The San Francisco 49ers fell behind to the Seattle Seahawks 6-0 early in the first quarter in Week 15, and things looked like they might get out of hand quickly. After a three-and-out capped by Nick Mullens overthrowing a wide open George Kittle, the Seahawks drove 59 yards on nine plays to score a touchdown (and miss the extra point).
On the very next play, the 49ers took a lead and would not trail the rest of the game. Kick returner Richie James Jr. entered the game averaging 22.5 yards per kick return. There are fewer and fewer returns due to the change in touchback rules, and while James has not been bad, he had not really been much of a playmaker in that regard.
That changed in Week 15 as he took the Seahawks second kickoff of the game 97 yards to the house to give the 49ers a 7-6 lead after the made extra point. The Seahawks trailed until the fourth quarter before tying the game twice, but they would never re-gain the lead.
There are two things about this play that I absolutely loved. One cracked me up, and one showed us a little something about Kyle Shanahan.
One of the first things I noticed was Sebastian Janikowski. A kicker or punter or quarterback or even some cornerbacks avoiding a tackle is referred to as making a business decision. I don’t think they come much more obvious than Seabass on the return. He wanted no part of tackling anybody, and in some ways I can respect that.
The second part of the play I loved was this shot of Kyle Shanahan after the score looking for James. You can see him mouth “Where’s Richie?” at Robbie Gould. The 49ers kicker points back toward the bench and Shanahan follows him over to give James some love for the return. It’s the little things like this that make it easy to see why the 49ers players continue fighting even when they’re playing for nothing more than pride.