San Francisco 49ers fans had seen the script too many times before. The Seattle Seahawks were trailing late in a game, gained some momentum, made it a one-score game and then were in position to take a game-winning lead with only seconds left.

Not surprisingly, as so many of the Niners and Seahawks bouts have been over the course of the rivalry, that's what the context was late in the fourth quarter of San Francisco's Week 17 road match in Seattle. Clinging to a 26-21 lead with mere seconds left in regulation, the Seahawks were poised to take home the victory and NFC West crown on the 49ers 1-yard line. Inexplicably, the Seahawks let the play clock run down to zero, causing a delay-of-game penalty and pushing quarterback Russell Wilson and his offense back 5 yards.

Still, it seemed as if it would make no difference, even if it was 4th-and-goal.

This time, however, Wilson hit tight end Jacob Hollister just shy of the goal line. But before he could twist into the end zone and get the ball across the plane, rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw came up with was arguably the stop of the season:


Inches. Mere inches. Turnover on downs. A 49ers win. And the first time they'd done so at CenturyLink Field since December of 2011.

Yet the play has an ominous predecessor, stemming back from a long time ago in the annals of Niners history. Following San Francisco's thrilling NFC Championship win over the Dallas Cowboys back in 1982 (yes, that one), the 49ers faced the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. The Niners were up 20-7 in the third quarter, but the Bengals were on San Francisco's 1-yard line. Sound familiar?

That's when linebacker Dan Bunz came up to make one of the biggest plays of his life, tackling Bengals running back Charles Alexander in what became known as "The Stop:"



The 49ers would go on to win that game 26-21, the same score of their Week 17 victory in Seattle. Even more ironic is the fact both Greenlaw and Bunz donned No. 57 on their jerseys. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

"I think Greenlaw definitely deserved [a game ball] at the end there," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the game. "If he doesn't make that play, we're not going to win that game."

Maybe Greenlaw and Bunz belong in that same category, too, of game-saving plays.

And perhaps the latter stop will prompt San Francisco towards another Super Bowl victory at some point in the not-so-distant future.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.