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49ers Win Playoff Preview in Seattle

Posted Dec 24, 2011

SEATTLE – Both teams needed it and exhausted every ounce of energy to obtain it. But after 60 minutes of a hard-fought affair that rivaled any postseason football game, it was the San Francisco 49ers that walked out of CenturyLink Field as winners.

The 19-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks was an especially pleasing victory since it came with so much on the line. And it made for an enjoyable experience on Christmas Eve for a 49ers team which lost its last two road outings, including a primetime game on Thanksgiving night.

“It was a great preview for our team for what the playoffs are going to be like,” Jim Harbaugh said after the 49ers picked up their fifth road win of the year and first win in Seattle since 2008. “We overcame a lot of things. Overcame adversity. Overcame opposing crowd. It was a tremendous atmosphere for football; they were really into it here.”

The roaring home field advantage for Seattle forced the 49ers to use a silent signal count on offense throughout Saturday’s physical outing.

The 49ers managed just three points in the first half, but eventually found momentum in the second half. The noise, however, didn’t stop the 49ers from making key plays in the closing moments which saw a 41-yard pass hookup from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree.

San Francisco’s longest play from scrimmage set up David Akers’ 39-yard game-deciding field goal.

“We knew what was on the line,” Smith said. “They were playing for their playoff lives, as you can see they threw everything at us, offense, defense, special teams. They were geared up for this… It’s always going to be tough when there’s something on the line for both teams.”

The 49ers offensive line, however, showed poise in an outing that saw them allow two sacks and pave the way for 178 rushing yards, the most by any team against the Seahawks this season.

“The guys up front,” began Smith, “those are the guys who really have the most burden on them with the crowd noise. I think they deserve all the credit.”

Marshawn Lynch proved to also be a difficult test as advertised. Seattle’s running back finished the day with 107 yards and a 4-yard rushing touchdown, becoming the first running back to have a 100-yard game or a touchdown against the 49ers defense this season.

“It was good football on both sides, no question about it,” Harbaugh said. “Good physical run game by both teams.

“Both teams didn’t give the other a thing.”

In fact, both teams were willing to drive the football methodically throughout. Other than Lynch’s touchdown run which came on the very next play following a Seattle blocked punt, every scoring drive in the game lasted longer than three minutes.

The drives were deliberate for the 49ers and so were the ways the play calls were being sent in by Harbaugh.

With the 49ers facing a fourth-and-two at Seattle’s 40-yard line, the 49ers coach was extra demonstrative while talking to his offensive line during a timeout.

It wasn’t a true tongue-lashing being dished out from the 49ers coach by any means.

“A little bit of gamesmanship,” Harbaugh revealed when asked about the nature of his pep talk to the offense. “I was trying to direct it to the offensive line saying, ‘We’re going to run the ball, so let’s come off the ball.’ (I said it) just in case anybody was looking. We actually had a play-action pass called.”

Vernon Davis, who wasn’t Smith’s primary read on the play, found an opening down the right side of Seattle’s defense where he made a 16-yard sideline tip-toe catch to pick up the first down.

The 49ers spared nothing to get a win in Seattle, even if it meant a little extra showmanship from its leader.

“Nothing surprises us anymore with him,” Smith said with a grin. “He’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeves.”

The resourcefulness of the 49ers coaching staff could be tested in the coming weeks depending on the severity of injuries suffered by tight end Delanie Walker and wide receiver Kyle Williams.

Walker took an inadvertent knee to the back of the head in the first half causing his helmet to go flying immediately after contact. Williams, who filled in at punt and kick returner for inactive wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., was injured on an illegal hit to the head on his final kick return of the game.

“It was a physical game on both sides of the ball,” Smith said. “I hope those guys get back healthy as soon as possible. I don’t know any details of it, but two guys who do a lot for us.”

Overcoming the injuries were just part of many reasons the 49ers were pleased with their win in a meaningful December game in Seattle.

“There were some real pressure to perform situations and our guys performed,” Harbaugh said.

“It feels good. It feels good to sweep a division opponent. It feels good to win a hostile environment. It feels good that was a preview to what the playoffs are going to be like. Both teams needed it.”

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