The San Francisco 49ers, by virtue of their 19-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, gave themselves a much easier path to the playoffs, but more importantly they proved to Seattle, to the world, and — most importantly — to themselves that they can play with anyone.
Up to this point, Seattle had been the best team in the NFL, with an 11-1 record coming in and a quarterback that had been lighting up defense after defense. The 49ers defense held Russell Wilson to 199 yards on 15 of 25 passing with 1 TD and a game-sealing interception. That was good for an 81.9 passer rating (98.5 if you do not include the late interception). This is still quite respectable. The big thing the 49ers defense did, though, was not allow Wilson to create plays out of broken plays. They were able to keep receivers covered fairly well when Wilson scrambled, while not giving up big running lanes. Marshawn Lynch was held to 72 yards (3.6 yards per carry). San Francisco still has yet to give up a 100 yard rusher this season. The 49ers gave up only 3 points in the second half, and that came after a 38 yard punt return by Golden Tate let Seattle start the drive in field goal range. Needless to say, the 49ers defense held the Seahawks in check.
On the other side of the ball, Colin Kaepernick‘s struggles persisted. He had a 67.5 passer rating, still not very good. He under-threw a lot of receivers, including Michael Crabtree on his interception (which came close to costing San Francisco the game). Crabtree, himself, had some amazing catches. He may not have his explosiveness back, but his hands are great. Anquan Boldin did his fair share, while Mario Manningham was silent and Vernon Davis only had one catch other than his clutch touchdown to end the first half.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the hero of this game, Frank Gore, with 17 rushes for 110 yards, including his monster 51 yard gain to give the 49ers the victory. That run extremely impressive, not only because the “Inconvenient Truth” allowed the 49ers to get in field goal range, but he stayed in bounds, taking an extra 40 seconds off the clock and making it much more difficult for Seattle to come back and retake the lead. He may not have the greatest straight-line speed, but he has incredible elusiveness, somehow makes it through the smallest holes, and showed he is an incredibly smart football player.
On the Special Teams side, how about Kassim Osgood with his punt block and Phil Dawson, who gave his leg much more of a work-out than former 49er David Akers. (The only kicker who had a better day would be Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos, who broke the NFL record with a 64-yard field goal). Great job on coverage, too, barring that one return. And how about LaMichael James actually holding on to a punt? That is something 49er fans could sure get used to.
Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman, and Vic Fangio deserve a ton of credit for their preparation and the game they collectively called this week. They kept Wilson in check, found ways to beat Seattle’s defense and constantly-fouling defensive backs. Being able to extend that last drive to five minutes and forty-five seconds was huge, as well.
The 49ers won this game, and in the process proved they are a team to be reckoned with.