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Seahawks Hand Unbeaten 49ers a ‘Reality Check’

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers’ 8-0 start, doubling their win total from last year, has changed expectations in an instant, and it was the team’s hope that a victory Monday night would show the N.F.L. their legitimate claim as front-runners.

Instead, the 49ers showed why their team is still a work in progress after losing, 27-24, to their N.F.C. West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, in overtime. Despite the loss, the 49ers remain a half-game atop the league’s most competitive division. But Seattle, with quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm, displayed the poise and creativity of a team that has made the playoffs six out of the past seven seasons, and will probably continue to chase the 49ers.

“It was a bit of a reality check for us,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said after the game.

San Francisco came into the year with the 11th hardest schedule, but capitalized on games with the Bengals, Cardinals and Redskins in the first half of the season. Seattle, meanwhile, has already played eight games decided by 7 or fewer points, including two consecutive overtime games. That experience paid off in the end when kicker Jason Myers squeaked through a 42-yard field goal to secure the win for Seattle, which is now 8-2 and a half-game behind the 49ers. The two teams will meet in the last game of the regular season in what is shaping up to be a showdown for the division title.

The game had the intensity of a playoff game, featuring as many big plays as missed opportunities, and enough turnovers, dropped passes and penalties to drive a coach mad. The teams traded game-tying field goals in the last two minutes of regulation. But in overtime, the 49ers rookie kicker, Chase McGlaughlin, missed what would have been a game-winning 47-yard field goal.

That drama was hard to envision early on, when San Francisco’s defense, which has given up the N.F.L.’s second fewest points and yards per game, set the tone. Their formidable front line, led by D.J. Jones and Nick Bosa, gave Wilson little time to find receivers and stifled Seattle’s running game. Ahead by 10-7 before the end of the first half, San Francisco safety Jaquiski Tartt made a touchdown-saving play when he stripped the ball from Seattle wide receiver D.K. Metcalf at the 2-yard line, preventing Seattle from taking the lead.

In the second half, with Seattle ahead, 21-10, and set to run away with the game, the defensive line again got to Wilson, who fumbled. The ball was recovered by Seahawks guard Germain Ifedi, who was also stripped of the ball. DeForest Buckner picked up the fumble and ran into the end zone for a touchdown, pulling the 49ers to within 3 points.

San Francisco’s offense had trouble hanging on to the ball though, fumbling twice and dropping passes. That put the 49ers defense back on to the field, and Wilson found ways to exploit their fatigue. The 49ers defense notched five sacks. But Wilson scrambled out of trouble and ran the ball a half-dozen times for 53 yards, including a key 18-yard dash in overtime that set up the winning field goal.

“If he doesn’t have a guy open, he’s looking to create a play and looking for some rush lanes to open, and he got us a couple of times,” Buckner said.

Garoppolo, who spent three years as Tom Brady’s understudy in New England before being traded to the 49ers in 2017, has been one of the league’s most accurate passers. But on Monday, the quarterback looked unnerved by Seattle’s defensive line, led by Jadeveon Clowney, who got to the quarterback 10 times.

Garoppolo was sacked five times, threw one interception and fumbled the ball twice. It didn’t help that his top receiver, tight end George Kittle, was injured, and that the 49ers lost receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a rib injury early in the game. Garoppolo was almost intercepted several other times, and his receivers dropped several throws. He ended the night 24-for-46 for 248 yards.

“The offense played as hard as they could, but they made too many mistakes,” Coach Kyle Shanahan said.

The setback aside, the 49ers appear destined for the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season, and fans in the Bay Area have taken notice. Sales of 49ers merchandise is up over 150 percent compared with last season, according to Fanatics, and is third overall behind the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. The value of tickets listed online for resale has jumped 80 percent since the start of the season, according to Vivid Seats, a ticket marketplace.

The question is whether the buzz will continue. After meeting the Arizona Cardinals next week, the 49ers play the Green Bay Packers (8-2), Baltimore Ravens (7-2) and New Orleans Saints (7-2), and will finish the regular season with divisional matchups with the Los Angeles Rams and Seahawks.

“It was a little gut check taking this L tonight, but we’re going to bounce back,” Buckner said.





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A Grip on Sports: The basketball weekend is off to a great start, highlighted by a monster dunk in Cheney

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A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s not hard to understand why Gonzaga and Arizona are playing tonight. The two best West Coast (sort of) schools meeting in Tucson is a big deal in college basketball circles. But there was also a big deal out in Cheney last night even if the schools aren’t usually on the radar nationally.

•••••••

• No, Eastern Washington and Multnomah facing off in a nonconference game isn’t usually going to draw the attention of SportsCenter. But it did last night thanks to one play by Spokane’s own, Tanner Groves.

The 6-foot-9 post from Shadle Park High threw down a follow dunk in transition that raised the roof later that evening on the self-proclaimed World-Wide Leader.

As it should have.

Groves dunk, and ensuing old school celebration, had already gone viral on Twitter – the video has been viewed almost 700,000 times. So it’s no surprise the late SportsCenter on ESPN, with Seattle native Kenny Mayne in the anchor chair, picked it as No. 1 in its nightly Top Ten plays list.

