49ers vs. Seahawks: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, linebacker Patrick Willis, San Francisco's rushing defense, offensive tackle Jonas Jennings, wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson, San Francisco's coverage units and aggressive secondary, Frank Gore's fumbles, Manny Lawson, the 49ers' carefree use of timeouts, cornerback Walt Harris, kicker Joe Nedney and more? Check inside.

Thumbs up: How's that for a game to answer some questions about the poise, determination, and flat-out play-making ability of quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan? All O'Sullivan did was keep his cool all afternoon despite relentless pressure from a Seattle defense that hounded him all day and sacked him eight times – and it easily could have been a double-digit sack total if O'Sullivan hadn't avoided a few more by showing escapability and bouncing away from the grasp of Seattle defenders. O'Sullivan completed 20 of 32 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first San Francisco quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards since 2004, and didn't have an interception or a turnover. He also rushed for 32 yards on four carries and kept plays alive with his feet. He came through in the clutch several times to rally the 49ers back from a series of deficits and, most importantly, came through in crunch time to lead San Francisco to victory.

Thumbs down: The company line is that right tackle Jonas Jennings left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half, but by then the guy deserved to be pulled from the game due to horrid performance. Jennings plays just well enough at times to make you think he can help the 49ers, but on this day he was hurting them basically from the start, getting flagged for consecutive false start penalties on San Francisco's second drive, then a holding penalty on San Francisco's fourth drive after the 49ers were set up with a first down at the Seattle 14. The 49ers had to settle for a field goal on that drive, and Jennings was out of the game shortly thereafter in favor of Barry Sims, who provided an upgrade at the position once he entered the game.

Thumbs up: So you were wondering what happened to wide receiver Isaac Bruce when he was shut out in the season opener? Well, Bruce is back. He had a huge game with four receptions for a game-high 153 yards receiving, and each of his catches were big plays that meant something. His 63-yarder late in the second quarter set up San Francisco's first touchdown, and his 33-yard reception behind Seattle defenders in overtime was the big play that sparked San Francisco on the game-winning drive. The 153 yards were the 10th-highest total in a game during Bruce's distinguished career.

Thumbs down: The San Francisco offensive line had a few shining moments, but allowing eight quarterback sacks is unacceptable, particularly considering that figure could easily have been several sacks higher had O'Sullivan not bounced away from tacklers and escaped a collapsing pocket on other occasions to keep plays alive. Joe Staley also got called for an illegal formation after lining up off the line of scrimmage, a play that nullified a 25-yard gain on San Francisco's first offensive possession. The 49ers drew two flags for illegal formation on offense before the game was through.

Thumbs up: Linebacker-turned-special-teams-ace Manny Lawson did not let a little fact like being written out of the defensive game plan affect his performance. Lawson, usually a starting outside linebacker, did not play a defensive snap as the 49ers went with only two linebackers the entire game in a big nickel sub-package designed to combat Seattle's West Coast passing game. Lawson responded by asking to play on each of San Francisco's special teams units, and then having a big day on them. Lawson blocked a punt and had two tackles on special teams. Perhaps just as importantly, as San Francisco's special teams captain for this game, he also correctly called the way the coin would land during the toss to begin overtime, giving the 49ers the first shot at ending the game, which they proceeded to do.

Thumbs up: The only complaint about linebacker Patrick Willis to this point is that, while he makes a lot of tackles all over the field, he hasn't come up with a lot of game-changing plays or turnovers. Well, scratch that complaint. Willis turned the first interception of his career into the game's turning point when he plucked a Matt Hasselbeck pass out of the air and showed some nifty moves while returning it 86 yards for a touchdown that allowed the 49ers to tie the score in the third quarter. It was the longest return of an interception for a touchdown by a linebacker in 49ers history. Willis also had a game-high eight tackles, one of them for a loss, and returned to the lineup after being forced temporarily into the locker room with a leg injury during the second half.

Thumbs down: San Francisco's coverage teams continue to struggle and again gave up a series of big returns that aided Seattle in the battle for field position. Josh Wilson had a 54-yard kickoff return for the Seahawks and Michael Bumpus had a 30-yard punt return. Both returns gave the Seattle offense short fields to work with. Bumpus, a rookie who was on Seattle's practice squad until this week, averaged 15.3 yards on three punt returns.

Thumbs up: After missing most of the preseason, wide receiver Bryant Johnson had another big game and continues to show the ability of a No. 1 wideout. Johnson had a game-high six receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown, and he looks like a guy the 49ers can go to in the clutch as an inviting target for O'Sullivan.

Thumbs down: The 49ers continue to be pushed around in their defensive interior, where nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is struggling to hold his ground. The Seahawks gouged the San Francisco defense for 169 yards rushing, averaging 5.0 yards a pop, and the Seahawks scored two of their three touchdowns on the ground. Seattle's ability to consistently move the ball on the ground – the Seahawks had 11 first downs rushing to San Francisco's three – almost allowed the Seahawks to take this one away from the Niners.

Thumbs down: It's disturbing to see another fumble by running back Frank Gore, particularly when this one is returned for a touchdown. That's two fumbles in two games by San Francisco's star running back, and both of them came as a result of him not securing the ball quickly enough and having it simply slapped out of his hands without absorbing any kind of substantial hit.

Thumbs up: Cornerback Walt Harris had a big game, deflecting the pass that Willis returned for a touchdown, then making a great diving interception on Seattle's next possession to set up the touchdown that gave San Francisco its first lead. Harris knocked away three passes during the day and also had four tackles.

Thumbs up: An aggressive San Francisco secondary made life difficult all day for Seattle's inconsistent receivers, and a big hit by Dashon Goldson took out one Logan Payne, one of Seattle's starting wideouts, with a knee injury early in the game. Nate Clements had seven tackles and also opportunistically caused a fumble deep in San Francisco territory after he had been beaten for a reception. Hasselbeck was only sacked once, but he managed to complete only half of his 36 throws for 189 yards, and his 42.5 quarterback rating was his worst ever in a game against the 49ers.

Thumbs up: Despite running fewer plays, the 49ers once again outgained an opponent, this time by a 365-351 margin even though Seattle had eight more chances on offense. The 49ers averaged a healthy 5.8 yards per offensive play and 6.8 yards per passing play.

Thumbs down: The 49ers' carefree use of timeouts continues to border on the ridiculous. This time, the 49ers burned their first timeout on their very first offensive series – with just two minutes elapsed in the game – after a second-and-7 play resulted in an incomplete pass. Huh? The 49ers have to save those timeouts for when they might really need them. This is a recurring problem that needs to be rectified.

Thumbs up: Yeah, kicker Joe Nedney missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt that could have won the game on the final play of overtime. That right there was out of the ordinary, considering Nedney had made 32 consecutive field goals from within 50 yards before missing that one. But Nedney came right back when given a chance for redemption and split the uprights with a 40-yard attempt to win the game. There was no choke in that kick, and Nedney's four field goals were crucial in San Francisco's victory as the kicker scored 15 of the Niners' 33 points.

Thumbs up: It is very encouraging to see the 49ers not only come back from a huge deficit, but keep coming back from deficits throughout the game. The 49ers rallied from deficits of 14-0, 17-6, 20-13 and then – after they had taken the lead at 27-20 – coming back from 30-27 late in the fourth quarter to force overtime. That's a lot of comebacks for a team that hasn't shown much ability to do that kind of thing over the past half decade. Maybe now it will be different.

Niners Digest Top Stories