One down. Three to go.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers brought out some thunder of their own and beat the Seattle Seahawks – again – 41-13 in the NFC Wild Card to move on to the Divisional Round.
“It was unbelievable the throw he made in the corner to BA.” pic.twitter.com/KNOaWcSnzj
— Tracy Sandler (@49ersfangirl) January 15, 2023
The week saw talk of how their rookie QB would fare under pressure, whether the rain would matter and how hard it is to beat a team three times in a season. Check. Check. Check.
But it was a twist of fate in the second half that really pushed the 49ers to wake up and dominate. Early in the third quarter, with San Francisco down a point, wide receiver Deebo Samuel was tackled by Seattle safety Johnathan Abram after a 21-yard catch. After tackling Samuel, who was in his second game back from knee and ankle injuries, Abram twisted Samuel’s left foot. The 49ers did not take kindly to this.
“I lost my mind a little bit on that,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I was real concerned that he was hurt on it, I didn’t like how that looked. I thought it looked pretty bad and the intent of the play, so I think that pissed a lot of people off. I think it pissed our team off and I think you could kind of feel our team react to that after. I wish we were like that from the first play always, but sometimes when some stuff motivates the guys, I think it was cool to see us rally together and I know Deebo was bothered and it was cool we came back and answered.”
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk looked ready to take on the entire Seahawks team and a scuffle ensued. Samuel admitted he stayed on the ground a minute to get his composure.
“I stayed down a little because I almost lost my temper, and you can see the definition of our team, I.G.Y.B., I got your back,” Samuel said. “…[A]t the end of the day, I felt like that turned our team up a notch.”
Deebo Samuel said part of the reason he stayed down after the ankle-twisting was to regain his composure. He was not happy. pic.twitter.com/a45fey5IT8
— Tracy Sandler (@49ersfangirl) January 15, 2023
The drive ended in a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brock Purdy.
Before the incident, the 49ers were in a bit of a battle with the 10-point underdog Seahawks, a team they’d outscored 48-20 on their way to beating them twice in the regular season.
“I was a little nervous just because of how the tide was going, but I have great confidence in this team,” said pass rusher Nick Bosa. “An entire half of football is a lot of football and we did exactly what we’re supposed to do.”
On the Seahawks’ next drive, cornerback Charvarius Ward, who had struggled against wide receiver DK Metcalf most of the game, forced an incomplete pass. On the following play, DL Charles Omenihu sacked Seahawks QB Geno Smith, Smith fumbled and Bosa recovered, which led to a Purdy to Elijah Mitchell touchdown pass a few minutes later. The 49ers then completed a two-point conversion, and just like that, it was 31-17.
“I mean that’s our guy, Deebo,” Purdy said. “He brings so much to the team, the juice, the swagger, all that kind of stuff. And you know, he’s down obviously, and the guy just kept going and it’s like, come on, like, let’s play clean here to keep the game going. And we get it, it’s a physical game and everything, but to do that it’s unnecessary…We all had the right to have his back and be fired up about that. It definitely created some juice for us and some momentum and I feel like we capitalized off it.”
The 49ers next offensive drive saw Samuel take an eight-yard pass from Purdy and turn it into a 74-yard touchdown to make it 38-17. On the next drive, 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir intercepted a Smith pass intended for Tyler Lockett. Game. Set. Match.
They’re on to the Divisional Round.
After a slow start, the 49ers rookie quarterback settled in and finished the day 18-of-30 for 332 yards, three touchdown passes and the aforementioned rushing TD.
“The rain was going there a little bit at the beginning, but he missed that first pass and was a little off on a couple, but he also made a couple off schedules there in the first half too that were really good,” Shanahan said. “He ended up playing a hell of a game and the most impressive thing was not turning it over.”
Following the touchdown pass to Mitchell, Purdy showed a tremendous amount of emotion and pounded his chest.
“Elijah was where he needed to be, and that’s why I was excited,” Purdy said. “I was like, man, that that was sweet, that I had that trust in you to be there. And the same for him, for myself. And so, once we completed that and scored, it was just a huge part in the game, to create momentum…I was just excited about it and just wanted to create some juice for our team and just celebrate a touchdown with my guy Elijah.”
Christian McCaffrey had 15 carries for 119 yards, including a 68-yard run early in the first half. He also had two receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown.
“I feel like they had a good plan in terms of how to stop our guys out of the backfield with Christian and Deebo,” Purdy said. “…Everyone’s going to be playing their best football and scheming up stuff like that for Christian and Deebo, but I know once they win those one-on-one matchups and get the ball to them, it’s tough for defenses.”
It was McCaffrey’s second-career playoff game and first at Levi’s Stadium.
“It’s so fun to win a playoff game at home with the fans going crazy,” McCaffrey said. “It was a special feeling. We’re still alive and we’re going to take it one at a time.”
Next up for the 49ers is the Divisional Round. It will be at Levi’s Stadium next weekend but who they play and when are both up in the air.
“In my short time in the league so far, I’ve seen so much happen within a game, being up by a lot, being down by a lot and the ebbs and flows of a game,” said Fred Warner. “…It’s more about keeping confidence within the guys and knowing that it’s a next play, best play mentality. Before the game we talk about playing 60 minutes…You’ve got to play a full 60 in the playoffs. It’s playoff football, you know, it’s not going to be easy. It’s all about just staying even keeled.”