49ers’ win over Seahawks 5th straight game decided on last drive

SEATTLE — Two weeks ago, the 49ers were on the losing side of the play that won them the NFC West.

After review, officials ruled Atlanta’s Julio Jones had crossed the goal line and gave the Falcons an upset win at Levi’s Stadium. Jimmie Ward’s tackle came a millisecond too late. He went low for the hit. There was miscommunication on the play.

On Sunday night, all those miscues vanished. This time it was rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw who delivered the hit. And this time, he was there on time and delivered a punishing blow to keep Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister out of the end zone.

“I have experience from the Atlanta game, so I wasn’t ready to celebrate anything,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It kind of ruined my celebration to tell you the truth. I wanted to wait until I saw it on the scoreboard.”

If you look back at the scoreboard for the past weeks, you’ll see the 49ers haven’t just been playing tight games. Their games have been as close as can possibly be imagined. All of them — three wins, two losses — have been decided on the last possession. Four have come down to the final play.

“It’s kind of a recurring theme we’ve had this season,” said linebacker Fred Warner, who assisted Greenlaw with the game-saving tackle.

The past two seasons — even earlier this season — these were games the 49ers weren’t winning. There were the back-to-back overtime losses in the middle of an 0-9 start to Shanahan’s tenure in San Francisco. Or the brutal 12-9 loss in Seattle earlier that year.

Even this season, the 49ers were beating opponents with ease to start the year. It was that Week 10 loss to Seattle that gave them their first true test of resilience. They came a field goal away from winning (or at least tying) that one. They came inches away from beating Atlanta. In this one, the inches were on their side.

“It feels good to be on the other side of that,” Ward said.

Winning close games comes with the good and the bad. The good: a win. The bad: how it was so close to begin with.

The 49ers took a 13-0 lead into halftime, playing their most dominant defensive half of football since at least the first part of this season. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh supplemented a deflated defensive line with frequent blitzes to keep Russell Wilson off balance and under duress.

As for Beast Mode’s return? The beastliest plays Sunday night came from the 49ers defense — either Ward’s big hit that knocked out Seattle receiver Jaron Brown on the first series of the game or Greenlaw’s at the goal line.

But in the second half, the Seahawks found ways to pick holes in the 49ers defense, particularly in the secondary. Rookie receiver DK Metcalf torched Ahkello Witherspoon for 81 yards on six catches, including the touchdown to pull Seattle within 26-21 late in the fourth quarter. Eventually, Emmanuel Moseley subbed in for Witherspoon, but didn’t fare much better.

“We should’ve made more plays down the stretch and it shouldn’t have been that close,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “… I think our best football is still ahead. We’ve got a lot to correct. We made a lot of mistakes today.”

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