SF 49ers grades in heartbreaking season-finale loss to Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) is hit by Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford (97) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) is hit by Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford (97) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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Seattle Seahawks, SF 49ers
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett #16 of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

SF 49ers Defensive Grades vs. Seahawks

Again, the box-score statisticians will say Robert Saleh and San Francisco’s defense choked up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.

While true, it’s presented without context. The SF 49ers defense was noticeably gassed and exhausted entering the final frame, thanks largely to the lackluster showing from the Niners offense, which led to many of those 9- and 10-yard chunk plays Russell Wilson and the Seahawks started to pick up in the final frame.

What Saleh did, however, is hold Seattle to 280 yards of total offense and just 4.3 yards per play. San Francisco’s offense, while never truly clicking for any length of time, managed to get 328 and 5.1, respectively.


If the SF 49ers had faster defensive linemen, Wilson would have had a much more difficult time scrambling.

Especially late in the game where he was moving the chains, too, when plays were breaking down. That go-ahead touchdown to Tyler Lockett showed how giving a quarterback like Wilson so much extra time can be detrimental.

Still, Wilson was sacked twice, and he was effectively pressured enough for nearly three full quarters to give this unit a decent grade.


It’s weird to think, despite all the other things he does well, Pro Bowl linebacker Fred Warner hadn’t registered a sack this season despite his own prowess and the uptick in Saleh calling for blitzes this season.

Yet that changed, as Warner notched his first and one of the two sacks San Francisco had on the quarterback:


Not surprisingly, Warner notched a team-high 10 tackles in the game, going along with two quarterback hits. And while San Francisco didn’t get the playmaking highlight from Dre Greenlaw like it did in Week 17 a year ago, namely with Greenlaw out with injury, fellow linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair managed to be Greenlaw-esque in his place.

The second-year pro finished with a solid nine tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass broken up.


Take away cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon‘s gaffe on Lockett’s touchdown, and one of the SF 49ers’ starting two boundary corners would have had arguably the best game of his 2020 campaign and one right up there with his career.

Before that score, Witherspoon was frustrating and covering his opposing receivers while also breaking up a pass and picking up a tackle. Both he and fellow corner Jason Verrett ended what could be their Niners tenure, as both are scheduled to hit free agency in 2021, on solid notes.

Even if Witherspoon will be credited for allowing Seattle’s game-winning touchdown.

Speaking of other standouts from San Francisco’s secondary, depth cornerback Dontae Johnson also registered his first career sack, getting to Wilson and executing a play that, at least at the time, seemed to be a major change in momentum in the SF 49ers’ favor.

Johnson, another pending free agent, could be a player the Niners want back to occupy a depth role on what’s otherwise a secondary poised to lose every one of its starters outside of free safety Jimmie Ward this offseason.