Who cares that the San Francisco 49ers don't light up the scoreboard or that all four of their losses have come in playoff-like atmospheres?
The Niners answered a bell that needed answering in their gutsy 19-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14. Sure, the previous two victories over the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams were important to getting back on track after the two brutal losses before that.
But more than that, and more than any statistical metric, the 49ers needed to show they could win a game playing the same formula of football they rode to the Super Bowl appearance last season.
That's what Sunday proved. You could not blame the Seahawks had they coasted into Candlestick knowing the division was probably iced up. But they did not; this was a chippy game between two teams that genuinely dislike each other. The Seahawks came into town looking to stomp out the 49ers, and they clearly felt they could do it.
Instead, the 49ers took every Seahawks blow, parried and went back on the attack. They were the tone setters in this game, and yet they were able to overcome three deficits and finish the game on their terms, with the ball in their hands.
The 49ers' defense was outstanding all Sunday, holding the Seahawks to 264 yards, 13 first downs and only two plays longer than nine yards after halftime. But it was the offense that finished the game off against perhaps the league's best defense.
The final drive was a thing of beauty that meshed the diverse skills of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the resiliency of the 49ers' offensive line, the playmaking of Michael Crabtree, the play calling of Jim Harbaugh and the grit and will of Frank Gore. Especially the latter. That was what got the Niners to New Orleans in February, and Sunday's victory is a reminder that you can't overlook them, especially in a season that will feature cold-weather Super Bowl for the first time.
Kaepernick was the maestro, and Gore was first chair. Gore's 51-yard run flipped the field after the 49ers started the drive on their own 20-yard line with 6:20 remaining, but his other four carries (which netted 5 yards) helped tenderize a beat-up Seahawks defense. And Kaepernick and Harbaugh were in perfect harmony when the 49ers took off another two minutes-plus with a beautiful QB sweep on third-and-7 down to the Seattle 7-yard line.
Who calls that play anyway? And who can convert it in that situation?
The 49ers can. And they proved that they will be a loud out in the playoffs, even if it means going back to the scenes of the crimes of previous losses this season at New Orleans or at Seattle. This is a more dangerous and hungry 49ers team than a month ago. As last season proved, timing is everything in this matter.
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