It was that good.

So good, in fact, it overpowered everything else from the game, including Eastern’s 146-89 win? Nationally, an afterthought. Mason Peatling’s Big Sky record 54 points – in 24 minutes? Same thing. Former Lewis and Clark High guard Justin Martin’s 34 points and Multnomah’s 21 made 3-pointers? Not even that.

This one was about Groves’ high-flying, vicious dunk.

• Tonight’s game in Tucson may feature a few dunks itself, though probably nothing as emphatic as Groves’.

Maybe though, and it may be to Gonzaga’s favor. After all, the Zags’ inside game is where they should have an edge against the home team.

The Wildcats’ strength?

Arizona features one of the nation’s most electric freshmen guards, one-and-done point Nico Mannion.

The Zags recruited Mannion, from Phoenix, though the 6-3 guard’s final decision reportedly came down to Arizona and Marquette. He has already established himself as one of the top point guards on the West Coast (sort of) in just 11 games.

One caveat, however. In Arizona’s two most-recent games against Power 6 competition (a win over Wake Forest and a loss at Baylor), Mannion was just a combined 6-of-25 shooting and was 1-of-8 beyond the arc.

• If you are wondering why I have already twice written “West Coast (sort of),” it’s simple. I like to nit-pick.

I know Arizona plays in the Pac-12 Conference, which is considered a West Coast conference (as opposed to Gonzaga’s West Coast Conference, with its second capital C). But is Arizona really a West Coast school?

Consider this. Tucson is 407 driving miles from San Diego, basically the closest U.S. city on the Pacific Ocean. That’s a haul. In fact, it’s farther from Tucson to San Diego than it is from Youngstown, Ohio, to the Atlantic Ocean. And no one in their right mind would ever consider Ohio an East Coast state.

If you are wondering, it is 365 air miles from Tucson to San Diego, which puts it roughly the same distance from the ocean as St. Regis, Montana. I don’t think anyone in St. Regis believes they live on the West Coast.

•••

WSU: The Cougars are getting ready for their bowl game in Phoenix, named after a not-so-nutritious snack food. But their practices are anything but junk. In fact, Mike Leach is using the time to see what returning quarterbacks Gunner Cruz and Cammon Cooper can do. Theo Lawson has more in this story. … Theo, along with prep writer Dave Nichols, spoke with Larry Weir yesterday for the Press Box pod. … Former WSU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has a new job. Theo tells us he has signed on at Virginia Tech. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington will be ready for the Las Vegas Bowl. … Oregon will have its offensive coordinator in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks won’t have one of their running backs, though. … Utah may be without another defensive back as well in the Alamo Bowl. … USC hopes to pack in the recruits late. … Former EWU assistant coach Zac Hill looks to be headed to Arizona State as offensive coordinator. … In basketball news, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle is shooting well from distance. … Colorado survived at Colorado State. … USC is officially under investigation by the NCAA. … UCLA heads to Notre Dame in what’s always been a great rivalry. … Arizona State faces Georgia and the Bulldogs’ star, Anthony Edwards.

Gonzaga: Yes, there is a game tonight in Tucson. And yes, Jim Meehan has a preview as well as a look at the key matchup between Mannion and Ryan Woolridge. But there is also a game in the Kennel, with the women hosting Texas Southern. Jim Allen has that preview. … By the way, tonight’s game in Tucson might decide where a Georgetown transfer decides to play next year. … Around the WCC, BYU has a tough matchup with Utah State.

EWU: Ryan Collingwood was at Reese Court yesterday to witness Eastern’s offensive fireworks. They are all contained in this story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, there are two Big Sky schools left in the FCS semifinals. Weber State, which lost earlier this season in Missoula, turned the tables in Ogden, winning 17-10 over Montana. The Wildcats will travel to James Madison in one semifinal. … Montana State controlled Austin Peay’s potent offense and won 24-10 in Bozeman. The Bobcats will more than likely be traveling to North Dakota State next weekend.

Preps: Friday nights are always busy in the prep ranks and last night was no exception. We have roundups from GSL boys and GSL girls as well as from the area girls and boys games. … Mt. Spokane’s Tia Allen was named the state’s top volleyball player in the 3A ranks. Dave has that story.

Chiefs: Spokane is headed on the road for a pre-Christmas four-game trip. Dan Thompson has a preview of the Chiefs’ travels, coming, as they do, on the heels of a five-game winning streak.

Seahawks: The margin of error is just about gone. … And guess what? Jadeveon Clowney and Mychal Kendricks won’t play against Carolina.

Mariners: Is a Kyle Seager trade possible?

•••       

• By the way, full disclosure here, I know Tanner Groves and his family well. He played in our Eastern Washington Elite summer program as did his younger brother Jake, a freshman at EWU. But my relationship with the Groves family dates back many years before that. Until later …



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An Arsenal Star Criticized China’s Detention Camps. Fury Soon Followed.

