SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)When Charles Omenihu knocked the ball out of Geno Smith’s hands, Seattle’s chances began to go away as well.
The turnover spoiled a scoring chance for the Seahawks and soon the game as San Francisco turned a tight game into a blowout.
The Seahawks’ surprising season came to a bitter end Saturday when they allowed 25 consecutive points in the second half and lost 41-23 to the 49ers in a wild-card game.
”We had our shot,” coach Pete Carroll said. ”So the suddenness of this finish is what’s so striking right now. We thought we were going to make it happen and knock these guys off and keep going. I’m really disappointed. We had such a good opportunity today. We all felt it.”
After heading into halftime with a 17-16 lead following a gift field-goal drive in the final 13 seconds thanks to a personal foul on Jimmie Ward, the Seahawks fell apart in the second half.
The Niners got a spark when Seattle safety Johnathan Abram grabbed and twisted Deebo Samuel’s previously injured left ankle following a tackle on the opening drive of the second half and never looked back.
”I don’t know what he was trying to achieve by doing that, but it wasn’t smart,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said.
San Francisco took the lead for good on that drive when Brock Purdy converted a sneak from the 1 and the 49ers seized control on the strip sack by Omenihu that Nick Bosa recovered.
”He made a great play,” Smith said. ”I had two hands on the ball. That’s exactly how we do it – two hands on the ball, tight to my chest. It’s the NFL, man. The 49ers have a great defense. You know, the mistakes, in games like this, become that much more critical.”
The Seahawks allowed another TD drive on the next possession to go down 31-17, gave up a 76-yard TD to Samuel the next drive and then threw an interception on the next play, ending any chance at a comeback.
That brought a disappointing end to what had been a very encouraging season for Seattle. The Seahawks traded away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson in the offseason and then got a breakthrough campaign from Smith, who threw for 30 TD passes and a franchise-record 4,282 yards in the regular season.
Seattle got into the playoffs in Week 18 thanks to an overtime win over the Rams and a loss by Green Bay to Detroit that night and put up a good fight for a little more than a half.
The Seahawks scored on a 14-play drive and a 50-yard pass from Smith to Metcalf to erase a 10-0 deficit, but didn’t score in the second half until a garbage-time TD with 1:48 to play.
Smith finished 25 for 35 for 253 yards, two TDs and the two turnovers.
”I’m not at all satisfied,” Smith said. ”I don’t feel good about what happened today. I feel like we we could have kept going. So for me, man, I just got to be better and I take this one personally.”
Now the focus goes to the future with the biggest offseason question being the status of Smith, who is eligible to be a free agent in March but likely earned himself a hefty contract.
”He led a team that didn’t make it to the playoffs last year to the playoffs this year,” safety Quandre Diggs said. ”We wouldn’t be here without Geno. … I hope that he’s back for sure. I think things will work out the right way.”
Smith feels the same way.
”I want to finish my career in Seattle,” he said. ”I want to be here. The town, the city, the team, Coach Carroll, the organization they all embraced me. I was a guy who probably could have been out of the league. They embraced me and I want to repay them for that.”
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