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Home » 49ers Gain Momentum in Second Half as Seahawks Stagnate

49ers Gain Momentum in Second Half as Seahawks Stagnate

15 January 2023, Sunday
The San Francisco 49ers extended their winning streak to eleven consecutive games on Saturday, with a 41-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. In the wild-card clash, the Niners had a tight first half before opening the second with 25 unanswered points to secure the win and a place in the divisional round next weekend, where they will face an opponent as yet to be determined.

Brock Purdy, the lowest-drafted rookie quarterback to start a playoff game, seemed to show some understandable signs of first-time nerves in the beginning stages of Saturday's wild-card matchup against Seattle. Despite his misfires and mistimed reads which he had made look routine throughout the last month, Purdy stayed composed and did not let the pressure get the best of him.

With Purdy quickly adjusting, his receivers gaining plenty of yards after the catch, the Niners headed into the next week's NFC divisional round with great momentum. They will be hosting either the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys or Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium.

The difference between the first and second half for Purdy was night and day. Whatever hindered him early on was apparently quickly taken care of in the locker room during halftime. Over the last two quarters, he was near perfect going 9-of-11 for 185 yards and accumulating a total of three touchdowns.

Purdy achieved an impressive feat in the playoffs, completing 18 of 30 passes for a total of 332 yards and four touchdowns. He is the third rookie quarterback ever to record three touchdown passes in a playoff game, and has tossed multiple scores in each of his last seven games - a streak matched only by Justin Herbert since 1950.

The biggest concern for the 49ers heading into the playoffs was how their young quarterback, Purdy, would perform in the highest pressure situations. Ultimately, he passed the test and rose to the challenge.

The most important play came when the Seahawks were just six points behind in the third quarter, with the ball at San Francisco's 19-yard line. Purdy held them off and the Niners maintained their lead.

When Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith attempted to pass, Charles Omenihu of the Niners burst in from the right side to put immediate pressure on him. Smith attempted to step up and evade the rush, however Omenihu was quick to react and swiped the ball away. Nick Bosa was alert and pounced on the loose ball, giving the Niners possession and eventually leading to a touchdown that put them in control of the game.

The takeaway proved to be a major boost to San Francisco, as it allowed them to come away victorious without any giveaways. This means that the 49ers are now undefeated this season when they have one or no turnovers in their games, bringing their record to 14-0.

For the very first time this season, Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers failed to receive a touch on the opening drive of a game. However, he made his very first attempt count on the second possession, recording a total of 68 yards with his run off the left side, making it his third-longest rush in his career.

On the run, McCaffrey achieved a peak speed of 20.8 mph, marking his fastest speed as a ball carrier since Week 8 of 2019.

The Seahawks had hoped for Purdy to struggle in his first playoff start, and for the inclement weather to slow down the 49ers' high-powered offense. However, these ideas were quickly eradicated as San Francisco throttled Seattle in the second half. This dominant performance further highlighted the significant gap between the two teams, as the Niners have outscored the Seahawks 89-43 in three games this season.

It was a rough ending for the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday at Levi's Stadium, but the important thing is that they were there in the first place. Orchestrated by the trading of Russell Wilson, the release of Bobby Wagner, and the commitment to build around younger players, the team was not even projected to reach the playoffs. However, they managed to hang tough with the second seed in the NFC and even led 17-16 at halftime.

The future looks bright for the Seattle Seahawks, despite the fact that Smith's contract expires after this season and the defense has room for improvement. Although they trail the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West, the team boasts a talented young core and has acquired considerable draft capital in the upcoming 2023 draft, including the fifth overall pick acquired in the Wilson trade. If they are to regain their place amongst the elite, the Seahawks need to take a significant step forward.

A concerning tendency was revealed in the Seattle Seahawks' defensive performance this year: their tackling was unsatisfactory at all three levels. This made them rank last in the regular season in yards allowed after the catch per reception, presenting a daunting challenge against the San Francisco 49ers, who had led the NFL in YAC for six consecutive seasons. This proved to be a bad matchup for Seattle, exemplified by Deebo Samuel's 74-yard, game-clinching touchdown catch. The 49ers totaled 181 yards after the catch - their third-highest game total of the season - emphasizing Seattle's poor tackling.

Russell Wilson had an inconsistent outing in Seattle's Wild Card playoff game. He connected for a 50-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf in the second quarter, a gorgeous play that gave the Seahawks a lead. His completion percentage was right around his franchise-best season record of 71.4%. Unfortunately, he also coughed up a fumble that squandered a potential scoring drive in the third quarter, and then threw a pick in the fourth as the Seahawks were in desperate mode. All told, Wilson ended the day 25-of-35 for 253 yards and two touchdown passes, both to Metcalf.

The Seahawks were driving late in the third quarter, with the potential to take the lead or at least cut the 49ers' lead to three points. However, the drive fell short when Smith was stripped while attempting to step up in the pocket on third down, resulting in the 49ers increasing their lead to 14 points. Prior to the strip-sack, Seattle's pass protection had successfully kept the 49ers' powerful front four relatively quiet, allowing only five pressures on 22 dropbacks (23%). Interestingly, this was a much lower pressure rate than the 38% of dropbacks that the 49ers typically apply pressure on in the regular season.
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