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Instant replay: A brief sketch of the Seahawks' loss to the 49ers
Posted by Jerry Brewer
San Francisco 49ers 19, Seattle Seahawks 17
Why the 49ers won: Trailing 10-3 at halftime, San Francisco (12-3) dominated the third quarter to take control of the game and then made just enough plays in the fourth quarter to win a close game. The Niners outgained the Seahawks 146-13 and scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to take the lead. In a back-and-forth final period, quarterback Alex Smith completed 4 of 6 passes and threw for 72 of his 179 yards, including a 41-yard pass to Michael Crabtree (who caught five passes for 85 yards) that helped set up David Akers' game-winning field goal. Mostly, though, the 49ers used their run game to control this one. They amassed 178 rushing yards -- the most the Seahawks have allowed this season. Frank Gore ran for 83 yards and a touchdown. Kendall Hunter contributed 73 rushing yards.
Why the Seahawks lost: Seattle (7-8) couldn't move the ball in the second half. The offense produced only 72 yards after halftime, just 13 in a third quarter in which it lost momentum. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson completed only 5 of 11 passes for 51 yards in the second half. He lost a fumble while scrambling on a third-and-3 play with just over a minute remaining. The Seahawks got the ball back with 41 seconds left in the game. But on a fourth-and-2 play at their own 34-yard line, Jackson threw an awful pass, intended for tight end Zach Miller, that sailed high and out of bounds to put an end to the Seahawks' comeback bid. The Seahawks defense allowed a season-worst 178 rushing yards and allowed Smith to complete some huge passes in the second half. On the bright side, running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 107 yards, his sixth 100-yard performance in eight games. He also extended his franchise-record touchdown streak to 11 games. San Francisco hadn't surrendered a rushing touchdown all season, and it hadn't given up 100 yards to a running back in its previous 36 games.
Key play: The Seahawks were down 19-17 with 1:18 remaining, and they faced a third-and-3 play at the San Francisco 48-yard line. So, they were about 17 yards away from a makeable field-goal attempt (49 yards) to win the game. But Jackson was forced to scramble to avoid a pass rush. He gained two yards, but he didn't protect the football. Niners linebacker Larry Grant knocked the ball out of Jackson's hands, strong safety Donte Whitner recovered, and San Francisco dodged the Seahawks' supposed best effort to win the game.
Player of the game: Gore, Hunter and the San Francisco O-line. It was a game of many little heroes, but ultimately, the 49ers won because their offensive line played physical and opened holes for Gore and Hunter. They responded with the kind of rushing performance that enables San Francisco to win without an elite quarterback.
Shame of the game: After a heated game in which officials had to break up four near fights, San Francisco coach Michael Christianson, the team's coordinator of football technology/offensive quality control, left the press box shouting, "Merry Christmas, everybody!" multiple times. It was neither classy nor smart. He must've forgotten the press box is dominated by reporters who have no rooting interest in which team wins or loses -- but are quite adept at documenting displays of poor sportsmanship.
What this means in the big picture: The Seahawks are officially out of the playoff hunt. Even though there's one game left, this one kind of served as a final exam for the team. The Seahawks proved they are far better than the team that lost 33-17 at San Francisco in the season opener. But despite how far they've come, they're left to realize how much more efficient they must be to turn into a playoff team. Not botching third-and-1 plays at the goal line would help. Finding a quarterback who can make plays in the fourth quarter -- something Jackson hasn't been able to do -- is a must, too. The Seahawks have made good progress this season, and they need to win at Arizona next week to end the season with a .500 record. But in order to develop an elite team, they'll require more than just time and patience. There are still holes to fill, including the biggest one of all -- quarterback.
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