Not all football heroes score touchdowns. Some, like Dre Greenlaw, keep others from scoring touchdowns.
Sunday night, the 49ers’ rookie linebacker made a terrific hit on Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister on a fourth-down pass from Russell Wilson to keep Hollister out of the end zone.
The 6-foot-2, 227-pound Greenlaw stopped the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Hollister dead in his tracks with just seconds remaining to preserve San Francisco’s 26-21 victory that secured the 49ers’ 26-21 victory and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. If Hollister had scored, Seattle would have taken the division title and pushed the Niners all the way back to the No. 5 seed as a wild card.
“If he doesn’t make that play, we’re not going to win that game,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Said Greenlaw: “I just made a tackle that coaches and teammates will be proud of, and I’m just excited about how the game ended and thankful to make a play.”
Hollister caught the ball about the 2-yard line, then turned toward the goal line with momentum. But Greenlaw’s hit stopped his progress and Hollister bounced to the turf just inches short of the end zone.
There were plenty of standouts for the 49ers in the victory that gave San Francisco a 13-3 record and a first-round playoff bye. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk all made huge plays to get the 49es into position for the win in a physical game at loud CenturyLink Field in Seattle. But Greenlaw’s game-saving tackle will long be remembered by Bay Area fans.
Greenlaw told Albert Breer of Monday Morning Quarterback that on that final play, he originally was following running back Travis Homer in pass coverage, but then he saw Wilson’s eyes shift the opposite direction, so he had to stop and run as fast as he could toward Hollister.
“I just knew it was fourth down and I knew the game was on the line and I’d just have to empty the tank,” said Greenlaw.
The result was a big hit and an enormous victory for the 49ers.
San Francisco will now open the playoffs on Saturday, January 11, vs. the Vikings, Seahawks or Eagles at Levi’s Stadium.