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49ers take thriller to claim top seed


Richard Sherman once again wore the hat of a division champion as he walked out of the locker room in Seattle.

Except this time there was a San Francisco logo beneath the words “NFC West champions.”

“It’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling to get the one seed, to be NFC West champions,” Sherman said. “That’s your goal coming into the year. That’s the first goal you have to accomplish so that you can get a home game in the playoffs. We’ve worked hard. It was a tough season, there were a lot of teams playing really well down the stretch. But I’m thankful. I’ve believed in our team, our team believes in each other and that’s what makes it special.”

The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through San Francisco for the first time since 1997 — by a matter of centimeters — after the 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 26-21 on Sunday night to clinch the NFC West title. San Francisco has home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs after winning its first division title since 2012.

It was another chapter in a growing list of classic, memorable games between the division rivals, with San Francisco claiming its first win in Seattle since 2011.

But it took a costly delay-of-game penalty by Seattle, a tough tackle by San Francisco rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw and a replay review before the 49ers could start to party.

“It’s pretty incredible, especially from the start of the season and the hearsay and everything of our team and what we were going to do, and to come out here and get the one seed, it’s a pretty nice feeling,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.

It was nearly Seattle celebrating what would have been an unlikely comeback victory on a night when Seahawks fans showed up hoping for a division title and eager to celebrate the return of running back Marshawn Lynch.

Seattle took possession at its own 27 with 2:27 left and down by five. Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks deep into San Francisco territory and, on fourth-and-10, hit John Ursua for 11 yards to the 1. Wilson spiked the ball, but Seattle was called for delay of game on second down with confusion about whether Lynch should enter the game. Backed up to the 6-yard line, Wilson was incomplete on two straight passes — including a third-down pass for Jacob Hollister on which Seattle begged unsuccessfully for pass interference against Fred Warner.

NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron said the play was looked at in New York but based on the replay there wasn’t enough evidence to stop the game for a further look.

“I felt him grabbing me but you don’t get every call. I didn’t get that call,” Hollister said.

On fourth-and-goal, Hollister caught a pass underneath but was immediately knocked down by Greenlaw. Replay confirmed Hollister hit the ground before the ball reached the goal line, and San Francisco’s celebration was on.

“I just knew that I had my foot on the goal line. I knew that they had to get into the end zone in order to win the game,” Greenlaw said. “So I just made sure that my feet were on the goal line and just played lateral to downhill and just, made a tackle that my coaches and teammates would be proud of. Just happy with how the game ended and happy to be able to make the play.”

Garoppolo directed the entire performance, throwing for 285 yards. He hit his first nine passes, finished 18 of 22 and didn’t commit a turnover. Raheem Mostert continued his late-season surge by running for a pair of second-half touchdowns.

Lynch scored for the Seahawks in his first game with the team since a playoff game in 2016.

Seattle’s crowd had the stadium shaking after Lynch scored on a 1-yard TD plunge with 9:55 left to pull the Seahawks to 19-14. Skittles rained down on the field and the Seahawks had all the momentum at the time.

“It felt good. But at the end of the day we play to win,” Lynch said.

Dolphins 27, Patriots 24

In Foxborough, Massachusetts, Miami dropped the defending Super Bowl champion into the wild-card playoff round when Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki with 24 seconds remaining for a stunning victory.

The Patriots will have to play in the opening weekend of the postseason for the first time since 2009.

New England has never made the Super Bowl while playing in the wild-card round.

Chiefs 31, Chargers 21

In Kansas City, Mecole Hardman returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, Damien Williams took a handoff 84 yards for another score, and the Chiefs leapfrogged New England for the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round playoff bye.

Eagles 34, Giants 17

In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Boston Scott ran for three touchdowns in the second half and injury-ravaged Philadelphia beat the Giants to win the NFC East title.

Cowboys 47, Redskins 16

In Arlington, Texas, Dak Prescott threw four touchdown passes in a win rendered meaningless when the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs by Philadelphia’s victory.

In Other Games

Titans 35, Texans 14

Packers 23, Lions 20

Saints 42, Panthers 10

Ravens 28, Steelers 10

Broncos 16, Raiders 15

Jaguars 38, Colts 20

Rams 31, Cardinals 24

Bears 21, Vikings 19

Bengals 33, Browns 23

Falcons 28, Buccaneers 22 (OT)

Jets 13, Bills 6