SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers were down by a point and in desperate need of a big play late in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks.
So naturally they turned to running back Frank Gore, who has made a habit of coming up big against the Seahawks.
On first-and-10 from the 49ers' 31, Gore bolted off left tackle, cut back against the grain and raced 51 yards to the Seahawks' 18.
Seven plays later, Phil Dawson kicked his fourth field of the game, a 22-yarder with 26 seconds left, lifting the 49ers to a 19-17 victory.
"I kind of knew that (safety Earl Thomas), he's so fast going to the ball, I kind of knew he was going to overrun it," said Gore, who rushed for 110 yards on 17 carries. "So I kind of set him up outside. Because he's so aggressive."
The 49ers (9-4) took another huge step in their playoff push, snapped their two-game losing streak to the Seahawks (11-2) and prevented Seattle from clinching the NFC West at Candlestick Park.
Gore has rushed for 1,364 yards against Seattle, his most against any opponent in his career. He set a 49ers' single-game rushing record with 212 yards against the Seahawks on Nov. 19, 2006, but his 51-yard run Sunday was arguably his most important against Seattle.
The Seahawks still own a two-game lead in the NFC West with three to play, but the 49ers remained in the lead for the NFC's second wild-card spot. What's more, the 49ers gained some confidence against a Seattle team they could well see again in the postseason at CenturyLink Field, where they've lost the past two games by a combined score of 71-16.
"If we keep doing our thing and they keep doing their thing, no question," Gore said. "They're a great team, and we're a great team.
"We play well on the road. How we go about it in the season, we go by quarters. It's the fourth quarter now. We want to be that team going to get to that next level, trying to get that (Lombardi) trophy. You got to take the north direction. This is a big win. We're taking small steps. We still got a lot to learn. But that 's a good thing. We beat a good team like Seattle and we're still not playing our best ball. That's great."
What the Seahawks said
"I don't know if it was their Super Bowl, but they played a great game. You've got to give them a lot of credit. They made the plays to win the game. We definitely wanted to win, but we came up a little short. But like coach (Pete Carroll) said, we still have our goals in front of us. It was a tough loss, but we'll lick our wounds, look at film tomorrow, move past it and get ready for the Giants." -- DE Red Bryant.
What the 49ers said
"It was a big win against a really big opponent. They have a very solid team and with the way they've beaten us the last two times up in their place, this kind of felt like this was a must-win game for us." -- LT Joe Staley, on the 49ers' 19-17 victory against Seattle.
What we learned about the Seahawks
1. They aren't about to let a tough loss to the 49ers derail their strong push toward the Super Bowl. After the game, the 11-2 Seahawks quickly refocused on the road ahead. "You never let games like this define you, because they don't," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. "We are just going to get back to work and get ready for the next opponent." The Seahawks face the New York Giants on the road next week then finish with home games against Arizona and St. Louis.
2. The Seahawks can't afford to play flag football against quality opponents like the 49ers and teams they'll face in the playoffs. Seattle was flagged nine times for 85 yards Sunday in a two-point loss to San Francisco, many of those penalties coming against their aggressive defensive backs. Cornerback Richard Sherman said Seattle was hit by "some questionable calls on third down," but it's up to the Seahawks to sharpen up their play before the postseason arrives.
What we learned about the 49ers
1. The 49ers defense is in playoff form with three games left to get even sharper before the postseason. They held Seattle to just 17 points and 264 net yards on offense. In their past six games, they've held opponents to an average of 12.2 points. "Just running and hitting, hitting and running. Competing," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of his defense's performance Sunday. "That's a very tough offense. Their run game and just their weapons and the way the quarterback (Russell Wilson) moves around, it's tough to contain. To hold them to 17 points is a really great accomplishment."
2. Opposing defenses should prepare to face a larger dose of designed runs from quarterback Colin Kaepernick down the stretch. Last season, Kaepernick killed opposing defenses with his speed, gaining huge chunks of yardage on read-option plays. Kaepernick hasn't run nearly as often this season, but against Seattle, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman sprinkled in a few more read-option plays and also used Kaepernick on a quarterback draw and a QB sweep.