Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers defense was able to influence it offense’s field position all game. By forcing field goals, turnovers and punts, their defense took the pressure off the offense by giving it quality field position to work with.
Only one of their drives started within 10 yards of their end zone, so Kaepernick wasn’t forced into tight situations with limited play-calling. He was able to roam and roll out of the pocket, which earned the offense extra plays and more time on the field. It’s a different offense altogether when he’s mobile.
Moreover, Coach Harbaugh can depend on the defense to keep games close when the offense isn't clicking.
This is exactly what happened in the first half this weekend.
Carolina managed to slow down the 49ers run game and forced two field goals and two punts in its first four possessions. The defense was mucking up the game enough to hold the Panthers to only 10 points in their first four possessions, including two goal-line stands.
Carolina could’ve ended the half up 21-13 at home with pressure on the 49ers offense to keep up. Instead, it went into the locker room down 13-10.
That's a big difference.
Being that Seattle has arguably the best defense in the NFL, it’s imperative that San Francisco’s defensive unit comes to play. The 49ers will lose if they allow three rushing touchdowns and 29 points, because Seattle won’t give up those kind of numbers—period. The Seahawks have only allowed over 24 points at home once this season, and they still won.
It’s hard to expect San Francisco to walk into Seattle and light its defense up. The 49ers are going to need to force stops and keep their offense on the field, because they’ll need all the possessions and all the time they can get.
If Seattle keeps its offense on the field for 35-plus minutes like it's done in the past, San Francisco is in deep trouble.
Like Colin Kaepernick said, via Jim Corbett of USA Today, "We're one step closer to where we want to be."
No one said that the next step would be any easier.