Phil Dawson And Defense Fuel 49er Victory
By Jerrell Richardson
After two consecutive, convincing losses at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, and with most of the NFC right on their heels for the final wild card spot, the 49ers could not afford to lose this game. They squared off with their division rival Seahawks, who came into this game winners of seven straight. The two heavyweights went toe to toe, but in the end it was the home team delivering the final blow. While the offense had problems reaching the end zone, Phil Dawson picked up the slack, and the defense, outside of one mental mistake, was again spectacular. Contributions up and down the roster resulted in a 19-17 49er victory.
Offense – Grade: B+
The one mistake Colin Kaepernick made all game was a big one. With his team up 2 points and driving in Seattle’s red zone, he lofted a pass to Michael Crabtree that was intercepted. Kaepernick’s error cost the team at least 3 points and a big reason the game came down to the final seconds. However, instead of hanging his head, he responded like a franchise quarterback is supposed to. With his team trailing late in the fourth, he took the offense 76 yards on 11 plays and set up a chip shot field goal for the game winning score. Kaepernick’s final numbers are nothing to write home about, but he gets extra credit when considering the opponent. He completed 15 of 29 passes for 175 yards, one touchdown and one interception against arguably the best defense in the league.
The effect on the passing game due to the return of Michael Crabtree was evident. He had a modest four receptions for 40 yards, but his being on the field opened things up for Anquan Boldin, who continues to validate his offseason signing, catching nine passes for 93 yards. The team’s other main target, Vernon Davis was doubled covered for most of the game, but still broke free for his 11th touchdown catch of the season. The reason for the success throwing the ball though, had a lot to do with the running game getting back on track.
San Francisco stuck with the run, and there is no surprise that it paid off. As a team the 49ers rushed the ball 33 times, averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and most of that was Frank Gore. The franchise’s leading rusher had another solid game against Seattle, rushing for 110 yards on just 17 carries, and it was his late 51-yard scamper that helped set up the final score. With the 49ers sticking to the run, the offense was able to keep the elite Seahawks defense off balance just enough to squeak out a win.
Defense – Grade: A-
The 49er defense paid for the one mental mistake they made as a blown assignment was the reason for the Seahawks 39-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Otherwise, there was little Seattle could manage offensively. Russell Wilson had his moments, finishing with 199 yards, one touchdown and a late interception, but certainly did not outplay Kaepernick. San Francisco stayed home on him when they tried the read option, and the secondary took away the big play. Golden Tate hauled in six throws, but was held in check for the most part. This was to be expected though, as the real question and outcome of the game rested with the ability of the Seahawks to run the ball.
San Francisco has not allowed a 100 yard rusher all season, and kept that steak alive Sunday. Navorro Bowman lead the team with nine tackles, and he along with Dan Skuta and Patrick Willis helped shut down Marshawn Lynch who managed only 70 yards. With Lynch under wraps, it left the Seahawks challenged offensively and a big reason they could only muster a field goal in the second half after two first half touchdowns.
Special Teams – Grade: A-
As well as the offense played, it could not punch the ball in the end zone and other than Vernon Davis’ touchdown, Phil Dawson was responsible for all the 49er points. While he had two short field goals to start and end the game, he was asked to deliver from 48 and 52 yards, both of which were right down the middle. In a game where points were a premium, Dawson was huge, and the rest of the special teams followed his lead.
Andy Lee averaged 49.8 yards per punt, and outside of one punt return the coverage units were swarming. The kickoff coverage unit made a big play at the end of the game making sure that there would be no late game heroics from Seattle, pinning them deep in their own territory with no timeouts and no time to get into scoring range. This coincidentally set up Wilson’s desperation throw that was intercepted and ended the game.
Momentum At Their Backs, Monkey Off It
Seattle was the hottest team in the NFL and clearly in the heads of the 49ers after the decisive wins over San Francisco in the past two meetings. Another loss would have put some serious questions in the minds of the 49ers and it would be hard to argue against the Seahawks being the better team if able to earn a win in San Francisco. This game was for bragging rights and pride just as much as playoff positioning and it was the 49ers that came up big. The confidence and momentum gained in this win is just what the team needs to sling shot them into the playoffs. While it will be a different story in Seattle, the 49ers have proven to themselves there is no NFC team that they can’t beat, and will have no doubts in their minds no matter where their road through the playoff takes them.
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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. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.