The defense made its mark early on this game as Javon Kinlaw had a tackle for loss on the second play from scrimmage, and Arik Armstead sacked Geno Smith on third down to force a punt.
Brock Purdy, a rookie quarterback who hasn’t started ten games, was rightfully nervous. He missed Deebo Samuel on an early throw and underthrew Jauan Jennings in the end zone. But the aggressiveness was there. Kyle Shanahan didn’t shy away from letting Purdy throw, as he went right back to the well on the second play.
The drive ended in a field goal. The defense forced another three-and-out, thanks to Tashaun Gipson's tackle for loss on third-and-short. The offense marched 85 yards after Christian McCaffrey ran through a gaping hole for 66 yards. McCaffrey capped off the drive with a receiving touchdown.
There was a brief scare after Dre Greenlaw went down on the field in the first quarter. Greenlaw, who missed Week 18 with a back injury, tried to run off the field but went down. He left but only missed one play.
A few plays later, Charles Omenihu went down on the field and was grabbing his right hand. Omenihu headed to the blue tent. Omenihu was able to walk off under his own power.
Seattle converted on multiple third downs and eventually found themselves inside the 10-yard line. Kenneth Walker punched in a touchdown from seven yards out to make the score 10-7.
Up to this point, the defense allowed 5.8 yards per play on first downs. So despite two three-and-outs, Seattle didn’t struggle on early downs. That’s how Seattle scored.
The 49ers didn’t have any issues moving the ball. They did, however, struggle to score touchdowns. After Purdy took a bad sack on second down, the offense settled for another field goal.
Field goals will not cut it in the playoffs, against anybody. Sure enough, DK Metcalf beat Charvarius Ward on a 3rd & 3 play where Ward stumbled. Metcalf’s 50-yard touchdown gave Seattle a 14-13 lead.
San Francisco couldn’t answer after they went three-and-out, but the defense returned the favor, which gave the offense the ball with just over a minute to play. Brandon Aiyuk had a long reception that brought the offense to midfield. Deebo Samuel ran away from the coverage on 3rd & 10 for a first down.
Yet again, the 49ers had to settle for three points. Purdy was jittery in the pocket and bailing from plays where there was no pass rush. He went 9-for-19 for 147 yards in the first half. Plus, Purdy was 1-of-4 for 7 yards outside the numbers, not including throwaways. Compare that to Geno Smith going 9-for-10 for 104 yards and a touchdown.
More self-inflicted wounds cost the 49ers before the half. A questionable decision to squib kick the ball followed a Jimmie Ward late hit. Seattle kicked a 56-yard field goal to take a 17-16 lead headed into halftime.
The 49ers received the ball to start the second half and went 13 plays for 75 yards while taking over seven minutes off the clock. George Kittle caught a crossing route for 23 yards on 2nd & 10. Deebo Samuel broke a couple of tackles en route to a 21-yard gain on 3rd & 7. Once the offense entered the red zone this time, they didn’t settle for a field goal. Brock Purdy eventually scored on a quarterback sneak to give San Francisco a 23-17 lead.
Seattle wasn’t going to go away, though. Metcalf caught a 25-yard pass to put the Seahawks into scoring position. Charles Omenihu had Geno dead to rights but couldn’t bring him down. Despite a false start, Mooney was beaten by DK on 3rd & 12 for a first down.
The Niners needed to hold Seattle to a field goal to maintain the lead. A penalty on second down made it 2nd & 14. However, Omenihu would not make the same mistake twice. On 3rd & 14, he stripped Smith, and Nick Bosa was there for the recovery. The defense that was second in the NFL in turnovers came through when it mattered most to prevent the Seahawks from scoring.
Deebo Samuel would gain ten yards, then Christian McCaffrey would go over 100 yards after gaining 19 yards on his next two carries. The 49ers moved into Seattle’s territory heading into the fourth quarter.
To begin the fourth quarter, Shanahan drew up an impressive shot play that caught rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen off guard. Jauan Jennings was wide open 33 yards later to put the 49ers inside of the 10-yard line.
Purdy, who has been playing off-script all game, created some magic and found Elijah Mitchell to give the 49ers a two-touchdown lead:
That felt like the ball game, but there was still a full quarter left to play.
It was, indeed, the ball game. Seattle punted, and Deebo Samuel did the rest. He had the longest play from scrimmage this season after racing 74 yards for a touchdown to blow the game open. Samuel’s score made it 38-17.
Deommodore Lenoir had been competitive all afternoon and had great coverage against Tyler Lockett to come up with an interception on the ensuing drive.
The floodgates opened once Seattle twisted Deebo’s leg. The 49ers outscored Seattle 29-0 after that. They gave up nothing on defense and did anything they wanted offensively. The 49ers looked like the best team in the NFL in the second half.
This was one of the best game games I’ve seen from Shanahan. Yes, there are stars all over the place, but from start to finish, Shanahan was dialed in and had the Seahawks chasing their tails all afternoon.
Omenihu had his first multi-sack game of his career. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 25. Omenihu has been incredible all season and picked up where he left off last postseason. In a game where McCaffrey went over 100 yards, and Deebo had 133 receiving yards, Omenihu’s strip-sack was the game-changing play.