The 49ers returned to what they do best to get back on the winning track this week: a steady diet of…
49ers vs. Seahawks: Thumbs up and thumbs down
Thumbs up: Kudos to the NFL's top-ranked defense, stepping up when it needed to in the second half, when the Niners limited the Seahawks to 78 yards of offense and four first downs during two quarters of shutout and shutdown defense. The San Francisco defense did not allow a touchdown for the third time in seven games this season.
Thumbs up: When he's needed most, All-Pro punter Andy Lee always seems to know when to come up with his biggest kicks. With the Niners giving the ball back to Seattle inside the two-minute warning, Lee let loose with a 66-yard bomb that put the Seahawks back on their own 6-yard line for their last-gasp final offensive drive. They never made it out of the hole.
Thumbs down: With a chance to stick the dagger in the Seahawks early in the fourth quarter, scrambling on third-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Alex Smith throws right into the teeth of the Seattle defense at the goal line. Several Seattle defenders were closer to the ball than a San Francisco receiver, and cornerback Brandon Browner stepped in to make the easy interception, denying the 49ers a chance to add at least three points to their slim four-point lead.
Thumbs down: That was Smith's fourth interception in the past five days and fifth of the season through seven games, matching his entire total of last season.
Thumbs up: Given a chance to peel back his ears and charge forward, Aldon Smith dominated Seattle right tackle Breno Giacomini on a sequence of plays during Seattle's final offensive series. Smith ran over Giacomini on a second-and-5 play for a nine-yard sack of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, then was pushing back Giacomini again with Wilson in the end zone two plays later before being chop-blocked by guard Paul McQuistan for a penalty that gave San Francisco a safety. The Niners declined the two points to get the ball back and run out the clock with 43 seconds to play.
Thumbs up: Alex Smith's first two passes of the game went for completions to Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, the second going 14 yards for a first down, which is the way the 49ers need to get their starting wideouts involved from the start. Moss and Crabtree were targeted on 10 of Smith's 23 passes but the duo combined for only five receptions for 45 yards.
Thumbs down: Smith's inability to hit the long ball affected the 49ers from the start. After San Francisco drove into Seattle territory on its first possession, Smith overthrew Kyle Williams down the right sideline, then two plays later on third-and-6 badly overthrew a wide-open Williams down the left sideline on a play that could have gone for a touchdown. Instead, San Francisco's first drive ended with the Niners punting from the Seattle 41-yard line.
Thumbs down: Coach Jim Harbaugh lauded the play of Smith, saying "Alex had a very good game, he was fantastic for us all night," and praising Smith for having a "perfect game in the running game, did a great job of getting us in the right play, played with lots of poise, and thought he played extremely well." But as a passer, Smith gets decidedly mixed reviews after completing 14 of 23 throws for 140 yards and a quarterback rating of 74.5. Only last week's 43.1 rating against the Giants has been worse for Smith this season.
Thumbs down: The 49ers had used all three of their first-half timeouts with 12:17 still remaining in the second quarter. That's not exactly the sign of an organized team, and it left the Niners without a challenge the remainder of the half. "All of them were a miscommunication," Harbaugh said.
Thumbs down: Ted Ginn Jr. has great straight-line speed, but it does him and the Niners no good when he's running backward. Had he kept running forward with a second-half kickoff, Ginn would have gotten it out to about the 25-yard line or further. Instead, he declined to turn it upfield in favor of trying to avoid defenders while running backward to try and get around the left edge, where he eventually was dropped at the 16-yard line.
Thumbs up: But when Ginn does turn it up, it can be a thing of beauty. Ginn was lightning quick while juking his way for a 38-yard punt return that gave the 49ers the ball at midfield late in the first half.
Thumbs down: Crabtree runs a slant route up the field. Smith throws an out pattern to the sideline behind him. San Francisco's passing game looked a lot like that during the first half, when Smith completed only 7 of 15 throws for 59 yards.
Thumbs up: As he did several times throughout the night, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson slipped out of the pocket and into the open field on a second-and-10 play from the San Francisco 35 midway through the second quarter. But instead of a big play or first down to get Seattle deeper in Niners' territory, NaVorro Bowman swooped in, broke down and made an open-field stop of Wilson for a sack and no gain. Two plays later, Steven Hauschka missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt to leave the Seahawks with no points to show for a drive that reached the San Francisco 33.
Thumbs up: The feisty play of Dashon Goldson set the tone early for the San Francisco defense, as Goldson took on Marshawn Lynch head-on in a helmet-to-helmet collision near the left sideline midway through the first quarter. Goldson then flipped Lynch to the ground, and though Lynch made a first down on the play, Goldson delivered a message of what kind of night it was going to be. Goldson later came up with one of San Francisco's biggest defensive plays with an interception of Wilson at the San Francisco 26 to thwart another Seattle drive late in the third quarter.
Thumbs down: But Goldson has to learn how to tone down his mouth. After laying another big hit on Lynch for a one-yard loss a few plays after his first big hit on Lynch, Goldson stood over Lynch and kept jawing at him right in front of an official, who flagged Goldson for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Seahawks a first down on the play to extend a drive that led to Seattle's first points.
Thumbs down: Perrish Cox, getting some action as an extra defensive back in coverage, looked lost trying to cover Ben Obomanu on a third-and-3 play early in the second quarter, drifting into the right flat and allowing Obomanu to turn up the field and blow by him to catch a 36-yard pass that led to Seattle's second field goal.
Thumbs up: Delanie Walker hasn't been quite the offensive weapon this season that he was for the 49ers last year, but he did score the only touchdown of the game on a 12-yard pass from Alex Smith to gain some payback against the team that broke his jaw the last time the Seahawks and 49ers played 10 months ago.
Thumbs up: And Walker wouldn't have gotten into the end zone if it wasn't for a great seal block near the 5-yard line from fellow tight end Vernon Davis, who unselfishly finds ways to help the 49ers win even on nights when the 49ers don't target him even once in their passing game.
Thumbs down: An offside penalty on Ray McDonald nullified a jailbreak in the Seattle backfield in the first quarter during which Justin Smith would have recorded his first sack of the season. Seven games into the season, the All-Pro tackle still is without a sack.
Thumbs up: But Smith was a total beast in the trenches, banging and blasting against the Seahawks to record a game-high nine tackles, the first time Smith has led the 49ers in that category this season.
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