Frank Gore led the way on offense for the 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks faced off against each other in a game that would give the winner a leg up in the NFC West. The division is much improved, as three teams—the 49ers, Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals—were tied at 4-2 coming into this week. The Rams are also a solid 3-3.
We were all reminded that there is no division in the NFL that is more physically imposing on the defensive end than the NFC West. All division games will be intense, physical battles.
This game featured two very tough defenses, and they certainly held true to form. The 49ers won 13-6 in a hard-fought, low-scoring affair. The 49ers had to meet the physical challenge, and they came up big.
Let's take a closer look at the 49ers' winners and losers following this latest Thursday night contest.
Justin Smith was a first-team All-Pro in 2011.
Justin Smith plays football with tremendous passion and intensity. The first-team All-Pro last year has been playing well this season, but the numbers simply didn't show.
Against the Seahawks, Smith had seven tackles and two assists. I felt it was his best game of the year.
Although Marshawn Lynch had 19 carries for 103 yards, the 49ers kept the Seahawks out of the end zone. The Seahawks gained a total of 251 yards, but only 74 of those came in the second half.
Colin Kaepernick saw little action in the Seattle game.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman shuffled Kaepernick and Alex Smith in and out of the game frequently against the Giants. That game plan caused the 49ers offense to lose all rhythm and continuity.
Obviously, Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh had other plans for Seattle. Kaepernick got in for only one play, and although Alex Smith did not play a great game, he did enough to lead the 49ers to victory.
Smith played a poor first half, but he rallied the team in the second half for 10 points. He made one major error by throwing a bad interception when he failed to see Randy Moss open in the back of the end zone. Outside of that miscue, Smith had a good second half.
Even though Smith started slowly, the real story was that Kaepernick barely saw action. It appears that Roman is putting the gimmicks on the back-burner and going back to what the 49ers do best on offense, which is run the ball and have good balance in their offensive attack.
Ted Ginn had two excellent punt returns.
Ted Ginn Jr. had two excellent punt returns on the night. Ginn had a 38-yard return late in the first half and another 16-yard return to help set up a Niners field goal.
In all, Ginn returned three punts for 69 yards, easily his best game of the season. If he can stay healthy, he gives the 49ers a sure-handed return man who can, on occasion, break a big one.
Michael Crabtree flies over a Seattle defender.
San Francisco's wide receivers had trouble getting open against the Seattle secondary. The Seahawks played a tough, in-your-face press coverage, which stifled the 49ers passing game.
Niners wideouts combined for six receptions for 63 yards. There were a couple times when Alex Smith did not see an open receiver, such as missing an open Randy Moss in the end zone, but for the most part, they were covered.
In the second half, to the 49ers' credit, they sent the receivers deeper, which opened up underneath passes to Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Delanie Walker. It was Walker's 12-yard touchdown reception that gave the 49ers the lead.
Mario Manningham was held out due to injury, and his absence may have factored into the struggling passing game.
Frank Gore had a great game against the Seahawks.
The 49ers scored only three points in the first half, prompting them to go back to their bread-and-butter rushing attack in the second half.
The offensive line played well in the second half, and Frank Gore had a vintage performance. Gore had 16 carries for 131 yards, an 8.18 yards-per-carry average. Gore also led the team with five catches for an additional 51 yards.
San Francisco gained a total of 313 yards for the game, Gore accounting for 182 of those yards.
Alex Smith was adequate against the Seahawks.
There were a lot of positives to take away for the Niners in this one.
The offensive line played very well, especially in the second half. They imposed their will on the Seahawks and controlled the ball against a very strong Seattle defense.
We saw again that the 49ers offense is best when they have good balance between the run and the pass. The 49ers gained 313 total yards, with 175 of them coming on the ground.
The defense also played extremely well, though Marshawn Lynch did rush for 103 yards, the second straight week the SF defense has allowed a back to rush for over 100 yards. In the second half, however, Seattle could only muster 74 yards.
The 49ers also found a way to put good pressure on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. He completed only nine of his 23 pass attempts and had one interception.
The 49ers coverage units did a much better job this week, and the special teams were solid.
Harbaugh and company still need to improve on the offensive end, but the Seahawks do have an excellent defense.
It must be noted that the interception happened after the one play of Colin Kaepernick. This obviously threw Smith off his game last week and again versus Seattle.
Smith completed 14-of-23 pass attempts for 140 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and found a much better rhythm after halftime.
The 49ers will have an extra few days to rest prior to their next game against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, October 29. This will be another tough, physical battle, and the 49ers must be ready to meet that challenge on Monday Night Football.