Al Pacino’s famous speech in the hit football movie ‘Any Given Sunday’ is just about as cheesy and pulpy as you can get when it comes to football-inspired speeches. Pacino’s character, coach Tony D’Amanto delivers, ‘life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small — I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.’
Earlier this week, Reddit user, Comme-Des-Filles, put together a table showing what the standings would look like if every one-score game was reversed.
As you can see, the 11-5 Seahawks, prior to Week Seventeen, would be competing for the number one pick, whereas the LA Chargers would be the #1 seed in the AFC.
Pacino’s words rang true at the Week Seventeen finale as the NFL conjured up a game of inches to round off the decade. 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw held strong at the goal line to prevent Seattle TE Jacob Hollister from scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 12 seconds left. The 49ers clinched victory and the #1 seed in the NFC with a 26-21 victory at CenturyLink Field, a place where the Niners haven’t won in nine years.
The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is one that has somewhat faded in recent years with the Seahawks continued pedigree as one of the NFL’s top franchises and the 49ers wallowing in the post-Harbaugh mud, but last night’s game proved why this rivalry is one of the most fierce and entertaining in the NFL.
The first half, despite San Francisco’s 13-0, was a cagey affair. 49ers fans are well versed in the ‘never say die’ attitude of Russell Wilson and co. The return of Marshawn Lynch only added to Seattle’s voodoo mystique. An intangible factor that has aided them to win all those one-score games.
After a poorly timed 49er 3-and-out to start the second half, Seattle struck fast with an 11 play 62-yard drive capped off by a Russell Wilson throw on the run TD to Tyler Lockett.
However, characteristically of this new Jimmy G led, always calm under pressure, Niners team, they stayed calm and marched down the filed even faster than Seattle and answered back with a TD of their own. Raheem Mostert continuing his late-season flourish with a touchdown.
The second half continued this rapid, back and forth pace which included BeastMode leaping over the goal line for a touchdown and another Raheem Mostert score. As a result of being impeccable on third down, the Seahawks got down to the 1-yard line with under a minute left, game 26-21.
One of the knocks on Pete Carroll which is becoming more and more evident is his tendency to get lost in the moment or play up to the occasion. This cost his team dearly on Sunday night as the offence messed around trying to get Lynch into the game and call the correct play that they were forced to take a delay of game penalty, forcing them back to the 6-yard line. Another goal-line debacle, not as costly as the one in Super Bowl XLIX but reminiscent.
After a dubious no holding call on 3rd down, the Seahawks faced 4th down and after a short pass to Hollister, with one strong tackle, rookie Dre Greenlaw shut the TE out and launched the 49ers into the #1 seed. A far cry from where they had been this time last year at 4-12.
Someone always has to lose, its the very essence of sport that some do so. And whereas every other sport has their moments of inches and millimetres, none seem so chaotic or frozen in time as the ones in the NFL. And thanks to the game of inches, the road to the Super Bowl is paved in Red and Gold.