Breaking down the game

Analyzing and categorizing the 49ers' 31-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday:



Jeff Garcia ended each of San Francisco's first two drives with overthrown passes that were intercepted close to the Seattle goal line. But he bounced back from that lousy start to efficiently guide the Niners to scores in four of their next six possessions. But this was not a day that will be remembered as one of Garcia's better performances of the season. In fact, it was one of his worst. He missed receivers on a few other opportunities to keep drives alive and his 164 yards passing were his fewest in a full game this season. Bottom line: Off day for the Pro Bowl QB.





Garrison Hearst displayed that he still can be a workhorse supreme, even after a decade in the NFL and even after two career-threatening injuries. His season-high 124 yards rushing on a career-high 31 carries were a big reason the Niners controlled the game and eventually won it. So were his career-high three touchdown runs, which provided each of San Francisco's offensive touchdowns. Hearst showed great effort lunging into the end zone on his five-yard score. Hearst dropped a screen pass that had big yardage written all over it, but he also had two receptions for 28 yards. Fullback Fred Beasley once again was a bull leading the way for Hearst. Bottom line: Hearst at his best while carrying the load.





Starters Tai Streets (six catches, 66 yards) and Terrell Owens (five for 45) had very ordinary days. The Seahawks were blanketed all over Owens and were intent on not letting him get into the end zone after his Sharpie incident in Seattle. J.J. Stokes had a 20-yard catch in the first quarter but then wasn't heard from again the rest of the game. Bottom line: Not much impact here from unit that usually makes a big one.






Guard Ron Stone combined with center Jeremy Newberry to blow out some big holes for Hearst in the running game. Tackle Scott Gragg combined with Stone to move out the right side of the line on Hearst's first touchdown run. There was solid blocking all around by this unit, both in the running and passing games, where Garcia was sacked only once. Bottom line: Unit played big role in game by winning battle in the trenches.






Where's the pass rush? The Niners have one sack in their last three games, and didn't get any Sunday, even though Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck dropped back to pass 55 times. With tackle Dana Stubblefield out with the stomach flu, the starting front four of Andre Carter, Bryant Young, Jim Flanigan and Chike Okeafor combined for only seven tackles. John Engelberger contributed one of his best plays of the year chasing down Hasselbeck on third down and forcing Seattle to punt near midfield. Bottom line: Weak effort by unit contributed to Seattle's big offensive output.





Julian Peterson made a huge play by chasing down receiver Darrell Jackson in the open field and knocking the ball loose at San Francisco's 6-yard line when Seattle was in a comeback mode. That prevented a touchdown that could have been pivotal, considering the Seahawks' rally in the fourth quarter. Peterson had a game-high 10 tackles and also knocked down a pass in another sterling individual effort. Derek Smith also made some fine plays both against the run and in pass coverage and finished with seven tackles. Bottom line: Peterson shines with another star-quality performance to lift unit.





Safety Tony Parrish had a fantastic two-play sequence in the third quarter, when he rocked Hasselbeck on a blitz, then batted a pass in the air on the next play, making a diving interception and lifting himself up for a 19-yard return to set up San Francisco's third touchdown. Mike Rumph allowed some typical big-play receptions – including a 36-yard touchdown reception – but also forced a fumble and had seven tackles and three passes defensed. Jason Webster allowed several big plays, and top cover corner Ahmed Plummer was flagged for holding and was beaten on a series of inside slants. Plummer also had a shot at three interceptions but couldn't hold on to either of them. The Niners needed Rashad Holman's interception to seal the victory. Bottom line: Big plays made negated big plays allowed. Parrish came up huge in his best game in two months.




Jimmy Williams was going to break one sooner or later. And when he did, it was a thing of spectacular beauty. His 89-yard jaunt to the end zone was San Francisco's first punt return for a touchdown since 1998, and Williams clearly is becoming a force on special teams, where he also contributed on coverage units that were solid. Jeff Chandler made all of his placement kicks for the second consecutive week since becoming the team's kicker, but he did have a kickoff go out of bounds. Bottom line: Williams' big play ended up being the difference in the game.




The Niners caused Seattle some problems on offense in the early going with some effective blitz packages. And San Francisco's offense controlled the tempo by pounding at Seattle's weak rush defense. But the team's latest fourth-quarter flop had to have something to do with coaching. Everything the Niners built with a 31-10 lead almost was demolished during Seattle's late 14-point rally, and the coaches really needed to come up with something to help their players do something about it. Bottom line: The win was nice, but the same old fourth-quarter problems surfaced once again on both sides of the ball. The Niners should have some answers for them by now.












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