFC.
San Francisco's offense has been a major problem as of late. Question marks have surrounded the abilities of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the offensive line and offensive coordinator Greg Roman's play-calling.
This underachieving offense was forced to contend with a Seattle defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL with just 3,568 yards allowed prior to the game and do so at a stadium that boasts one of the best home-field advantages in professional sports.
If the 49ers wanted to save their season, they would have to become only the third team in two years to beat the Seahawks at home. Combine that with the team's offensive issues of late, and one would have speculated that San Francisco was facing a nearly impossible task.
This game ultimately decides the 49ers' 2014 fate. The context is set for this critical contest. San Francisco has to respond.
It was Seattle that drew first blood. Two critical penalties on safety Eric Reid put the Seahawks into field-goal range, where kicker Steven Hauschka connected on a 38-yard try.
But the 49ers answered back in the second quarter. Faced with a 4th-and-short try, running back Frank Gore not only gained the first down, but pushed in a 10-yard rush into the end zone.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tried to give Seattle the lead with a late touchdown in the first half. But his attempt was picked off by Reid to send things into halftime.
San Francisco endured a couple of key injuries during the first half. Gore left with a concussion, and rookie linebacker Chris Borland injured his ankle during the last play of the half. In the second, Seattle jumped on top when it let running back Marshawn Lynch drive the offense.
He gave the Seahawks the lead with a four-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter.
An even bigger blow came early in the fourth. A very questionable roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Seahawks a first down within the red zone. Instead of what would have been a field-goal try, Seattle was able to punch it in to the end zone thanks to a 10-yard pass from Wilson to wideout Paul Richardson.
San Francisco attempted to stage a comeback in the fourth quarter. But the absence of key playmakers like Gore and Carlos Hyde (ankle) hurt significantly. The general lack of urgency was also apparent throughout, and the 49ers offense stumbled back into insignificance.
The loss, combined with the Detroit Lions' 16-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, eliminates San Francisco from the playoff picture. More importantly, the loss will prompt all kinds of questions about this franchise's future.
FINAL: 49ers 7, Seahawks 17.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Be sure to check out his entire archive on 49ers news, insight and analysis.
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