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Revisiting the last time the 49ers played the Seahawks on Thanksgiving

When Richard Sherman ate turkey on the 49ers seal and everyone went nuts.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

Thanksgiving has not been kind to the San Francisco 49ers in the last couple of decades.

The 49ers are no strangers to the holiday game and have a winning record of 3-2-1. Despite the winning record, the last couple of games have not been very memorable.

There was a 2011 away game against the Baltimore Ravens (dubbed the “Harbowl” since Jim Harbaugh coached the 49ers and his brother John coached the Ravens) that might have foreshadowed the Super Bowl loss the following year and then a game in 2014 that has an aftermath living rent-free in many heads of the Faithful.

That game was at Levi’s Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks.

To call this a cluster-[decorum] would be accurate, both in the game itself and all the drama that came after. The Seahawks went to a 13-0 lead at halftime and never looked back. Russell Wilson did the Russell Wilson things, with pretty good ease this time around while then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick misfired in Richard Sherman’s direction more times than any quarterback should.

The play-calling, something that has been strange since Harbaugh took over, grew more infuriating this year and was on full display that evening. The 49ers finished the game losing 19-3.

So that’s the end of it. Why are we talking about this? Well, it wasn’t the awful game fans were subjected to, it was what happened after. Two things in particular.

First, the NBC producers had the bright idea to bring a Thanksgiving feast out to the field for the winning team to enjoy. The issue was the location was placed right at midfield. So when the post-game happened, well, the Seahawks got a chance to rub it in.

This was where I (and probably many fans) learned eating turkey on an opposing team’s seal is bad. This really shouldn’t have been an issue when you think about it. If the 49ers didn’t want it to happen, they should have stopped the Seahawks and played better.

If they really didn’t want it to happen, they could have had some officials at Levi’s Stadium tell the NBC production crews to move the thing to the sideline, since the idea came from the network. In true 49ers fashion, they didn’t.

Years later, during his introductory press conference with the 49ers, Sherman confirmed the TV producers had the idea, and he went along with it. Again: if the 49ers didn’t like it they had plenty of time to flag them and tell them to take the feast elsewhere. To be fair, they may not be allowed to do that with contracts and such, but it is interesting.

Or, even better, don’t put up 3 points in the game broadcasted.

That alone got fans fired up, but it also signaled the beginning of the end. Things got really crazy in the aftermath when this social media post formerly known as a tweet came out:

Yes, that’s the owner getting involved. Jim Harbaugh said it was after this game that he was told he wouldn’t be coming back to the 49ers.

The 49ers came into this game 7-4 and the loss started a four-game skid that ended with a victory in their season finale against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. They even lost to the then-Oakland Raiders, a team that had won a single game before facing off against the 49ers.

Interesting enough, this was also a season they faced off against the Seahawks twice over three weeks. Close division-scheduled games are not uncommon, but it’s worth noting since the 2023 49ers have a similar schedule. Except this time, they don’t have the worst team in the league sandwiched between the Seahawks. They have the Philadelphia Eagles.

If anyone is wondering where the “eat turkey on seal” references are coming from, this is the game where it all happened. This is the game where that brief period of winning came to an end and the 49ers returned to the mediocrity present before Harbaugh.

It’s always darkest before the dawn because after sinking back into the depths with the leadership of Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly, and general manager Trent Baalke, the 49ers pressed the nuclear button.

Kyle Shanahan entered the picture.