Jim Moore: Seahawks-49ers is a ‘yeah-but’ game, as in a likely loss with a silver lining
In Seattle - and Detroit for that matter - it’s hard to remember an NFL afternoon and evening like the one on Sunday.
The Seahawks had to go to overtime to beat the Rams and needed the Lions to beat the Packers Sunday night to make the playoffs. The unlikely two-part scenario came through as the Lions, who had won only three times at Lambeau Field in the last 31 years, held up their end by defeating the Packers 20-16.
The whole thing was crazy from the get-go. The Lions could have been in the playoffs with a win over the Packers and a Seahawks’ loss to the Rams. A half-hour before kickoff, they learned that a playoff berth was out after Jason Myers kicked a 32-yard game-winning field goal at Lumen Field.
I thought all along the NFL made a mistake by not having both games kick off at the same time. I figured the Lions would not have the same incentive to beat the Packers if they knew the playoffs were off the table. After watching the Sunday night game, I discovered I was wrong about that.
They were hellbent on beating their division rivals anyway, and if you didn’t believe it by the way they played, running back Jamaal Williams said as much in his post-game interview, speaking emotionally about playing for his late grandfather before suddenly changing gears and blasting anyone and everyone who doubted the Lions.
With a 9-8 record, this was already considered a successful season for the Seahawks, who were projected to win five games tops. Now it can be called one of the best seasons in franchise history, as unexpected as it was, capped by a playoff appearance.
But as I watched the Lions celebrate at Lambeau Field, I wondered if it was better for their season to end like it did than how the Seahawks’ season will end this Saturday at San Francisco.
Coach Dan Campbell’s Lions appear to be building a terrific team that will no doubt make bigger noise in the playoffs and NFC North next year.
The Seahawks are in a similar situation, needing to fortify their defense through the draft before they can be considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
I suppose I could trot out the cliches of anything can happen on any given Sunday - or Saturday in this case - and suggest that the Seahawks have a decent chance to knock off the 49ers.
Here are the (flimsy) reasons I’ve come up with for this to happen:
* The time-honored “it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season.” The 49ers beat the Seahawks 27-7 in Santa Clara in September and 21-13 in Seattle in December. Thing is, did you see anything in either one of those games that gives you hope for an upset this time around? I didn’t either.
* Brock Purdy was the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft and will make his first playoff appearance, the thinking being that he might wilt or at least show some flaws because of the postseason pressure. But I thought that same kind of stuff when Purdy started his first road game at Seattle and handled the noise like a savvy vet. Maybe the Seahawks’ improved pass rush of late will rattle him a bit, but it’s hard to fathom this as a game-losing factor for the Niners.
* Two weeks ago the league’s best defense was riddled by Jarrett Stidham, making his first start for the Raiders, to the tune of 365 yards and three touchdowns as Las Vegas scored 34 points. Yeah, the Raiders still lost 37-34, but maybe it would give some hope to a Seahawks’ offense that scored a combined 20 points in their two games against the 49ers.
* It might help the Seahawks to play a team in their division, a team they know inside and out, well aware of their strengths and weaknesses, putting them in a better position to make necessary adjustments. Problem is, that goes both ways, the 49ers are well aware that they have beaten the hell out of the Seahawks and are probably thinking, let’s just go beat the hell out of them again.
The Seahawks had the good fortune of making the playoffs but the misfortune of getting the worst first-round draw. Pick an NFC playoff team, any one of the bunch, including top-seeded Philadelphia, and I’d say the Seahawks would have a chance to pull off a shocker.
But this is a mismatch. The Seahawks’ offense isn’t good enough to score enough against the 49ers’ defense. They’ve already proven that. And their defense can’t stop the Niners, who beat the Seahawks in Seattle without Deebo Samuel but will have their play-maker back on Saturday. Tight end George Kittle scored two TDs in their last meeting and will be an even bigger handful for a Seattle linebacking corpse that will be without the injured Jordyn Brooks in this game.
So yeah, all of this entered my mind when I watched the Lions cavorting around in Green Bay and doing Lambeau Leaps of their own Sunday night.
You could also debate whether it might have been better for the Seahawks if the Packers had beaten the Lions and knocked Pete Carroll’s team out of the playoffs. Seattle would have had the 15th pick in the first round of the draft as opposed to the 19th or 20th they’ll have after losing on Saturday. Not a huge difference, especially when you know they already have Denver’s fifth pick and can gain playoff experience, but still, it’s worth noting.
This shapes up as a “yeah, but” kind of game when we talk about how poorly things went against the Niners but what a season it was in the big picture.
The Seahawks are justifiably 10-point underdogs to the Niners and 66-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl. But if you want to cling to a sliver of hope, fair enough. A winning record in 2023 was a million-to-one, and if the Hawks beat those odds, maybe they can do it again in the playoffs - even if probably not is more realistic.
Jim Moore has covered Washington’s sports scene from every angle for multiple news outlets. You can find him on Twitter @cougsgo, and on 950 KJR-AM, where he co-hosts a sports talk show from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays.