My pre-game expectations included the following: San Francisco's running game was a well-oiled machine ready to dominate. Their defensive front seven too talented and aggressive to allow the Seahawks offense time to execute plays. Our offensive line, featuring another young backup at left tackle, would suffer the same fate as last year's line and as a result Matt Hasselbeck would again be running for his life in a game the Seahawks could not win.
Boy was I wrong.
Game Ball #1: Seahawks Defensive Front Seven
Yes, all of them. Bradley and Quinn used all their active linemen to help win this game: Bryant, Mebane, Cole, Clemons, Brock, Davis, Siavii, Balmer, and Curry (who moved to DE in the dime package throughout the fourth quarter). Tatupu and Hawthorne were everywhere.
When they won their game ball:
11:19 first quarter, SF third-and-goal at Seattle 6: DEs Clemons and Davis both collase on Alex Smith who bolts a rushed dump-off pass to Frank Gore. Gore is immediately met by Kelly Jennings at the LOS. 49ers settle for FG.
14:21 second quarter, SF ball on Seattle 7: SF offense overstocks right, matched by Curry, Bryant, Cole, and Siavii. Brandon at RDE. SF interior linemen converge on Mebane, driving him to the ground and opening a hole off left tackle. Hawthorne and Tatupu fill and meet Gore at the LOS.
13:41 second quarter, SF fourth-and-inches at Seattle 5: FB Brad Norris gets behind LB David Hawthorne at the goal line. Tatupu and Clemons rush from Smith's left. Smith's hurried pass wobbles over Norris' head and out of reach. Fail. Seahawks ball.
7:20 second quarter, SF third-and-goal at Seattle 5: Siavii and Cole stand SF's interior linemen straight up while Mebane, at end, submarines a double team block in front of FB Norris, who is quickly met by Tatupu and Kam Chancellor at the LOS. A dejected SF settles for another FG.
49ers had the ball inside of the Seahawks 10-yard line THREE TIMES during the first half. Result = 6 points.
Game Ball #2: Matt Hasselbeck
When he won it: 2:34 second quarter, Seattle ball on SF 1 yard line: Hasselbeck calls his own number and runs a naked bootleg wide around left end, pursued by SF LB LaBoy to the goal line. Hasselbeck dives headfirst toward the pylon and scores. In game two last year, Hasselbeck's scramble and head-first dive ended his season as another SF linebacker drove his shoulder into Hass' back. A quarterback must have a short memory for such things, and Hass proved he does by throwing caution to the wind and daring his opponent to stop him. Undeterred. Unafraid. Still a winner.
Game Ball #3: The 12th Man
Props to all my friends in our south end zone and throughout Qwest Field on Sunday. The south end zone is where the 49ers came to die repeatedly in the second quarter. SF offensive linemen froze in their tracks each time the 12th Man roared. The Seahawks eleven defenders took advantage of these opportunities, every one of them. If the 12th Man ever earned his title, it was on September 12th, 2010.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Polumbus
Most of us Seahawk fans thought Tyler, or Troy, had no business playing left tackle on Sunday, and had no business challenging Justin Smith's right to enter Seattle's offensive backfield. Tyler Polumbus did not get the blocking help used to assist Manny Wrotto during the preseason, yet Tyler allowed a 49er to lay a hand on Matt Hasselbeck exactly once in four quarters of play. Tyler Polumbus has been a Seahawk for exactly two weeks, yet he is the one tackle on the team who has truly earned his roster spot.
Honorable Mention: Pete Carroll and Jeremy Bates
As Pete Carroll took the field with his team, I watched and wondered if they had all truly "bought in", and after today, would they still be in? While watching the team leave the field at halftime, their QB pumping his fist in the air and enjoying a 14-6 lead, I imagined the locker room Carroll would now be commanding: all eyes would be on their leader; everyone bought in. There can be no doubt that Carroll now has his players fully on board.
Carroll brought his team prepared to win every facet of the game. He brought a team prepared to stop Frank Gore, frustrate Alex Smith, create turnovers, create mismatches, and capitalize on opportunities. Jeremy Bates brought an offensive game plan full of surprises. He lined up three TEs on the right side of his offense in the third quarter, drawing coverage away from Deion Branch as Branch caught the Hawk's fourth TD. And, in perhaps his boldest move, and with full knowledge that the 49ers had hit and injured his QB exactly twelve months ago, Bates sent that QB back into battle on a naked bootleg to put his foot on the throat of his rivals, and announce this is a brand-new season.
Booby Prize: Mike Singletary
The 49ers leader brought to Qwest Field a team that had read their own press clippings. They believed Seattle could not score on a San Francisco defense. They believed they simply needed to control the ball to win the game. When that game plan began to fail, Singletary and his quarterback stared blankly into the open angry maw of Qwest's 12th Man, looking completely lost.
This 49ers Fan summed things up as only a loser can:
Seahawks 31 49ers 6 (via AnTh0NyV93)