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BEIJING — The German soccer star Mesut Özil is the latest international sports celebrity to be at the center of controversy over China’s hard-line policies, igniting fury among Chinese internet users by denouncing the country’s mass detention of Muslims.

Mr. Özil, who is of Turkish heritage and plays for Arsenal, an English Premier League club, took on one of China’s most sensitive policies with his comments on Friday about Uighurs, a largely Muslim Turkic minority in Xinjiang, in northwestern China.

The Chinese authorities have held as many as a million Uighurs, and possibly more, in indoctrination camps meant to drastically weaken their commitment to Islam. The internments have drawn international anger and led to legislation in the United States Congress that could impose sanctions on Chinese officials over the detentions, which China says are intended to deter terrorism.

“They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men,” read identical posts on Mr. Özil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to a translation by The Guardian.

“But Muslims are silent,” they read. “Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?”

While some foreign celebrities and companies who have offended Chinese sensitivities in recent years seem to have done so unwittingly, there seems little doubt that Mr. Özil’s remarks were carefully chosen. His reference to Xinjiang as East Turkestan, a name for the region used by advocates of self-rule for Uighurs, made matters worse for many Chinese.

Arsenal quickly tried to distance itself from Mr. Özil’s posts, but the club’s response did not stave off a wave of online anger in China.

“The content posted was entirely Özil’s personal view,” Arsenal said in a statement early Saturday on Weibo, a social media platform that, like Twitter, allows users to share comments. “As a football club, Arsenal always adheres to the principle of keeping out of politics.”

“I argue that we Chinese people should maintain a scornful attitude toward these kinds of people and their games,” he said.





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Warriors believe they’re headed in right direction despite 5-22 record

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Warriors have lost a lot in the last six months. 

The most obvious wound is the gutting of its Hall of Fame roster, and the injuries that crippled it. But perhaps the most essential damage to the team’s evolution is its most recent struggle: Failing to close out games talent used to be able to overcome. 

In its latest effort — a 114-106 loss to the Jazz — the Warriors led for much of the first half before Utah took control in the third quarter. The loss came at a strange time for Golden State as their three All-Stars — Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry — were nursing injured back in California and their prized rookie Eric Paschall was in the locker room due to a hip injury. 

Nonetheless, the league’s worst team left Vivint Smart Home Arena seeing enough progress to believe they’re heading in the right direction, even if the scoreboard says otherwise. 

“There is a lot of good stuff,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. “But you want that to lead to a win and that’s coming.”

Remnants of Kerr’s positivity showed through the first 24 minutes Friday evening. In the first quarter, they held the Jazz to 39 percent from the field, outscoring Utah 14-8 in the paint. By the end of the first half, they built a 56-49 lead, marked by promising plays from its young core. 

Six minutes into the first quarter, 6-foot-8 big man Omari Spellman pulled down a rebound, went the length of the court, bullying his way for a layup to give Golden State a 20-18 lead. A quarter later, center Marquese Chriss blocked Jazz guard Royce O’Neal at the rim, ran the length of the floor and received a pass for an easy dunk on the other end, pushing Golden State’s lead to 13. 

Following halftime, the Jazz responded by outscoring the Warriors 37-28 in the third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 10 of his game-high 32 points over the stretch, as Utah made a run that was all-too-familiar to Golden State. 

“They picked up their pace in the third quarter,” Kerr said. “I’m sure they were not happy with their pace in the first half and so they played a great third quarter and put a lot of pressure on us.”

Worse, even after the Warriors briefly took a 104-103 lead with just over two minutes left, the Jazz went on an 11-2 run to close the game, underscoring one of the team’s biggest problems this season. Through 27 games, the Warriors are among the worst teams in the last five minutes of games. During the timeframe, they’re posting a putrid 92.9 offensive rating, with a net rating of -33.6. 

For context, the 2017-18 Warriors — featuring a healthy Curry, Green, Thompson and Kevin Durant — posted a 112.2 offensive rating in clutch situations, finishing third in the league, leaving a mark the current battered Warriors are trying to fulfill.  

“I think we can win a lot more games than we have,” said Chriss. “We’ve been in games that we could win and honestly that we should win. People try to say that our team is down and things like that but we’re competing with teams that have their full roster. This team is full of fighters and teams that want to win.” 

While the team is frustrated, their latest performance comes with a caveat. Clutch performances are built through experience, an attribute the league’s third-youngest team has yet to gain. 

“I remember being in this position earlier in my career where you get the taste of winning, but you don’t really know how to do it, you may just get lucky that night,” said 23-year old guard D’Angelo Russell. “Other teams in the league that are solidified, they find a way to win and those other teams that aren’t supposed to win find a way to lose so I think it comes with growth and experience.”

[RELATED: Burks wants to stay with Warriors]

Late Friday evening, just before he left Salt Lake City for a late-night flight back to the Bay Area, recovering from yet another close loss, Kerr made a declaration for his young team, despite optics of the contrary. 

“I like where we’re heading,” he said. “I really do. I know it might sound crazy because of our record, but I think we’re going to start winning some games. I think we’re getting better.”





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