Reading the keys: 49ers/Seahawks

How the 49ers fared in keys to the game identified by NinersDigest before San Francisco's 13-6 victory Thursday night over the Seattle Seahawks.

Re-establish the NFL's top-ranked running game
YES:
Facing the NFL's second-ranked rushing defense, the Niners re-asserted their dominance on the ground in impressive fashion. After being limited to a season-low 80 yards rushing last week against the New York Giants, the Niners got back to doing what they do best by rumbling for 175 yards on the ground in 32 carries, a 5.5 average. Frank Gore led the way with 131 yards on 16 carries, blasting through the Seattle defense like he has several times before in his career, and Kendall Hunter once again was an effective change-of-pace when Gore took a blow on the sideline. Gore set the tone of the evening by bursting through the Seattle defense for runs of 7 and 6 yards on the game's first two plays from scrimmage.

Make Russell Wilson look like a rookie quarterback
YES:
Wilson hardly looked like a rookie while he was squirming free out of the pocket and throwing up accurate deep spirals that his receivers failed to handle throughout the first half. But the Niners eventually got to Wilson and forced him into mistakes and bad throws, including an interception by Dashon Goldson late in the third quarter that thwarted a Seattle drive. Though he played better than his numbers might suggest, the 49ers ultimately made Wilson end up looking like the rookie quarterback he is – Wilson was sacked twice while completing just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards to finish with a paltry passer rating of just 38.7.

Production on the edges against Seattle's top-notch secondary
NO:
The Niners were on pace to hit this key when Alex Smith completed his first two passes of the game to wide receivers Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree. But that would not be a sign of things to come as Crabtree and Moss combined for just five receptions for 45 yards despite being targeted 10 times. Kyle Williams was the only other wideout with a reception, gaining 18 yards on his one catch while being targeted four times. Williams twice got behind Seattle's defense but was overthrown both times by Smith, and the latter play could have been a touchdown had Smith been on target.

Play lynch-mob defense on Marshawn Lynch
YES:
Lynch had a strong night with 103 yards on 19 carries, but the San Francisco defense gang-tackled him and hit him hard throughout the evening. Lynch had to work for each and every one of his yards, and while he got the better of the San Francisco defense on several tackle-breaking runs, the NFC's rushing leader never got in the end zone and his 100-yard game wasn't much of a factor in the outcome.

Hold up along the offensive line
YES:
After getting beat up during last week's loss to the New York Giants, San Francisco's offensive line was much better this week against another top-notch, physical defensive line. Left tackle Joe Staley returned from a concussion suffered last week and helped set the tone for a strong, physical effort from this unit that opened holes in a productive running game and also did a better job of protecting quarterback Alex Smith on passing downs. Smith was sacked only twice after being dumped four times last week against the Giants, when New York finished with six sacks overall.

Get the edge back on special teams
YES:
San Francisco's special teams got their mojo back after several subpar efforts. Ted Ginn Jr. sparked the return game by bringing back a punt 38 yards and a kickoff 26 yards, and the coverage teams allowed five total return yards the entire game – quite a step up for units that ranked near the bottom of the league entering the game in covering both kickoffs and punts. David Akers made both of his field-goal attempts – Seattle's Steven Hauschka missed one of his three tries – and Andy Lee let loose with a 66-yard punt in the final minutes to bury the Seahawks near their own goal line for their final offensive drive. Lee also dropped three other punts inside the Seattle 20-yard line.

Gain the upper hand in the battle of the best defenses
YES:
This was a tough, physical, defensive battle as the scoreboard would suggest, and the 49ers took control in the second half to gain the upper hand by the finish, limiting Seattle to zero points and just 78 offensive yards and four first downs after halftime. And the 49ers needed that effort from its top-ranked defense to win the game, because Seattle's fourth-ranked defense had held the upper hand in the first half, when it limited the 49ers to just 115 yards to help Seattle take a 6-3 lead at the intermission. But while San Francisco's defense stepped up with the game on the line, Seattle's faltered while allowing 198 yards of offense and two scoring drives after halftime as the 49ers snatched away the victory.


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