The 49ers and Seahawks traded scores early and personal fouls late in a sloppy 28-16 win for San Francisco that set them up for a run at the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
With Dallas beating Philadelphia, if the Niners win out they get the top seed, home field throughout the playoffs, and a bye in the wild-card round. The Niners last had the No. 1 seed in 2019, when they made it to the Super Bowl.
For the first time this season, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk all had over 120 yards of total offense in the same game. McCaffrey and Samuel both went over 150 yards.
Brock Purdy – Purdy threw for a career-high 368 yards, including a 44-yard score to George Kittle, and a perfect deep throw to Deebo Samuel for a 54-yard TD.
Deebo Samuel – Through his first nine games of the season, Samuel had three touchdowns. He has five TDs in his last two games. Deebo is back to his 2021 form.
Deommodore Lenoir – When Charvarius Ward went down with an injury the Niner secondary didn’t miss a beat. Lenoir moved outside and D.K. Metcalf had three targets and no catches after the first quarter. Lenoir had a great interception covering Metcalf taken away by a penalty and had his hands on two other potential picks.
Nick Bosa – He was third on the team in tackles with six, posted 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, and knocked down a pass.
Teams are running out of ways to stop Brock Purdy
Last year Purdy could be stopped by pressure, his completion percentage dropped and he struggled. Philadelphia defensive coordinator Sean Desai flooded the field in the middle to take away favorite routes.
That worked last year, this year Purdy and Kyle Shanahan shifted to short wide throws and carved the Eagles up. Desai blitzed on a third of the Niner dropbacks and Brock was 10-10 for over 200 yards and three TDs.
Seattle’s game plan was to deny the short throws and dare Purdy to beat them deep. Purdy was 6-6 for 225 yards and two TDs on throws over 16 yards.
Defenses that have stopped Purdy have elite playmaking at all three levels, play tight man coverage, have quality across the defensive line to apply consistent pressure, and are led by brilliant defensive coordinators – Jim Schwarz in Cleveland and Brian Flores in Minnesota.
Applying that formula, none of the NFC contenders have that. Philadelphia’s back seven is too slow and Desai is a rookie coordinator. Dallas has one of the league’s best coordinators in Dan Quinn, but they’re vulnerable at linebacker and safety. So the danger to the Niners is in the AFC. Kansas City and Baltimore have the necessary elements.
Kyle Shanahan has learned how to play drums
The thinking used to be that Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel were redundant weapons that did similar things. That was based on the Niners rarely being able to get both going in the same game.
In 2023, Shanahan has figured out how to play all the beats of this offense in jazz improv.
Open with McCaffrey wide left for 72 yards. Deebo slants, Deebo deep. The defense reacts to the gravity of McCaffrey and he pulls defenders away to open passing lanes. Then the defense reacts to Deebo. Then Aiyuk beats man coverage. And just as the defense thinks they can adjust and have it covered, Shanahan goes to Kittle wide-open for another score.
Shanahan has figured out how to optimize all the weapons at once and use them in sequence to set up the next. It’s almost impossible to stop. Too many weapons occupying too much of the field to defend as Shanahan hunts for a weakness within a position group. Deebo and CMC each with 130 yards of total offense against Philly, and each with 150 against Seattle, along with 124 for Aiyuk and 76 and a TD for Kittle.
Purdy’s rapid improvement has been fun to watch. When media talks of 49ers weapons that needs to include Purdy. A more subtle progression is Shanahan, who has called brilliant game plans in the post-bye winning streak and shown growth in making adjustments.
Steve Wilks has done the same thing, he’s figured it out and we see the results. It’s not just the team that’s building up to a peak it’s the coaching staff firing on all cylinders. Chris Foerster on the offensive line has them playing with synchronicity and their execution is greater than the sum of the parts.
The Baltimore game is huge, Bosa as 007?
Not a scoop that the game is high stakes. But now unexpectedly San Francisco and Baltimore have the top seed in each conference and therefore the world to play for Christmas night. The winner will be the Super Bowl favorite.
How do the Niners stop Lamar Jackson the runner? The containment rush worked on Jalen Hurts but Lamar is too fast for that tactic.
One twist in the Seattle game bears watching. Bosa lined up inside a few times. On the first, he went past his man and flushed out Drew Lock for a sack by Clelin Ferrell. On another Bosa stayed at the line of scrimmage as a spy, waited for Lock to rush up the middle then sacked him for a short loss.
A lineman as 007 is an innovative twist from Steve Wilks. Rotating the spy while showing five-man fronts and blitzes may be worth a shot in the next two matchups.