Week 15 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 24, Seattle Seahawks 14
What you need to know
San Francisco had defeated Seattle in week 11 on the strength of Frank Gore’s franchise record 212 rushing yards, but Seattle had played without Matt Hasselbeck. It was also Shaun Alexander’s first game back from a foot injury. After that victory, the 49ers proceeded to lose the next three games leading up to this rematch.
High winds and rain delayed the kickoff a few minutes. The stadium had lost power, and the field was draining so poorly that bubbles the size of pitching mounds were forming under the surface. The referees on the field had to check with officials at NFL headquarters before allowing the game to begin. Alex Smith had difficulty throwing the heavy, wet ball in the monsoon conditions, and the Seahawks’ defense all but ignored pass plays. Intent on stopping Gore, safeties and corners were filling the holes on dive plays and pursuing from the backside on sweeps.
The 49ers’ offense was so inept that on their first six possessions of the game they went three and out. Their first first down came with just 2:48 left in the half, and their most effective play was a fake punt on fourth and five. Michael Robinson took a direct snap and ran down the right side to the Seattle 24 yard line. The play led eventually to Joe Nedney’s field goal just before half time.
It was a different story in the second half as the rain abated and the field began to dry out. The San Francisco defense was keeping them in the game, and they only trailed 7–3. The 49ers kicked off to start the third quarter and Seattle marched down the field primarily on the running of Shaun Alexander, but Mark Roman intercepted Hasselbeck’s pass intended for D.J. Hackett in the end zone. The two teams proceeded to trade punts, and the game turned on the last play of the third quarter. Alex Smith threw a 54 yard bomb down the right sideline to Arnaz Battle, who had gotten behind the run conscious secondary. When Smith threw an eight yard TD pass to rookie TE Vernon Davis to take the lead, the Seahawks’ secondary seemed to back off a little. Frank Gore started to find running room, and after carrying 15 times for just 34 yards in the first half, gained 110 yards on just 14 carries in the second.
After the Davis TD, San Francisco stopped Seattle on fourth and one at their own 27. Smith drove his team back down the field, and on third and six at the Seahawks’ 20 yard line he went into shotgun formation. The snap was high and he had to jump to catch it, while CB Kelly Herndon streaked in unblocked from the right side. Smith managed to slide away from a direct hit and scrambled out to his left. LB Julian Peterson was covering Gore in the left flat but charged when Smith scrambled toward him. Gore turned up field and Smith hit him at the five yard line with a pretty touch pass. He made a leaping catch at the five yard line and tumbled into the end zone, which put the 49ers up 17-7. Smith scored again on an 18 yard naked bootleg around the left side with just under two minutes left in the game. He finished with 14 of 25 for 165 yards, and two touch down passes.
The offense never abandoned the run, even when C Eric Heitmann left in the first half with a broken leg. It finally paid off in the second half against the under sized Seattle defensive linemen. The much maligned San Francisco defense played huge in this game. They intercepted Hasselbeck twice, sacked him three times, and forced two fumbles.
The defending NFC Champions were in position to clinch their third straight division crown with a victory over the 49ers. The adverse weather conditions did not seem to affect Seattle at the start of the game, as Matt Hasselbeck threw precise passes and Shaun Alexander found running room.
The Seahawks went up 7–0 on Alexander’s three yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but he is not the same runner he was last season. He carried 23 times for 73 yards in this game, but he just isn’t right. For the season, he is averaging less than four yards per carry. Maybe his broken foot hasn’t healed completely, or maybe the depleted offensive line is not blocking well enough. Whatever the reason, he is not playing like the NFL’s MVP of 2005.
Matt Hasselbeck completing 20 or 37 for 220 yards and initially threw well in poor conditions. He was intercepted twice, however, including a poorly thrown pass into the end zone on what would have been the go ahead touchdown. He was also sacked three times.
Slot receiver D.J. Hackett was Hasselbeck’s favorite target, with Darrell Jackson inactive with a turf toe injury. Jerramy Stevens caught a meaningless touchdown pass with nine seconds left in the game.
The Seahawks should still wrap up the NFC West championship, but they do not look like a team that will go very far in the playoffs.
