The San Francisco 49ers returned to Levi's® Stadium on Sunday after spending the last two weeks on the road. In Week 14, the 49ers hosted the Seattle Seahawks for their second meeting in a span of two weeks. San Francisco's first meeting with Seattle came on Thanksgiving night and resulted in a 31-13 takedown of their longtime NFC West rival. This second bout with the Seahawks looked a little different with Seattle backup quarterback Drew Lock under center and the game remaining a close affair through three quarters.
"I though there were some things that were a little sloppy, just a little inconsistent throughout the day, but the guys made a ton of plays, got enough points, two turnovers the defense caused were huge," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It wasn't perfect football by any means, but the only goal is to get a win, and we found a way to do it."
Here are six takeaways from Sunday afternoon's game:
Cornerback Charvarius Ward Suffers Early Injury
The first big defensive play of the day resulted in groin injury for the veteran cornerback. On Seattle's first offensive series, Ward nearly picked off a ball intended for Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and in the process of breaking up the pass, sustained a groin injury that forced him out of the game. Ward was designated as questionable to return in the first half but never returned to game action. Ward's pass breakup was his 20th of the season, and he remains the league-leader in passes defended.
49ers Come Up Big on the Opening Drive
It took the 49ers exactly 57 seconds to find their way to the end zone on Sunday afternoon. Their hot start on offense was all thanks to a 72-yard rush from running back Christian McCaffrey on the first play of the game. McCaffrey sliced through the left side through some key blocks from wide receiver Deebo Samuel and fullback Kyle Juszczyk near the line of scrimmage and was able to make it inside the Seattle five yard line with an open-field block from wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Running back Jordan Mason took the next handoff and ran it in for the three-yard score.
"You never know (the play is going to break) until it does," McCaffrey said. "You kind of just read it one gap at a time, trust the guys in front of you. That was amazing blocking. I have to score there.
"That was a great job by those guys up front all day. BA blocked downfield, 75 yards down the field again, which is becoming routine for him, so I appreciated that. That was a great job by all those guys up front."
Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel Continues Hot Streak
The 49ers do-it-all wide receiver racked up three touchdowns versus the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 and continued the scoring streak against the Seahawks. The 49ers were trailing 10-7 early in the second quarter in a tough, third-and-long situation, quarterback Brock Purdy called Samuel's number, connecting with the 'wideback' on a deep crosser to convert and then some. Samuel caught Purdy's pass at roughly Seattle's 15 yard line and ran untouched into the end zone. With the touchdown, the 49ers took the 14-10 lead with 8:18 left in the half.
Samuel continued to roll in the second half. On third-and-five late in the third quarter, Purdy escaped pressure, rolled right and hit Samuel in the middle of the field for a 13-yard gain to set the offense up on the Seahawks one yard line. On the next play, the wideout took the handoff and ran in the touchdown from the left side to give the 49ers the 21-10 lead.
"Since coming back from injury, I can see the level of play just getting better week in and week out," Samuel said. "I'm just taking it a day at a time to be the best me I can possibly be for the team."
Defense Gets Stingy in the Second Half
After giving up ten points in the first half, San Francisco's defense came out swinging in the third quarter. The unit kicked things off with a quick three-and-out made possible by a big-time pass breakup from cornerback Deommodore Lenoir on second-and-10 and a third down stop by linebacker Fred Warner and cornerback Isaiah Oliver. On the the next defensive series, defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell came up with a sack of Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock and tackled running back Zach Charbonnet for a loss of four yards to help force the Seahawks punt.
To close out the big plays of the quarter, Chase Young brought down Lock on a two-point conversion attempt. The secondary made its impact play to the start the fourth quarter with rookie Ji'Ayir Brown picking off Lock at Seattle's 25 yard line. The 49ers defensive line added three more sacks in the fourth quarter, 1.5 of which belong to reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. Linebacker Nick Bosa also made a big-time play, notching interception No. 2 for San Francisco with just over three minutes left to play.
George Kittle Makes His Way to Pay Dirt
The 49ers offense got a much-needed boost following Samuel's third-quarter score, and on the 49ers next possession, Kittle wanted to join the touchdown-happy offense. Purdy, with plenty of time, aired it out to the left side to the veteran tight end, who ran past three defenders on his way to the end zone. The touchdown gave San Francisco a two-score cushion in Sunday's chippy division rivalry game.
Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk Hits Career Milestone
The fourth-year wideout entered Sunday's contest 73 yards shy of the 1,000 yard receiving mark and eclipsed that milestone against the Seahawks after catching six passes for 126 yards. He is the first 49ers receiver to record back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons since Anquan Boldin in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
"Every year he gets so much better, on the football field and also off the football field, which leads to the football field in terms of how mature he is," Shanahan said. "He's one of our leaders in there. I think BA has come a long way.
"He gets so amped up for the game, and sometimes he won't get the ball for a little bit, and then, he gets it late. Sometimes it happens early, but with BA this year, it really doesn't matter with him. He's the same way down in and down out, and it carries over down in the run game and the pass game. With the type of football player that he is and how talented he is, you always feel that it's only a matter of time that he's going to get his 1,000 (receiving yards). He deserves it, and he's been great for us this year."