Published: Jan 14, 2023 at 07:34 PM
- 49ers run away from Seahawks as stars shine in The Bay. Trailing 17-16 at halftime, the Niners quit playing with their food and gobbled up Seattle to sprint away with a wild-card victory. San Francisco scored 25 straight points in the second half to turn a nailbiter into a demolition. The big names played like it for the Niners. Christian McCaffrey once again proved his worth, scampering for 119 yards on 15 carries, including a massive 68-yard gallop in the first half, and adding a TD catch. Deebo Samuel looked like vintage Deebo, eating up poor Seahawks tackling efforts to move the chains on third downs. The star wideout blew the game open with a 74-yard fourth-quarter TD in which he screamed down the field for 67 yards after the catch. The Niners rolled up 505 total yards and 24 first downs, punting once all game. After a pass-heavy first half, San Francisco ground down the Seahawks’ defense after halftime and took advantage of play action to dominate the game. If not for red zone futility in the first half (1/3), it would have been an earlier blowout in Santa Clara.
- Brock Purdy starts slow but passes first postseason test. The seventh-round pick looked like a rookie in the first half, repeatedly throwing behind targets, holding the ball a spell too long, bailing backward too often, and missing passes in the red zone. The first two quarters were about as bad as we’ve seen Purdy play since taking over under center. But Mr. Relevant never seemed rattled. He bounced back in the second half, hitting targets in stride over the middle and converting big third downs when the game was close. Purdy showed improvisation when the play breaks down that Jimmy Garoppolo simply doesn’t. When the rookie steps up in the pocket, he remains dangerous and did a solid job getting through his reads. Even with the misses, Purdy generated 332 passing yards on 18-of-30 passing with three TDs and added a rushing score. Purdy became the first rookie QB with four total TDs in a playoff game. Not a bad start for the 262nd pick in the draft.
- Geno Smith played solid vs. Niners’ No. 1 defense, but turnovers proved costly. The veteran QB played with aplomb early, getting the ball out quickly before the rush could get home. When he got a shot, he took it, hitting DK Metcalf in stride on a 50-yard touchdown that gave Seattle a first-half lead. Smith managed the game well, making pinpoint passes, avoiding pressure, and moving the chains. But trailing by six deep in the third quarter, Smith fumbled in scoring range on a strip-sack. The lost points turned the tide as the Niners converted the turnover into a two-score lead. As things began to unravel, Geno tossed an interception that led to more San Francisco points. Smith’s connection with Metcalf was sublime. After getting slowed in the first two meetings, the wideout went for 136 yards and two TDs on 10 catches. No other Seahawks player hit the 40-yard mark. The second-half struggles on both sides of the ball sunk Seattle, but Smith played well enough on balance to show why the Seahawks want to keep him in 2023.
- 49ers D stands up in the second half. After forcing back-to-back three-and-outs to open the game, San Francisco’s defense let the Seahawks move the ball in the second quarter. Seattle earned back-to-back TD drives — the first going 78 yards on 14 plays with six first downs — to take the lead. A silly illegal hit by Jimmie Ward on a scrambling Geno Smith to close the half gave Seattle a free three points, and the Niners trailed at halftime. San Francisco generated just two QB pressures in the first half. But DeMeco Ryans’ defense is inevitable. On the opening defensive possession of the second half, defensive end Charles Omenihu forced a fumble. Nick Bosa recovered, and the route was on. With the offense handing them a big lead, the Niners feasted, generating 10 second-half pressures, nine QB hits, and two sacks in the final two quarters, per Next Gen Stats. The Niners entered the game with the best defense in the NFL, but Seattle went at them physically early. However, the Niners’ defense stood up down the stretch and took over the contest. Now, it’s on to the Divisional Round.
- Seattle still ahead in rebuild despite playoff blowout. The NFL isn’t a place for consolation prizes, but the Seahawks even making the tournament in a year that was supposed to be a rebuild, with so many young players playing key roles, is a credit to Pete Carroll’s crew. Rookie offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas played well against a fierce 49ers pass rush. Kenneth Walker III (15/63/1) paced a chain-moving ground game early that kept the defense off the field. Sensational rookie corner Tariq Woolen struggled Saturday, allowing six catches on nine targets for 138 yards, but that performance doesn’t wipe out how good he’s been all season. There are building blocks in Seattle and promising veterans, like Uchenna Nwosu, who was phonemical with three tackles for loss. But Saturday’s game showed Carroll’s crew is still several pieces away from staying with the true title contenders.
Next Gen Stat of the game: On his 74-yard TD, Deebo Samuel reached a top speed of 20.37 mph, 67 yards after the catch and +51 YAC Over Expected. The play was Samuel’s fastest speed as a ball carrier this season.
NFL Research: DK Metcalf has three career receiving TD of 50+ yards in the playoffs, tying Hall of Famer Randy Moss for the 2nd-most all-time. Only Hall of Famer John Stallworth (4) has more such TD in postseason history.