Seahawks fall inches short from last-second TD, stunned by 49ers

SEATTLE -- For a few seconds Sunday night, after Marshawn Lynch leaped into the end zone from a yard out, CenturyLink Field was rocking -- and shaking -- the way it had so many times during the running back's first stint with the Seahawks.

But after a wild finish left Seattle with a 26-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the home crowd was silent and stunned at what transpired in the game's final seconds.

Russell Wilson got the Seahawks to the 1-yard line with a fourth-down completion to seldom-used rookie receiver John Ursua, but a delay-of-game penalty after a spike pushed Seattle back five yards and never gave Lynch a shot at another goal-line touchdown.

After two incompletions, tight end Jacob Hollister was ruled just inches shy of the end zone on a fourth-down reception, sealing the win -- and the NFC West title -- for San Francisco.

"To me, it was a perfect way to win the championship," Pete Carroll said, "and unfortunately, it just came up short by a couple inches. It was an amazing effort. It was an amazing regular season."

The Seahawks (11-5) will enter the playoffs as the NFC's No. 5 seed, which means a wild-card game against the fourth-seeded Eagles in Philadelphia next Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET. The Seahawks would have been NFC West champs and the conference's No. 3 seed with a win over San Francisco, which would have meant a home playoff game. They'll instead have to go on the road, where they won a franchise-best seven games this season.

Carroll said the delay-of-game penalty was a result of confusion on the sideline as the Seahawks tried to get a running back onto the field. They were in an empty backfield on the fourth-down completion to Ursua and the subsequent spike. Lynch didn't run onto the field until about 15 seconds had run off the 40-second play clock.

Carroll took the blame for the penalty.

"We were late getting in there," he said. "We burned the time. We just didn't get it done. We just didn't function cleanly. When you kill the clock, sometimes you kind of relax like that's a timeout. We didn't on the sidelines, but it just kind of felt like that's what happened, and we didn't get the substitution done properly and we were late with it, and there wasn't enough time for us to get the play off. When it happened, with 22 seconds left I think there was (after the spike), I'm thinking we were going to get into the end zone anyway."

But Wilson couldn't connect with Tyler Lockett on second down nor with Hollister on third down amid tight coverage and plenty of contact from linebacker Fred Warner. An incredulous Hollister threw his arms into the air when he didn't see an official throw a flag.

"I felt him grabbing me, but you don't get every call," Hollister said. "I didn't get that call."

Al Riveron, the NFL's head of officiating, told the pool reporter that the league did look at the play even though the game didn't stop for a review. Riveron said "we had a great look" and that "we didn't see enough to stop the game." He said Hollister initiated contact on Warner, adding: "The defender then braces himself, and there is contact by the defender on the receiver. Again, nothing which rises to the level of a foul based on visual evidence."

It took another second-half rally to get the Seahawks in position to win this one. They trailed 13-0 after San Francisco outgained them 222 yards to 79 during a first half in which the Seahawks' four possessions ended with three punts and a turnover on downs. It was their first scoreless first half since Week 15 of the 2017 season. Wilson (25 of 40 for 233 yards) threw second-half touchdown passes to Lockett and DK Metcalf, who led Seattle with 81 yards on six catches.

"As we have kind of grown to understand about our team, we're never out," Carroll said. "We didn't play well in the first half and just couldn't get going at all. We really felt fortunate to be at 13-zip."

Said Wilson: "The game, it was a heavyweight fight. That's what I really compare it to. We knew it was going to take a lot of rounds. We knew it was going to be a battle. Unfortunately, we didn't get the decision tonight."

The Seahawks brought Lynch and Robert Turbin back this week after Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise suffered season-ending injuries in their last game. That left rookie sixth-round pick Travis Homer as their only healthy tailback.

Lynch's score cut the 49ers' lead to 19-14 with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was his first touchdown with Seattle since Nov. 15, 2015, his last season with the team before the first of his two retirements. He finished with 34 yards in 12 attempts in his first game since October 2018.

"I felt good," Lynch said postgame. "But at the end of the day, I play to win, so s---."

The Seahawks introduced their starting offense before the game even though they did so last week, meaning it would have been the defense's turn Sunday night. Linebacker K.J. Wright said this week he wanted Lynch to get his introduction knowing how loud the stadium would get. Lynch was introduced as a starter along with Homer, who actually started the game. They ran onto the field along with Turbin to the loudest roar that any of the starters received.

"Straight love, bruh. Straight up," Lynch said. "Twelves f--- with your boy tough. They made your boy feel right at home. Some solid s---. I think we just settled down. I started to feel some legs come up underneath me. But I think for the most part, just overall, the whole situation, everybody settled down and started hitting their keys and s---."

Homer gained 62 yards in 10 carries plus another 30 yards on five catches. Seattle finished with 125 rushing yards and a 4.2-yard average. Turbin didn't have an offensive touch. Carroll said linebacker Mychal Kendricks and receiver Jaron Brown suffered knee sprains Sunday night. He wasn't sure about their statuses for next week. He said safety Quandre Diggs (high ankle sprain) has a "really good chance" to make it back for the Eagles game and that tight end Luke Willson should be back. He didn't play Sunday after landing awkwardly on his hip in Friday's practice.