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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Seahawks were searching for more consistency heading into this week’s regular-season finale, and while they didn’t get quite the four-quarter effort they would have liked, they were able to right the ship more quickly after a rocky start than a week ago. The result was a 25-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers that improved Seattle’s record to 10-5-1, allowing them to secure the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture.
The Seahawks will host a Wild Card playoff game next weekend against the loser of Sunday night’s NFC North clash between Green Bay and Detroit. If that game happens to end in a tie, Green Bay would win the division and earn the No. 4 seed and Detroit would play at Seattle. Tickets for the game are officially on sale.
Here are five rapid reactions to Sunday’s victory, which gave the Seahawks a double-digit win total for the fifth-straight season, matching the total of double-digit win seasons they had from 1976 through the 2011 season.
1. The defense responded well to early struggles.
The 49ers fumbled on their opening possession, but the next two times they had the ball, they looked nothing like a team that came into the game ranked 29th in total offense, marching 75, then 80 yards for touchdowns to take a 14-3 lead.
Ahtyba Rubin forced a fumble on San Francisco’s next possession, then from there the Seahawks stopped San Francisco on seven straight possessions, with the 49ers never gaining more than 23 yards on those drives. The 49ers did put together a touchdown drive with a short field late to make the game interesting, but a dominant stretch of defense in the middle two quarters played a big role in Seattle taking control of the game.
Seattle’s pass rush stood out as the game went along, sacking Colin Kaepernick five times. Frank Clark was one of several defensive linemen to stand out, recording a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and a tackle for loss on a running play in the first half alone.
2. Bobby Wagner’s big season continues.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner came into the game with a league-high 155 tackles, which is also a new franchise record, and he finished off the regular season with another huge game. Wagner recorded 12 tackles, a pair of sacks, a pass defensed and fumble recovery.
3. It was a big day for the tight ends.
Jimmy Graham caught only four passes in the past three games, but he was a big part of the game plan Sunday, catching four passes for a team-high 64 yards, including a 42-yarder that set up a second-quarter touchdown. On that catch, Graham, a former basketball player at the University of Miami, showed off some big-man skills to box out his defender on a jump-ball from Russell Wilson.
And Graham wasn’t the only tight end involved in the passing game Sunday. Luke Willson had three catches for 26 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown reception, while Brandon Williams hauled in a 20-yard catch on the sideline with an impressive diving effort.
4. Alex Collins impressed in the second half.
The Seahawks didn’t run the ball as successfully as they would have liked, especially considering the 49ers came into the game allowing a league-high 171.1 rushing yards-per-game. But one bright spot in the run game was the play of Alex Collins, who played much of the second half and gained 55 yards on seven carries, including an impressive 26-yard rumble.
5. Special teams has some issues to clean up.
For the second straight week, the Seahawks had a few issues on special teams that hurt them. While Steven Hauschka was a perfect 4 for 4 on field-goal attempts, he did have an extra point blocked for the second-straight week. Also, a high snap from Nolan Frese went through the end zone on a punt, giving the 49ers a safety.