Niner Noise was fortunate enough to be on hand at Levi’s Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 15 win over the Seattle Seahawks and recaps the eventful day.
The first San Francisco 49ers game I ever watched was the 2014 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks. What transpired in those gritty and painful three hours of football fueled a special kind of hate for the Seahawks and developed a passion for the Niners and, more importantly, football itself.
Ever since watching the game, the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry was bigger than football to me. I had associated the Niners with “good” and the Seahawks “evil.” And ever since the 49ers fell to the Seahawks, who advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII and ended up winning it, I have been eagerly waiting for San Francisco to simply beat Seattle.
After five years and 11 months, it finally happened.
And I was fortunate enough to witness it happen in front of my own eyes.
The three-plus hours of classic NFC West football had the stadium constantly on edge. After Richie James returned a kickoff for a touchdown to give the 49ers an early lead, the crowd instantly knew that this game was going to be different. And what resulted from this huge positive swing of momentum was the most investment I’ve seen from any crowd in a sporting event. And I’ve seen quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo carve up the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars live.
I chose to sit in the 400 level of Levi’s Stadium for the first time, and I can now say that it is true when people say that there is no bad seat there. In fact, I would argue that the nosebleeds are even better for game viewing as you can watch plays develop before your eyes.
I was closely paying attention to the Seahawks receivers to see if they were getting open against coordinator Robert Saleh’s defensive coverages. Unfortunately, they were — a lot.
Most notably, on the first Seahawks touchdown where quarterback Russell Wilson threw a touchdown to wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who beat cornerback Tarvarius Moore, there was a wide-open Seahawks tight end, Nick Vannett, in the middle of the endz one that Wilson could have found for a much easier touchdown pass.
Take a look for yourself:
In the Seahawks’ final drive of regulation, Baldwin was wide open running the seam route. And if Wilson saw him, the Seahawks would have been in field-goal range and most likely have won the game in regulation.
Look just inside the far numbers:
I have to give credit to Saleh for employing a solid game plan against Seattle, but I’m still not sold on him yet. Wilson just didn’t see open guys.
But in the end, it didn’t matter. The 49ers’ strong efforts on all three sides of the ball all culminated into one fantastic (and in this video, NSFW) moment:
After the game, I was incredibly surprised to see the backlash of the officiating supposedly favoring the 49ers in this game. The crowd, although an obviously pro-Niners group, felt that the Seahawks were getting the better of the calls. There were many Seahawks fans in my section, and none of them complained about any of the calls against them. Some were actually very visibly perplexed about calls against the 49ers, most notably the bogus roughing-the-passer call on linebacker Fred Warner, who made a textbook tackle on Wilson, and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on running back Jeff Wilson, where the replay screen showed that Wilson did absolutely nothing after his run into the red zone.
The penalties that most people were criticizing were the pass-interference call on the Seahawks’ Shaquill Griffin in overtime and the numerous holding calls on the Seattle offensive line.
This picture pretty much sums up why the pass interference was called.
Even former NFL referee and current Sunday Night Football rules analyst Terry McAulay agreed that the pass-interference call was indeed the correct call.
As for the holding calls, well, the Seahawks offensive line just need to stop holding the 49ers’ front seven. Holding is usually hard to see from a live audience standpoint. But even from the 400 section, I could see a lot of holding from the Seahawks.
Well-renowned football analyst Brian Baldinger, known for his famous Baldy Breakdowns, took a look at three textbook holding calls by Seattle on defensive end Solomon Thomas in this video, which were critical in thwarting any late Seahawks lead from developing
The 49ers were just the better team on Sunday. No amount of officiating can change that fact.
Sunday’s win was a historic moment that Niners fans won’t forget anytime soon. And to watch it live right there at Levi’s Stadium was nothing short of incredible.
As kicker Robbie Gould‘s game-winning kick went through the uprights, no San Francisco fan, player or coach in the stadium cared about draft position or anything else in the world. They just felt pure bliss in a moment of ecstasy. They had beaten the Seattle Seahawks, their divisional rivals, for the first time in over five years.