Purdy and the 49ers edged past the Seahawks to take the NFC West
SEATTLE — The San Francisco 49ers captured the NFC West with a 21-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. Rookie Brock Purdy, the Niners’ third starting quarterback of the season, led the team to a big win over the divisional four-day rival after defeating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first NFL start.
Purdy had two touchdowns, while Christian McCaffrey ran back for another after the Seahawks lost to a fumble. San Francisco’s defense kept quarterback Geno Smith and the Seahawks’ offense out of the end zone into the last minute of the game.
While the Niners would continue to battle for playoff seeding in the NFC, the Seahawks’ playoff chances plummeted after the loss. The Seahawks have lost four of their last five games and face the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets in the next two weeks.
San Francisco 49ers
For the second time in four years, the 49ers won the NFC West division.
And now the fun begins.
The Seahawks have long been a thorn in the side of the Niners, especially at Lumen Field. But the Niners, led by another excellent performance from McCaffrey, beat their most troubled foe with relative ease Thursday night to extend their winning streak to seven games.
At 10-4 and 5-0 in the NFC West division, the Niners cannot afford to lose to the No. 1 seed. 3 in the NFC postseason drawing, meaning coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff will have a bit of a balancing act to make in the final three weeks of the season.
In theory, the Niners could still catch the Philadelphia Eagles for the No.1 overall position, but realistically, they’re unlikely to jump any higher than the No.2 spot. As it stands, the 10-3 Minnesota Vikings are half a game ahead of them but with an 8-2 record in the NFC, the Niners have a potential tiebreaker if they finish with the same record as Minnesota.
Shanahan, who is no stranger to serious injuries, could opt to manage the workload of several key players over the past three weeks. But he probably won’t as long as the No. 2 it plays. What’s more, Purdy could use as many shots as possible before starting his first playoff run.
For now, the Niners can enjoy a “mini bye” before their Christmas Eve game with the Washington Commanders and celebrate another division title at Seattle’s home stadium.
QB details: Purdy is listed as questionable with rib and oblique injuries this week, but it will be hard to tell from his performance against the Seahawks. With McCaffrey in the lead, Shanahan plotted some easy quests for Purdy to end George Kittle and Purdy was once again largely poised and on target.
He went 17-of-26 for 217 yards with two scores and no interceptions for a passer rating of 117.0. He also became the second rookie quarterback in franchise history to win his first two starts, joining Scott Bull around 1976.
Promising trend: Kittle remains an integral part of the Niners offense as always, but he doesn’t appear in the bait game as often as he did a few years ago. He finished with four catches for 93 yards with two scores on Thursday night. With receiver Deebo Samuel nursing a sprained left knee and ankle, the Niners need Kittle to produce more and offer a complement to McCaffrey. Thursday night is a step in the right direction.
Important games: The Niners controlled the game for most of the first half but struggled to extend their lead, apparently leaving the door open for Seattle to leapfrog in front before halftime. With the Seahawks moving the ball late in the second quarter, running back Travis Homer caught a short pass and looked for space in the open field before he was hit by cornerback Jimmie Ward. Niners linebacker Dre Greenlaw rallied soon after, releasing the ball. San Francisco cornerback Charvarius Ward recovered it and rushed 40 yards to Seattle’s 6-yard line, and McCaffrey scored two games later to make it 14-3 and effectively put the game to rest.
Next game: vs. Commander (4:05 p.m. ET, Dec. 24)
That showed in Week 2, when the Seahawks were held without an offensive point in a 27-7 loss to the 49ers in Santa Clara.
That’s been even clearer in recent weeks, when the 49ers widened their lead in the NFC West by knocking out opponents while the Seahawks lost three of four, all for a team with a worse record than theirs.
And on Thursday night at Lumen Field, it was no longer seen how big the gap suddenly became between the Seahawks and their once-owned divisional rival. Facing a third string quarterback who didn’t have his best offensive weapon in Samuel, the Seahawks watched the 49ers take the NFC West in their building.
The Seahawks are still a team on the rise. They have a strong young core and a 2023 draft capital load, including what could be a top five pick thanks to trade Russell Wilson. And they are still in playoff contention, with the same number of wins as the two teams currently occupying the NFC wild card spot, the New York Giants and Commanders.
But they got another reminder Thursday night about how far they have to catch the 49ers. And while they have a bit of a goodbye to lick their wounds, it won’t get any easier with a 10-3 clash against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Christmas Eve.
QB details: Smith fared as well as you could hope for under very difficult circumstances. He was already facing the NFL’s best defense with a tough running game, and when the Seahawks trailed deep at the start, they were forced into pitching mode against a rush of loaded passes. Smith completed 31 of 44 passes for 238 yards and a late touchdown pass to Noah Fant. He also threw a pick-six which was dispensed with a iffy penalty.
Important games: Late in the second quarter, with the Seahawks trailing 7-3, safety Quandre Diggs was in the perfect position to throw Purdy down the middle. But instead of the interception that left Seattle in good field position, the ball bounced off Diggs’ hands, leading to a punt that put the Seahawks at their own 19-yard line. Four games later, Homer lost to a fumble so the 49ers recovered and returned to the 6-yard line, scoring an easy touchdown. Diggs was a Pro Bowl selection in each of the last two seasons, but has not played at that level this year.
Disturbing trend: The Seahawks have now allowed at least 150 rushing yards in five straight games, the biggest way in which their defense has regressed to its early season form after a promising turnaround. The 49ers scored 170 of 34 tries. And while the Seahawks did a decent job – by their standards, at least – to keep McCaffrey from ramming them most of the night, they left Jordan Mason free for a game-enhancing 55-yard advantage. far. McCaffrey finished with 108 yards on 26 attempts.
Next game: at Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 24)