Going into Thursday night’s national TV game against the Seahawks, the 49ers knew they were in for a fight.
The Seahawks were coming off a big win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and Seattle and San Francisco both were 4-2, tied atop the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Niners, coming off a lopsided loss to the Giants, would have to bounce back in a short week to beat a physical Seattle team with a strong defense.
“Everybody in our division got better,” 49ers running back Frank Gore told repoters this week. “That’s OK, we’re all right with that. We like it like that. We like it tough. We’re tough enough to handle it.”
Yes they are.
Thursday, the 49ers beat Seattle 13-6 to move into sole possession of first place in the division, using the strong running of Gore (131 yards on 16 carries) and a long third-quarter touchdown drive to top the Seahawks.
After trailing at halftime 6-3, San Francisco began the second half with a 10-play touchdown drive, capped by Alex Smith’s 12-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker. On the drive, Gore accounted for 50 of the team’s 86 yards, including 23 yards rushing on four carries and 27 yards on two catches.
Overall in the second half, the 49ers seemed determined to live with Gore and the running game, giving him 10 carries as he rushed for 92 of his season-high total.
The Niners added a David Akers field goal in the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 13-6, then held on to pick up the win and avoid a second straight loss – something that hasn’t happened since Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the team in 2011.
In the second half, San Francisco’s defense – which had been dominated by the Giants last Sunday – was back to its usual self, stifling a Seattle offense that had come alive this season with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch.
In five second-half drives, Seattle punted three times, turned the ball over on downs once and lost the ball on an interception by Niners safety Dashon Goldson.
The game ended on an odd note when, with less than a minute remaining, the Seahawks – from their own 4 – completed a pass to their own 20 that was at first ruled enough for a first down. During the play, however, Seattle was ruled for an illegal chop block in the end zone that put Aldon Smith to the turf, which would have been a safety. When the replay official ruled the play did not reach the first-down marker, however, the penalty was declined and the ball turned over to the 49ers on downs at the 20, from where Smith ran out the clock.
Smith, coming off a three-interception game against the Giants, finished 14-of-23 for 140 yards and an interception to go with the TD pass.
Next up for the 49ers is a matchup with the NFC West’s other prime contender, Arizona, on Monday night, Oct.29.