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Seahawks fall just short in first shot to win NFC West
SAN FRANCISCO – Beaten, but not defeated. Disappointed, but not deflated.
That was the mood – almost to a man – in the Seahawks’ locker room at Candlestick Park as Sunday afternoon was becoming Sunday night. Yes, they had dropped a 19-17 decision to the San Francisco 49ers in a nip-and-tuck game that prevented the Seahawks from clinching the NFC West title on the home field of the two-time defending division champions.
But coach Pete Carroll and his players know this season is far from over, as they still have three regular-season games to play – starting with next Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands – and they are aware that they still have a two-game lead over the 49ers.
“What’s really important for us, we’ve still got a lot of football left,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Regardless of what happened today. We have to come back, get on track and go back to work.”
At 11-2, the Seahawks still hold the best record in the NFC, and already have clinched a playoff berth. But they wanted this one, and thought they had it.
And when Golden Tate returned a fourth-quarter punt 38 yards to setup a Steven Hauschka field goal that gave them a 17-16 lead with less than 6½ to play, it appeared they did indeed have this one. But that’s when old nemesis Frank Gore broke a 51-yard run to setup Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal with 26 second left.
“He did what he’s been doing in the past,” defensive end Red Bryant said of Gore, who has had 212- and 207-yard rushing performances against the Seahawks. “Some how, some way, he makes big play for his football team in crucial situations. And that was a big play.”
So rather than celebrating, the players were talking about getting back to work, refocusing and taking care of the things they can control.
“I’ve got a motto that I go by that says, ‘You win some, you learn some,’ ” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said after the Seahawks’ six-game winning streak was snapped, and their losing streak at Candlestick was extended to five in a row.
“In a situation like this, it’s sad that we didn’t get the victory. But at the same time, we can take a lot of learning lessons from this – the penalty situation, not being able to execute when we wanted to and also not being able to take advantage of what the defense was giving us.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time we’ve got to learn from this.”
Those penalties Baldwin mentioned, a season-long problem for the Seahawks, again played a role in their first loss since Oct. 6. They were flagged nine times for 85 yards.
“I’m probably most disappointed in the penalty situation in this game,” Carroll said. “We just couldn’t get in the flow of it.”
The first loss in two months also included a couple of firsts – the first career touchdown catch for rookie tight end Luke Willson and the first career interception for cornerback Byron Maxwell, at the Seahawks’ 1-yard line. And then there was Tate’s big punt return.
Those are the kinds of plays the Seahawks needed to make their final visit to Candlestick Park a success. But there weren’t enough of them on this day, at this venue, against this opponent.
“We had them, then we let them off the leash. We had them, then we let them off again,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said. “We gave them this game, and they know it. They just capitalized off our mistakes, and that’s what good teams do.”