SEATTLE — On April 25, the San Francisco 49ers used the second pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Just 248 days later, they are NFC West division champions and sit atop the NFC hierarchy.
To reach that mountaintop, the Niners had to walk into their personal house of horrors and emerge on the other side with a demon-exorcising victory against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
On Sunday night, that’s precisely what the 49ers did, overcoming the Seahawks for a dramatic 26-21 win, the first time they’ve won in Seattle since Dec. 24, 2011. The win couldn’t have come in more dramatic fashion or with more spoils, at least not in the regular season.
The Niners finished the year 13-3, their best mark since 2011, won the NFC West division, claimed the conference’s No. 1 seed and now hold home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
It’s San Francisco’s 20th NFC West crown and their first No. 1 seed in the NFC since 1997. The win also moved them to 7-1 on the road this season, their best road record since 1992, when they also went 7-1 away from home.
With the loss, Seattle dropped to 11-5 and claimed the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks will visit the Philadelphia Eagles next weekend in a wild-card game.
The 49ers will host their first playoff game at Levi’s Stadium since it opened in 2014 in a divisional round matchup on Jan. 11 or Jan. 12.
To make that happen, the Niners won by the final inch as linebacker Dre Greenlaw tackled tight end Jacob Hollister just short of the goal line on fourth down to put the game away. As soon as it happened, the 49ers ran on the field to celebrate, including general manager John Lynch, who scooped up the game ball. A lengthy review left the call to stand and the Niners as winners. It was San Francisco’s first defensive stop of the second half after a dominant opening two quarters.
With Seattle nursing some key injuries on the offensive line, the 49ers attacked with blitzes and held Seattle scoreless in the opening half, the first time since Week 15 of 2017 that has happened and only the third time Seattle has been shut out at the half of a home game since quarterback Russell Wilson became the starter.
When the Seahawks’ offense finally found some life behind Wilson in the second half, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. repeatedly mustered strong responses. Seattle scored three touchdowns in the second half, and twice the Niners came right back with a touchdown of their own.
Garoppolo was sharp for most of the night, finishing 18-of-22 for 285 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 118.8. Rookie receiver Deebo Samuel made a lot of that happen, posting five catches for 102 yards with a 30-yard rushing touchdown.
Now, the Niners can look ahead to a much-needed bye week, something they haven’t had since Week 4. It should offer a chance to get defensive end Dee Ford (quadriceps and hamstring) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) closer to full strength and on the field.
It could also lead to a rubber match between the Niners and Seahawks in Santa Clara, California, in the divisional round. Seattle beat San Francisco there on Nov. 11 in a tense, overtime thriller. If New Orleans beats Minnesota in the wild-card round and the Seahawks advance past the Eagles, the Niners and Seahawks would meet again at Levi’s Stadium.