By Jerrell Richardson
Frank Gore has had some memorable games against the Seattle Seahawks, and he added another one Thursday Night. In an important division match-up, he made things happen on the ground, caught passes coming out of the backfield and fueled a second half comeback, helping the San Francisco 49ers earn a hard fought 13-6 victory. The game promised to be a physical game with two of the better defenses in the league opposing offenses that have struggled at times, and it lived up to the billing. In the end, it was San Francisco that made more plays, proving that Seattle is not ready to take the division crown just yet.
After his three-interception performance against the New York Giants last week, the talk leading up to this game was centered around Alex Smith. There is no doubt that he is having a good season, despite his up and down play, but his confidence was clearly shaken after last week, and it carried over to this game. It didn’t help that he was going against one of the top-rated defenses in the league, so he looked gun shy and afraid to take a shot down field. Part of it was the play of the Seattle secondary, but there were a few timse that Smith didn’t even give his receivers a chance to make a play. His supporters will argue that he didn’t want to take chances that would take points off the board, but he ultimately cost his team point anyway by being too conservative.
The saving grace for Smith is his attention to ball security. He once played smart, although he did have a brain freeze late in the game with a chance to put a nail in Seattle’s coffin. He combined a bad decision (throw across his body to the middle of the field), bad read (had Randy Moss wide open) and a bad throw (was nowhere close to a 49er receiver), all on a single play that resulted in an interception. This all occurred as the team was primed to put another touchdown on the board, or at least add a field goal. The play did not come back and haunt them, but at the time it was a mistake at a critical time in the game, and a spot on the field that is unacceptable. His final stats were a modest 14-for-23 for 140 yards and he did find Delanie Walker for the game’s only touchdown. Smith may not have put himself in the running for the FedEx Air player of the week but he got the win. Grade: C
It took a while for them to get started, but once the 49ers offense got it going, specifically on the ground, the momentum clearly shifted heavily in their favor. The key as it has always been was Frank Gore. It may have been the impressive first half by Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, but something woke Gore up, and he came out of the locker room in the second half possessed. Gore finished the night with 131 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving, leading the team in both categories and unquestionably fueling his team’s comeback win.
The inconsistent passing game was once again ineffective, and the blame is to be shared. A lot of it was the man throwing the ball, but his receivers were doing very little to get open. The Seattle secondary was as physical as advertised and literally were beating up the wide outs on every snap. They showed little respect for San Francisco’s ability to beat them deep down the field or get any type of separation, and the 49ers did nothing to make them change their mind and there was absolutely nothing open on the outside.
To counter the play of the Seahawks, the 49ers shifted their game plan to work the middle of the field and turned to Frank Gore and quick hitting run plays to gash and the Seattle defense. As they have done in all their victories, San Francisco continued to pound the opposition into submission and eventually wore down one of the top ranked defenses in the league. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t effective. Grade: B-
The play of the defense remained consistent. There is the minor concerns that they have now allowed back to back rushers to eclipse the 100 yard mark, but Marshawn Lynch is not your typical running back. Lynch lived up to his nickname “Beast Mode” as he started the game running over and through 49ers defenders. Lynch felt all 103 yards he rushed for, but his inspiring performance was still not enough to help his team to the road win. As he appeared unstoppable to start the game, it took a team effort of rallying to the ball to slow down and eventually wear down Lynch. Once they were able to take Lynch out of the game, it fell on the arm of Russell Wilson to lead Seattle to a win.
Russell Wilson was rendered ineffective. He completed only nine passes in the game and outside of a few plays made with his legs, was unable to do anything to generate some offense. Seattle was 4-13 on third down and outside of handing the ball off had no other game plan. When he dropped back, Wilson looked uncomfortable and pressure led Wilson into an ill-advised deep throw that was intercepted. The defense held their opponent under seven points. Enough said. Grade: A-
They were not called on often, but the special teams responded when needed. The player whose effect was huge in the outcome of the game was Ted Ginn Jr. The speedy returner’s role was vital in this defensive struggle as he helped his team win the all-important field control battle. This did not always result in the 49ers putting points on the board, but it kept San Francisco out of bad field position and continued to force Seattle to try and go 80 or more yards to score points. He finished with 101 all-purpose return yards.
Kicker David Akers struggled last week, and was not really tested this week, but did hit his two field goals and extra point. Punter Andy Lee was his usual Pro Bowl self and pinned Seattle on the 10-yard line for their final possession, meaning it would take Wilson leading his team on a 90-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. With Akers back to contributing and Ted Ginn Jr. getting back to game speed, the 49ers could see a boast from this unit in upcoming weeks. Grade: A
49ers Still Standing
This battle for NFC West supremacy was a heavyweight fight. Both teams squandered opportunities, but at the end of the day, San Francisco is the better all-around team. They dominated the point of attack on both sides of the ball and wore down their opponent. They did this against a quality division opponent and avoided their first losing streak under Jim Harbaugh. It’s clear that the team success will rest heavily on the running game as the passing game has yet to show that it can be relied on. The 49ers find themselves sitting at the top of the NFC West, but still have a lot to improve on as another division rival heads to town next week. The Arizona Cardinals, who will also bring a talented defense to Candlestick, will certainly score more then six points,
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.