What you ought to know
|QB Alex Smith, Pass: 14 - 25 - 162 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 33 - 1|
After struggling through the last three games and the first half of this one, Smith exploded in the second half. He threw touchdown passes to TE Vernon Davis and emerging superstar Frank Gore, and showed considerable poise and athletic ability. He scrambled six times and scored one TD in on a naked bootleg near the end of the game, but also scrambled around the right side for another touchdown late in the second quarter. The play was called back on a holding penalty, but it was a run few NFL quarterbacks could have made.
|RB Frank Gore, Rush: 29 - 144 - 0, Rec: 4 - 34 - 1 (7 targets)|
After carrying 15 times for just 34 yards in the first half, Gore gained 110 yards on 14 carries in the second. He seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, and saved his most effective rushes for the fourth quarter. He also caught four balls, including a 20 yard TD catch on a play where he separated from his defender when Smith was flushed from the pocket.
The former Penn State QB ran a fake punt 33 yards late in the second quarter to set up a field goal.
Hicks spelled Gore but only carried once for no gain. He returned one kickoff 28 yards.
|WR Arnaz Battle, Rush: 1 - 18 - 0, Rec: 5 - 97 - 0 (7 targets)|
Battle appears to have taken over as the 49ers' number one receiver. He caught five passes for 97 yards, including a 54 yard reception which helped turn the game around. He also gained 18 yards on a reverse.
Bryant had a quiet game, catching two passes for just 16 yards. After Seattle scored late in the game, however, he did recover the onside kick. He played the entire game, after sitting out the first half of the last game due to unspecified disciplinary reasons.
San Francisco’s third receiver did not record a reception.
The number one draft choice scored the 49ers’ first touchdown of the game on an eight yard pass. Davis was injured in the first game of the year, but is playing very well now. At 6’3 and 253 pounds, and able to run the 40 in under 4.4, he presents a unique problem for defenses.
Nedney connected from 39 yards on his only field goal attempt, and was three for three on PATs.
San Francisco was able to limit Shaun Alexander to 73 yards on 23 carries. They forced Alexander to fumble at their own five yard line but Seattle recovered, and they also stopped Mack Strong on fourth and one at their own 27 yard line. If the Seahawks had picked up a first down at that point the game, early in the fourth quarter and only down 10–7, things may have turned out differently. An impressive outing for a unit that was playing without their leading tackler, LB Derek Smith, who was injured and not active.
Hasselbeck only threw for 220 yards and his only TD pass came with just seconds left in the game. He was also sacked three times and intercepted twice by a patched up secondary. CBs Sammy Davis and Donald Strictland have both been placed on IR. S Keith Lewis played an exceptional game, tackling Alexander behind the line of scrimmage more than once, hitting receivers hard in the secondary, and even partially blocking a punt.
Hasselbeck was able to complete passes under poor weather conditions in the first half, but threw two costly interceptions. He was sacked three times and threw his only TD pass with nine seconds left in the game. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 220 yards.
Alexander continues to struggle, and could only gain 73 yards on 23 carries. He scored Seattle’s first touchdown on a three yard run in the first quarter, but was largely ineffective the rest of the game.
|RB Mack Strong, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)|
In the fourth quarter, on fourth and one at the 49ers’ 27 yard line, Strong was stopped for no gain. Alexander was used as a decoy on the play.
Morris picked up 14 yards on two carries while spelling Alexander. He did not record a reception.
Hackett replaced Darrell Jackson in the lineup but lined up primarily as a slot receiver. He was often the first option for Hasselbeck, but San Francisco began to pay closer attention to him in the second half. Of his 13 targets, ten came in the first half. Of his three second half targets, two came on the opening drive, including the fateful pass in the end zone which was intercepted by Roman. Hackett posted respectable team leading numbers, eight balls for 87 yards.
Branch caught four passes for 54 yards and was more effective early in the game.
Burleson only caught two passes for 12 yards, but recovered Alexander’s fumble on the three yard line when out fought five defenders for the ball. He also returned four kickoffs for a 23.8 yard average, and four punts for an average of 3.5. He fumbled one punt that Seattle recovered.
Engram was active for this game for the first time since being sidelined with a thyroid condition early October. He was not targeted.
Jackson was inactive due a turf toe injury.
The big tight end caught five passes for 64 yards, including a 22 yard TD pass with nine seconds left in the game.
Brown did not attempt a FG, but made both extra points.
The undersized defensive line and linebackers, getting help primarily from safety Ken Hamlin in the first half, could not contain Frank Gore in the second half. As a team, the 49ers rushed for 228 yards with an average of six yards per carry. DT Craig Terrell, injured last week in the loss to Arizona, has joined DT Marcus Tubbs on the IR list.
Alex Smith only attempted 25 passes, and completed just 14, but two went for touchdowns. Seattle registered no sacks and no interceptions, and when they managed to pressure Smith he was able to scramble out of trouble.