Seahawks special-teamer Neiko Thorpe was on the sideline during the first half doing what most of you were probably doing.
Throwing up in a garbage can.
Seattle trailed 14-3 in the second quarter on Sunday. It had just 8 yards on six carries against the NFL’s worst run defense. The Seahawks had allowed the 49ers to score touchdowns on drives of 75 and 79 yards. The first hours of the new year looked like the Seattle offense from the end of last year.
Then Doug Baldwin made a leadership catch that jolted the offense to life. Jimmy Graham made a leaping catch at the goal line by boxing out his man like the basketball player he was in college. And the Seahawks passed all over a 49ers team in disarray on the field and off before holding on for the 25-23 victory.
The third-seeded Seahawks (10-5-1) host the sixth-seeded Detroit Lions (9-7) on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at Century LinkField in the wild-card playoff round. Detroit has lost three consecutive games, and has won one playoff game since 1957.
Seattle has not lost a postseason game at home since 2004.
"So, here we go," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of his team’s fifth consecutive postseason. "It’s time. And these guys are really pumped. They know it’s finally time to get ready for playoffs.
"We don’t care (who we are playing). We’re just going to get a little trip, get home and a little happy new year, and away we go next week."
Russell Wilson completed 19 of 32 throws for 258 yards, then Carroll pulled him mid-drive with 9 minutes left to preserve him and other starters for the postseason. Rookie Trevone Boykin went from looking awful to sealing the No. 3 seed in NFC for Seattle with a brilliant drive late. Boykin’s three great throws, two to fellow undrafted rookie Tanner McEvoy, extended the Seahawks’ final drive to save the win at half-empty Levi’s Stadium.
So ends Seattle’s regular season, a fifth consecutive one with at least 10 wins.
Atlanta’s home win over New Orleans Sunday ensured the Falcons the NFC’s second seed. Seattle (10-5-1) blew that No. 2 seed and first-round bye when it lost at home last week to Arizona.
The New York Giants’ 19-10 win at Washington eliminated the Redskins — and means the Seahawks will host the loser of Sunday night’s NFC North title game between the Packers and Lions in Detroit.
Pro Bowl middle linebacker and team season tackles record setter Bobby Wagner said after another monster game he would nap on Sunday night’s flight home and not track the Green Bay-Detroit game.
“But if we play Green Bay again,” Wagner said with a grin, thinking of Seattle’s 38-10 loss at Lambeau Field last month, “it'd be tight.”
Carroll uncharacteristically listened to voices of reason on the sideline in the fourth quarter. He pulled starters once Seattle saw Atlanta had taken a big lead over New Orleans to essentially end the Seahawks’ chances for the NFC’s second playoff seed.
“I was in outer space,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks talk about “meat on the bone,” having all they seek to accomplish -- including a third Super Bowl appearance in four years -- still in front of them despite an inconsistent, sometimes turbulent regular season.
They still haven’t fully chomped on that meat. And now the playoffs are here.
"At times it felt like we were more ourselves, a little bit more. More than we’ve been in the past (and) in the first half,” Baldwin said of Sunday.
"But it still comes down to consistency. ‘Meat on the bone" is more so being consistent with it. We have the talent. We have the players and the ability to do it. We just have to do it play in and play out."
Baldwin’s two catches left him with 94 to end the regular season, tying Bobby Engram from 2007 for the most in Seahawks’ history.
The Seahawks came here with three clear objectives for their regular-season finale: don’t get injured; find some semblance of consistency on both offense and defense; get lead runner Thomas Rawls going for the playoffs. Or, at least the running game in general.
Their long snapper, Nolan Frese, sprained his ankle and limped through the rest of the game. Rawls gained just 14 yards on eight carries. But rookie Alex Collins emerged late behind Rawls with 55 yards on seven carries. Still, the running game is a potentially lethal flaw in Seattle’s postseason hopes.
The Seahawks had 11 carries for 20 yards before Collins broke loose late for the best afternoon of his short career — albeit against a team that finished 2-14.
The Seahawks trailed 14-6 midway through the second quarter when Ahtyba Rubin ripped the ball from backup Niners runner DuJuan Harris. Frank Clark recovered the fumble and returned it to the San Francisco 15.
Wilson converted that gift into Seattle’s first touchdown, 11 yards on pass to the right slot to Luke Willson. It was Seattle’s first TD in a first half since the win Dec. 15 over Los Angeles, and the Seahawks cut the lead to 14-13.
After a quick stop, Seattle started its next drive at its own 9.
Baldwin then made his key catch.
With the Seahawks scuffling again — and needing to get off its own goal line — Baldwin sprinted down the left side, leaped and pulled down his 93rd catch of the season. San Francisco cornerback Rashard Robinson grabbed at the ball; Baldwin would not let go while falling, injuring Robinson in the process.
“Ridiculous play,” Carroll said.
Asked if he was Wilson’s No. 1 read on the reviving play, Baldwin smiled and said: “I was the only read.”
“We knew we needed a play,” he said. “When we were in the huddle and I heard the play call, I was like, ‘OK, this is it. I gotta make this play for our team.’
“And Russ gave me an opportunity to make a play.”
That 41-yard gain set up Wilson’s scramble and jump ball to Jimmy Graham at the 1. The 6-foot-6 former University of Miami power forward boxed out 49ers safety Antoine Bethea for 42 more yards.
Rawls ran it in from the 1 to put Seattle up 19-14; Steven Hauschka’s point-after kick was blocked, Seattle sixth missed PAT this season.
The 49ers played after an ESPN report Saturday said coach Chip Kelly was going to fired after just one season and general manager Trent Baalke was getting axed with him.
The Niners’ season was so bad, tight end Je’Ron Hamm left the field on the back of a motorized cart after suffering an apparently serious leg injury —during Sunday’s pregame warmups
New England won 35-14 win at Miami and finished the regular season allowing a league-best 15.6 points per game. So ended the Seahawks’ streak of consecutive years leading the NFL in points allowed at four. Seattle allowed 292 points this season, 18.3 per game.
“It’s kind of like a new season now,” Willson, the No. 2 tight end, said. “Obviously, everyone wants a bye. But that doesn’t really matter to us now. We don’t have it, and we can’t look too far forward.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle