The San Francisco 49ers are NFC West champions. Kyle Shanahan and crew emerged victorious in Seattle for the first time since 2011, topping the Seahawks 26-21 in a thriller that came down to the final play. 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw stone-walled Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister at the goal-line on fourth down, the ball just inches from breaking the plane of the endzone. It was the type of finish that’ll earn a spot among the most memorable in 49ers’ history.
Here’s are our takeaways from San Francisco’s thrilling conclusion to the regular season:
Kings of the NFC
Not only did the 49ers win in Seattle earn them the NFC West crown, but it also made them the No. 1 seed in the division. The achievement awarded the 13-3 49ers with a bye during next week’s Wildcard Weekend and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The team will have two weeks to rest, recuperate and prepare to host an opponent at Levi’s Stadium for the divisional round on January 11th. The 49ers expect multiple starters to return to action for the playoffs, including defensive end Dee Ford, safety Jaquiski Tartt and guard Mike Person.
Rookies step up
Nick Bosa, the 49ers’ No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, finished the game with six total tackles and three quarterback hits - leading all 49ers defensive lineman. While Bosa never brought down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, he was routinely disruptive and forced several hurried throws. Bosa also tackled running back Marshawn Lynch in the backfield on a crucial fourth-down stop late in the first half. Second-round wideout Deebo Samuel put together a career game, catching five passes for 102 yards while adding two carries for 33 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown on the ground. Greenlaw, the 49ers’ fifth-round pick, racked a team-high 13 total tackles and made the most important play of the game.
Comeback player of the year
Jimmy Garoppolo would be the first person to tell you that there’s still work to do, and he’d obviously be right. That’s not going to stop us from acknowledging his impressive comeback from a torn ACL suffered in 2018. Sunday’s win officially wrapped up Garoppolo’s first full season as a starter. He led the 49ers to 13 wins while completing 69.1% of his passes (nice) for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 102.5 quarterback rating. Garoppolo never turned the ball over against the Seahawks on Sunday and completed 7 of 7 passes in the second half for 129 yards.
Much was made of the Seahawks’ signing of famed running back Marshawn Lynch this week. It was the team’s response to season-ending injuries sustained by both Chris Carson (fractured hip) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm) last week against the Arizona Cardinals. “Beastmode” was rendered mostly ineffective by the 49ers defense, held to 12 carries for just 34 yards. He did find the endzone in the fourth quarter though, taking it up and over both lines to cross the plane. The Lynch signing represented more of an emotional boost than it did an advantage on the field, especially considering he hadn’t played in over a year. The 49ers held up well against their former nemesis.
Sherman perfect in Seattle
The 49ers’ veteran cornerback was perfect in his second game in Seattle since it was his home. Sherman didn’t give up a single reception on Sunday night against his former team, putting a cap on what he felt was the best season of his nine-year career. Pro Football Focus’ Jeff Deeney chimed in, Sherman finishing the regular season with the lowest yards allowed per coverage snap of all cornerbacks on the season. Sherman has proven invaluable to the 49ers in his two years with the team, and his stock is only rising now that he’ll lead a young team into the playoffs, many of which have never experienced the postseason.
Greenlaw’s tackle on Hollister was only the crescendo of a tense series for the 49ers defense. After driving 61 yards, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense ran eight plays inside San Francisco’s 12-yard line. Following three straight misses, Wilson converted on 4th-and-10 with a pass to receiver John Ursua that put the team on the 1-yard line. After spiking the ball on first down, the Seahawks committed a costly delay of game that backed them up to the 5-yard line. The next two plays were incomplete passes, followed by Greenlaw’s fourth-down stop of Hollister just inches short of the goal-line with 09 remaining. What a finish for coordinator Robert Saleh and the 49ers defense.