Max Unger ended the quarter with great block that helped convert the first. It wasn't flashy. Unger did not leave a trail of 49ers in his wake. It was simply good guard play.
Seattle and San Francisco battled to a standstill. Neither team could construct a drive in the third quarter. The 49ers couldn't battle back from bad field position and Seattle stubbornly attempted to establish the run.
In his first two plays, Unger pulled well but missed Takeo Spikes and landed only a glancing blow on Patrick Willis. He engaged and lost Ray McDonald and the drive ended in a three and out.
Unger was even less involved in the next series. He shifted left and controlled his zone, but otherwise did not factor. The play call was a line motion left, bootleg right with a pass to Justin Griffith. Greg Knapp needs the rushing attack to build his playbook off of and Seattle spent much of the game smashing into the pile, hoping Julius Jones could bust free. Unger pulled clean but did not factor on the next play and was beat back but cleared for Matt Hasselbeck. Hsselbeck rushed for four on third and eight.
Seattle completed its third three and out of the quarter before Unger could break a sweat. He occupied the left defensive end, Ray McDonald, and Jones hit the pile for five. He pulled and blocked out Willis and Jones narrowly turned the corner for four. Third and one, and as close to constructing a drive as they would be all quarter, Matt ran what looked like a designed roll out-run. The line moved left and Hasselbeck rolled right, but braced for impact before the first down marker. He didn't have a clear target and didn't want to run, so broke off his roll out and doubled over and dropped his shoulder. Dashon Goldson obliged and brutalized Hasselbeck behind the line.
Plays like this evidence just how desperate Knapp is to establish the run. He shifts the pocket constantly and throws on clear rushing downs, because he is attempting to stretch the linebackers vertically and horizontally -- anything to keep opposing linebackers from crashing the line. It all fails in turns. The deep pass doesn't work. Deion Branch single-matched against Shawntae Spencer turns into a duck dive bombing the left hash mark. Michael Boulware would have been all over that pass. The run doesn't work and so play action rollout passes to the fullback are sniffed out and `sploded. The deep pass and play-action fail, the linebackers continue to crash the line and even good blocks go wasted.
Chris Spencer teamed with Unger to blow back McDonald three yards and allow Spencer to pull and pop the next man in his way. It was a ripping hole that vanished. Jones missed the cutback lane, the cutback lane closed an instant later, and Jones sunk his shoulders and smashed into the pile as he's wont. Willis was credited with the tackle after two. It's a shame for such a pretty block to go wasted, but it's progress. On the next play, Unger was blown back by McDonald and that forced Jones to string the rush wide. Parys Haralson ripped through John Carlson and Jones went wider, and wider until he stepped out for a loss of three. That's on Unger.
It took Seattle until the end of the quarter to achieve a first down. It wasn't pretty. San Francisco blitzed and Gold and Red swarmed the edges of the pocket and threatened to swallow Hasselbeck during his backpedal. While the line caved around him, Unger held strong, standing up McDonald and giving Hasselbeck a crack to step into and find Nate Burleson for 23 and the first.
Now, maybe playing at home gave Unger that split-second needed to win off the snap. Maybe young Unger is growing stronger, or better timing his launch, or has improved his hand-fighting. I don't know. I do know that if Unger can continue holding ground against stouter defensive tackles, continue pulling cleanly, and continue teaming with Spencer to double out the nose tackle, the Seahawks run game could come alive.