All the Seattle Seahawks needed to do was win one game to clinch the division. They had two chances to do it against two teams that they dominated over the last two seasons.
They failed to come back against the Cardinals last Sunday in Arizona, but many expected them to bounce back at home when the 49ers came to town. Seattle was 5-1 at home and weren’t going to let Frank Gore repeat what he did to their defense in their last game.
Almost a month ago Gore set a team rushing record when he ran 212 yards and pushed the 49ers to a 20-16 victory in San Francisco.
Seattle’s defense held strong in the first half. San Francisco only managed three first downs and were 1-of-9 on third-down conversions. Gore was held to 34 yards rushing and the 49ers were only able to put up 3 points on a 39-yard field goal from Joe Nedney. Seattle took the lead in the first on 3-yard touchdown by Shaun Alexander, but after that the offense would be stymied.
Seattle still held the 7-3 lead as they went into the fourth quarter, but then the wheels came off. Or were blown off. Or completely disintegrated.
Alex Smith passed to Vernon Davis for a touchdown and San Francisco took the lead for the first time. Seattle got the ball with great field position after Davis picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating in the end zone and Nate Burleson got a 28-yard return.
Three plays later the Hawks found themselves at 4th-and-1 on San Francisco’s 27 yard line. Mack Strong got the ball and pushed, but San Francisco held. They turned it around and drove 73 yards to the end zone to lead 17-7.
Down by 10 with 3:38 on the clock, Matt Hasselbeck threw a pass intended for Nate Burleson. Burleson tripped, and 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer picked it off. Any hope of a comeback was completely destroyed when Alex Smith ran in an 18-yard touchdown to put the 49ers up 24-7.
Frank Gore rushed for 108 yards in the fourth quarter, and the 49ers were 5-of-5 on third down conversions. Hasselbeck managed to pass one last touchdown to Jerramy Stevens, but the damage was done. San Francisco won 24-14 and swept the Seahawks for the season.
Seattle still leads San Francisco by two games in the NFC West. At this point it still seems likely the Hawks will win the division, but after two big losses to supposedly inferior teams they have a lot of work ahead of them to keep from being destroyed in the first round.
On Christmas Eve the champions of the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers, come to Seattle for the Hawks’ last home game of the regular season.