NFL Wire News

49ers-Seahawks: What we learned


SEATTLE — While the San Francisco 49ers continue to stumble toward the probable end of the Jim Harbaugh era, their NFC West rivals could be one victory away from winning another division title.

The Seattle Seahawks set up a huge matchup with the division-leading Arizona Cardinals by beating the San Francisco 17-7 Sunday afternoon. The 49ers (7-7) were officially eliminated from postseason contention for the first time in Harbaugh’s four-year tenure.

“I’m aware of it, and I understand what it means,” Harbaugh said of his team’s shattered playoff hopes. “Never give in.”

The Seahawks took some joy in ending their rival’s playoff run but were more excited about their own season.

“It feels good,” linebacker K.J. Wright said, “but we’re just worried about ourselves. We made sure those guys didn’t come into our house and knock us off. We’re proud of the way we played today, especially in the second half.”

Seattle (10-4) rallied from a 7-3 halftime deficit to set up a huge game with NFC West-leading Arizona (11-3) next Sunday night. The winner of that game will have the inside track to a division title and could be in position for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We expect a fight,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “This is going to be for the division. They’re not going to just give it up, and we’re not going to just let them have it.”

Harbaugh’s team gave Seattle a much better fight than the 49ers had in Northern California on Thanksgiving night, but the Seahawks scored two unanswered touchdowns in the second half Sunday while holding San Francisco to 67 total yards over the final 30 minutes.

What the 49ers said:

“The effort was plus-plus. They fought like champs.” — Coach Jim Harbaugh.

“It is difficult. That is our expectation, that we are going to get into the playoffs and make a run. To not have that opportunity this year is not something that we are used to.” — QB Colin Kaepernick.

“We need to come out and just start hitting people in the mouth — just, full on, punching them in the mouth. Just do what it takes, do what you’ve got to do.” — G Alex Boone.

What the Seahawks said:

“We expect a fight (next week in Arizona). This is going to be for the division. They’re not going to just give it up, and we’re not going to just let them have it.” — MLB Bobby Wagner.

“We take what the coaches tell us (at halftime) and put that stuff in play. That’s what makes us good.” — LB K.J. Wright.

“These past four or five games, I feel like we’ve been better than last year. So we just have to keep it going.” — LB Bruce Irvin.

What we learned about the 49ers:

1. The Harbaugh era is more than likely to be in its final breaths. Any chance of a playoff berth was eliminated with Sunday’s loss — and a Detroit win — and morale within the organization is at a low. While Jim Harbaugh will finish the season and isn’t officially out, there appears to be little chance that either he or the 49ers will want to continue the relationship beyond 2014.

2. San Francisco does have some semblance of an offense. After being shut down for most of the past month, the 49ers showed some signs of life on that side of the ball, particularly in the first half. Led by the running of Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde, San Francisco had 104 first-half rushing yards and 178 total yards before halftime. With the way Seattle’s defense had been playing in recent weeks, that marked a huge step in the right direction for the stagnant San Francisco offense.

–LB NaVorro Bowman had a roller-coaster of a week. He initially returned to the practice field after missing the first 14 weeks following knee surgery, but the knee did not react well and Bowman was subsequently placed on the season-ending injured reserve Saturday.

–RB Frank Gore played less than a half Sunday, when he had to come out due to a concussion. Gore suffered the injury on a helmet-to-helmet block he delivered to Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner with less than five minutes left in the second quarter. Gore, who was blocking downfield on a Bruce Miller reception, appeared to immediately lose consciousness on the block. He came to after a few seconds and was helped off the field, only to be ruled out of the game at halftime. His status for next week’s game will be re-evaluated during the week.

–QB Colin Kaepernick had his best game in recent weeks Sunday, when he completed 11 of 19 passes for 141 yards and added 46 rushing yards. It wasn’t anywhere near what Kaepernick was doing as a rising NFL star in 2012 and 2013, but the performance against a solid Seattle defense was a step in the right direction.

What we learned about the Seahawks:

1. Winning ugly is going to be the blueprint from here on out. With upcoming games against Arizona and St. Louis, the Seahawks are unlikely to get into any shootouts. Seattle has proven that it can win with solid defense and a conservative offense, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change anytime soon. “That formula’s been working,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s no secret how we’re going to do it.”

2. The road to Glendale goes through Glendale … for now. While Arizona continues to hold a one-game advantage over the Seahawks in the NFC West race, Seattle can take a huge step toward winning another title if it can beat the Cardinals next Sunday night. The winner of that game may well have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, thanks to Green Bay’s loss Sunday, and Seattle would love to host a couple more postseason games before taking aim at playing an even bigger game in Glendale come February.

–RB Marshawn Lynch scored his 14th touchdown of the season during the third quarter, giving Seattle a 10-7 lead on a 4-yard run. Lynch has now scored in five of the Seahawks’ seven home games this season; all 10 of his rushing touchdowns have come at CenturyLink Field.

–DT Jordan Hill recorded a career-high two sacks Sunday and now has four in the Seahawks’ past four games. His first career sack came Nov. 23, then he added a sack in last week’s win over Philadelphia and two more Sunday.

–LT Russell Okung sat out the second half of Sunday’s win over San Francisco with a chest injury. Okung suffered a chest wall contusion, requiring a short hospital visit, and coach Pete Carroll said afterward that he was not yet sure of the Pro Bowler’s status heading into next week.

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