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Seahawks ready to take best shot at white-hot 49ers

Dec 15, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After trading away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson over the summer, the Seattle Seahawks had few people giving them any hope of making the NFL playoffs this season.

Yet, thanks to some help Sunday night from the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks (9-8) earned the NFC’s seventh and final playoff berth.

Now, they will travel to Santa Clara, Calif. to meet the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers (13-4) on Saturday afternoon in the wild-card round.

“We’re going to try to do something with it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the playoff opportunity. “Unfortunately, we’re playing the Niners and they are loaded and healthy and on a roll and about as hot as you can possibly get.”

The Seahawks defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 19-16 in overtime Sunday, then had to wait as the Lions knocked Green Bay out of contention that night.

Those two outcomes gave the Seahawks their 10th winning season and 10th playoff berth in Carroll’s 13 seasons.

“That’s what winning is. You keep coming back and keep proving who you are. No matter what the challenges are, you can keep finding a way to be successful,” Carroll said. “That’s success to me. That’s what you’re looking for.”

Seattle’s Kenneth Walker III rushed for 114 yards on a season-high 29 carries against the Rams. He finished with three consecutive 100-yard games after overcoming an ankle injury and became the second rookie in franchise history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing (1,050), joining Curt Warner in 1983.

Despite eclipsing Wilson’s team record for most passing yards in a season (4,219 in 2016), Geno Smith had to overcome two interceptions in the season finale — including one on the first play from scrimmage.

“Obviously started the game bad, but we found a way, and it took everybody,” said Smith, who finished the season with 4,282 yards and 30 touchdown passes. “I was just happy to see that (win) happen.”

The 49ers opened the season 3-4 and trailed the Seahawks in the division race before running off 10 consecutive victories, including an easy 38-13 decision against visiting Arizona on Sunday.

Quarterback Brock Purdy, the last pick in last spring’s NFL draft who has taken over after injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, threw three touchdown passes against the Cardinals, his sixth straight game with multiple TD passes, to help the 49ers clinch the NFC’s No. 2 seed.

“I feel great. I feel like everyone else is feeling great,” Purdy said. “When you’re on a roll, you’re on a win streak, you feel like the groove and how we’re playing together, it feels really good when we’re on it. I think a lot of us are real with ourselves, too, and feel like we still haven’t played to our full potential yet.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said his team is peaking at the right time but cautioned against looking too far ahead.

“I think you need to be doing that, especially to have a chance to get through these games, but nothing really matters how you’re doing going into it,” Shanahan said of peaking heading into the playoffs. “It’s how you do that first game. And if there is a first game and you play like you’re capable, then you get the privilege for a second game. But this season can end fast and that’s why these playoffs are such a big deal and that’s why they’re so fun to watch for everybody because it’s just one game.”

The 49ers easily handled the Seahawks in the regular season, winning 27-7 in Week 2 in Santa Clara and 21-13 on a Thursday night in Seattle in mid-December.

Seahawks running back DeeJay Dallas (ankle, quadricep), tight end Noah Fant (knee), guard Phil Haynes (ankle), defensive end Shelby Harris (knee) and cornerback Xavier Crawford (hamstring) have missed practice this week. Other than Garoppolo, the only other 49er to miss practice because of injury on Tuesday was cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle).

–Field Level Media