San Francisco 49ers: Team MVPs from Victory over Seattle Seahawks
In a see-saw battle featuring much hostility between division rivals and multiple lead changes, a field goal with two minutes remaining proved to be the difference.
Seattle entered the game rolling, with wins in five of their last six contests, and jumped out to an early lead on their home field. Marshawn Lynch ran hard and the passing attack was efficient as the Seahawks built a 10-3 halftime lead. They were beating the 49ers at their own game.
Then something happened that Niners fans have not seen in a while: Halftime adjustments were made and San Francisco quickly erased the deficit, building a lead of their own in the process.
The clash continued as the momentum, along with the lead, swung back and forth like a pendulum until K David Akers put the 49ers ahead for good on a 39-yard kick.
The win pushes their record to 12-3 and, most importantly, keeps the 49ers in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
In a playoff-like atmosphere, the entire roster stepped up and beat a quality team that was fighting for a postseason appearance.
These three guys in particular really stood out in earning team MVPs:
Offense: QB Alex Smith
Jay Drowns/Getty Images
Say what you want about the former No. 1 pick, but don’t forget to call him resilient. I believe “armadillo skin” was the term used by Harbaugh in describing his starting quarterback.
Saturday’s performance is proof of that.
Here are the stats: 14-of-26 for 179 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions to go along with 22 yards rushing on five carries.
The numbers are nowhere near flashy (they rarely are) but his performance was brilliantly effective. He continues to make the right reads, avoid mistakes and deliver in the clutch. Saturday’s come-from-behind win was Smith’s fourth of the year, tying a franchise record set by Hall of Famer Joe Montana.
If Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were such an Odd Couple then the pairing of Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith is the exact opposite.
It’s been a match made in heaven.
Harbaugh, in his first year as an NFL head coach, has turned a 6-10 team into a Super Bowl contender. His work is evident in so much more than a 12-3 record; he has the fans and players believing in a team that has been a mess over the past decade.
Harbaugh is the front-runner for Coach of the Year.
And Smith, in his seventh year, is enjoying a resurgence in his roller-coaster ride of a career. He’s putting up great stats, winning games, and his pocket presence is light years ahead of what it was just last year. He’s calm, cool and decisive in knowing when to throw and when to scramble for extra yards.
Maybe the seventh time is the charm, not the third.
Smith is the front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year.
And they both have each other to thank.
Defense: LB Larry Grant
Jay Drowns/Getty Images
The possible player of the game made the definite play of the game by forcing a late fumble to seal the tough road win.
It was deja vu for Niners fans who watched a similar thing happen in the closing moments of a tight game at Philadelphia. Last time it was Justin Smith chasing down Jeremy Maclin; this time it was Larry Grant knocking the ball out the grip of Tarvaris Jackson.
“He doesn’t tuck it at all, he keeps it loose and keeps his eyes downfield,” Grant said of the clutch play. “Knowing he does that, when you’re coming from behind the first thought is you’ve got to rake for the ball.”
That, along with a team-high 12 tackles, makes Grant worthy of defensive MVP on the afternoon.
Not too bad for a “second-stringer." I put that in quotes because he would be a starter on most other teams. 49ers fans, and coaches alike, still look forward to the return of Patrick Willis but are in no rush as his replacement hasn’t skipped a beat.
Saturday’s performance combined with his previous three starts have helped the former Buckeye build quite an impressive resume.
The 49ers would love to keep him for depth, but if he keeps playing like he is, he may end up with a starting position somewhere outside the Bay. Or across the Bay—those Raiders are in dire need of a playmaking linebacker.
Special Teams: K David Akers
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The 49ers special teams have been extra special (for lack of a better word) this season in winning the NFC West and returning to the playoffs after an extended absence.
And place-kicker David Akers is a big reason why.
In another busy day at the office, Akers converted four of his five field-goal attempts. The kicks propelled his season total to 42, most in league history.
No big deal.
The more the offense struggles in the red zone, the more Akers shines.
Heck, he’s glistening at this point in the season—a season most kickers never even dream of.
The afternoon didn’t start off perfectly, though, as Akers misconnected on his first kick. The 52-yarder sailed wide but was soon forgotten thanks to four consecutive makes, including one from 53 yards out and a 39-yard field goal with 2:37 that proved to be the game-winner.
Akers, a free-agent acquisition (maybe the team’s most indispensable) during the offseason, has been successful on 42-of-49 field-goal attempts and will surely add to those gaudy stats in Sunday’s season finale at St. Louis.