ABOARD THE SEAHAWKS’ DELTA CHARTER FLIGHT – Each of the Patriots’ scores as they battled back from a 31-3 third-quarter deficit against the 49ers on Sunday night was greeted by an explosion of cheers and an eruption of applause.
The Seahawks were watching the game on the way back from their 50-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Toronto earlier in the day, and they were well aware that a Patriots’ victory would give them a chance to take the NFC West lead next Sunday night when the division-leading 49ers come to CenturyLink Field for a nationally televised rematch.
Danny Woodhead scored on a 6-yard run to cut the 49ers’ lead to 31-10 late in the quarter. Tom Brady made it 31-17 on a 1-yard TD run. When Brady passed 5 yards to Aaron Hernandez it was 31-24. With each score, the collective reactions from the players, coaches and staff intensified. When a 1-yard TD run by Woodhead tied it at 31-31, the cabin was rocking – and it has nothing to do with turbulence.
But just as quickly the Patriots had tied the score, the 49ers came back to take a 38-31 lead as a long return of the ensuing kickoff led to a 35-yard pass to Michael Crabtree.
“Get ’em,” one player yelled during the kickoff return. “No,” groaned another. “Are you kidding me?” grumbled a third.
And when Crabtree scored? The cabin fell silent. Then a few sounds of disgust punctuated the disappointment.
The 49ers then added a field goal, pushing their lead back to 10 points – leaving Brady one last chance, if very few seconds, to try and work his magic one more time. But all the Patriots could muster was a field goal. And silence begot more silence.
A Patriots team that was favored could do the Seahawks no favors on this night: 49ers 41, Patriots 34.
After winning their third consecutive game, the Seahawks are 9-5. A 49ers’ loss would have left them 9-4-1, and trimmed their lead over the Seahawks to half a game. Instead, they are 10-3-1 and 1½ games up with two to play. The 49ers also hold the tiebreaker because of their 13-7 victory over the Seahawks in San Francisco in October.
“It doesn’t change anything,” tackle Breno Giacomini said. “We still need to win next week.”
The Seahawks still hold the No. 5 seed in the NFC – or top wild-card spot. They’re on a three-game winning streak and have scored at least 50 points in back-to-back games, making them the first team in the NFL to accomplish that since 1950.
The more games they win, the more momentum they will carry into the playoffs.
“We need to keep that momentum heading into next week,” tight end Zach Miller said.