Friday, October 19, 2012


I mentioned on Monday that the 49ers lousy performance against the Giants last week came at a very bad time, because the 49ers had a very short week with which to right the ship and get themselves ready for a rather stubborn division rival in the Seattle Seahawks. For 30 minutes on Thursday night, the 49ers had every reason to be really concerned. Although the defense had been doing just about everything possible to keep the game respectable, the offense was looking stale and stagnant. Alex Smith looked confused by Seattle's pass coverage and was forced to either run for his life or throw the ball away altogether. San Francisco closed the half with 3-and-outs on three consecutive possessions and just couldn't sustain anything. The Defense had done well, if not been a bit lucky that Seattle's receivers couldn't hold on to Russell Wilson's passes. On the ground, Marshawn Lynch, always tough to bring down, had gashed them a few times, allowing them to lengthen drives on multiple occasions. At the half, things looked really ugly, and the 49ers were fortunate to only be trailing by a 6-3 score. This could have been worse, but for a missed Field Goal by the Seahawks shortly before the half ran out.

The only offense the 49ers had been able to generate with any sort of consistency was on the legs of their old veteran warrior, The Inconvenient Truth, Frank Gore. Therefore, the 49ers answer coming out for the 2nd half was Frank Gore, Frank Gore, and some more Frank Gore. It didn't matter whether he was running the ball or catching screens, Gore dug in, as he's done in so many of these big Prime Time games, and delivered the yards that the 49ers needed. After forcing a Seattle punt out of the half, Gore took charge, as he, with Alex Smith and Kendall Hunter chipping in, delivered the long, sustained drive that the 49ers so desperately needed, that they didn't have against the Giants, and finished it off with the night's only Touchdown, a 12-yard pass to Delanie Walker to cap off a massively important 86-yard drive.

With the lead, the Defense, which had been strong all evening, was able to dig in a little more and really play their kind of game. Though Lynch continued to run effectively, whenever Wilson tried to pass, the 49ers cut him off, either by rushing, or by jamming his receivers. Wilson was only marginally effective in the 1st half, and didn't complete a pass in the 2nd half until very late in the 4th Quarter. Or, should I say, complete a pass to one of his own receivers. He airmailed a pass late in the 3rd quarter into triple coverage that was intercepted by Dashon Goldson. Goldson's pick was huge, set up another clock-eating drive featuring Frank Gore running wild, and would have ended in more points had Smith not stupidly tried to force a pass into the end zone that was intercepted. This would have been instant disaster, but once again, the defense rose up, stopped Seattle and forced another punt. And, guess what. More Gore, More clock eating, and a Field Goal that put Seattle in desperate straits. A pair of late drives were cut off by the defense, as well as by the always superb punting of Andy Lee, and the 49ers finished off an ugly, but effective 13-6 victory that was important for a number of different reasons.

Re-establishing Frank Gore was, perhaps, most important. Gore was limited to 8 carries in last week's game against the Giants, as the game got away from the 49ers and they were forced to pass. Gore has made a career off of carrying the load for the 49ers, and though the mileage is building up, he has still proven that he's able to get the job done. Thursday night, he did it once again, rushing for 131 yards against Seattle's tough defense, and also led the 49ers in receiving, catching 5 passes, mostly checkdowns, for 51 yards. By the 4th quarter, he had worn down Seattle's defense to the point where he started breaking off some longer runs. It's hardly news, but when the 49ers are going really well, it's because Frank Gore is able to run effectively, eat yardage and, once the 49ers have a lead, eat the clock.

The 49ers weren't expected to have much competition for the NFC West this season. I still believe they're the best team in the division from top to bottom, and that's probably true. But Seattle has begun to put together a team that's certainly going to challenge the 49ers, and Arizona has been tough in the early going as well. Ultimately, the 49ers won't walk away with the division this season, which is why it's really important for them to win these rivalry games. Seattle is not only tough, they're also chippy. They want a piece of the 49ers. These two teams basically spent the entire game just belting each other. Arizona has been chippy for years, and the 49ers will be visiting them next Monday night. Seattle came out tonight, with the 49ers perhaps still hung over from last weekend, and hit them in the mouth. But for those key adjustments at halftime, this season could very easily have begun to get away from the 49ers. And even though they may have beaten Seattle, Seattle's not going to go away so easily. But that the 49ers were able to go in at the half, adjust their game plan, come back and set everything in motion so well was huge. Jim Harbaugh. after the game, called it the most important 30 minutes of the season, and that may well be true. They had scored 6 points in the past 6 quarters and just looked generally out of sorts. But they responded to this adversity, came back, scored some points and kept Seattle off the scoreboard in the second half and righted the ship, at least for the moment.

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