We are witnessing a made-for-Hollywood script unfold in front of our very eyes. The San Francisco 49ers just marched into the stadium where success has eluded them for years and clinched their division in a primetime with their third-string quarterback playing like the future of the franchise.
The same team that once sat at 3-4 following a 21-point loss at home has rattled off seven consecutive victories and ensured they would be no worse than the number three seed in the NFC playoffs after becoming the first team in the league to wrap up their division.
Here are five takeaways from the 49ers’ monumental win over their division rival.
The tide has turned in this rivalry
Given the results of the last decade, it would be difficult for the outside observer to label this as a “rivalry,” given the extremely one-sided nature of dominance the Seahawks have had over that period of time.
Prior to this season, the 49ers were just 3-17 in their last twenty meetings with the Seahawks, winning just one time in their last 11 trips to Seattle. It had been a matchup that has left 49ers fans steeped in misery for over ten years, two games a year that felt like you could circle prior to the season and already chalk them up as losses for San Francisco.
While the last chapter of this rivalry was authored by one-sided success for the Seahawks, these 2022 49ers have officially turned the page and have begun writing a story of their own. For the first time since 2011, the 49ers have swept their regular season series with Seattle, sending an emphatic message that the tide has now turned, and this is their time now.
Not only did the 49ers beat the Seahawks in both games, they absolutely throttled them. The 49ers made a statement with these wins over Seattle this year, letting it be known loud and clear that they are now the team that should be feared in this matchup.
The final exclamation mark on this declaration was their third-string quarterback marching into the house of horrors at Lumen Field and calmly picking apart a Seahawks defense that was essentially fighting for its postseason life in this game.
It’s been a pleasantly surprising season for a Seahawks team that was poised to be in a rebuild after dealing their franchise quarterback, and their efforts this season have been commendable.
But make no mistake about it, these two teams could not be further apart in their current state right now, and what we have seen this season could be the foundation for the 49ers having a dominant run of their own in this heated rivalry.
Nick Bosa joins some elite company
When discussing the 49ers’ outright dominance of the Seahawks this season, the discussion must start with Bosa, who obliterated the Seattle offense in both of their meetings this season. Bosa finished Thursday night’s win with five pressures and a sack, bringing his season totals in two games versus the Seahawks to 12 pressures and three sacks.
Bosa’s sack on Thursday gave him a league-leading 15.5 on the season, but it also earned Bosa a spot in the history books. With that sack, Bosa became just the fifth player in NFL history to record 15 plus sacks in two of their first four seasons in the league. Here are the only other players to accomplish that in NFL history:
Reggie White – Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Richard Dent – Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Andre Tippett – Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
JJ Watt – Active player who is almost assuredly a lock for the Hall of Fame
Four sure fire Hall of fame players, and Nick Bosa. That’s it. That’s the list. While Bosa has a long way to stamp his ticket to Canton, putting himself on a short list with some of the greatest defensive players of all time is a very encouraging start to achieving that goal.
It’s even more impressive when you account for the fact that Bosa has done this while missing almost the entirety of his sophomore campaign after suffering a torn ACL in week two of that season.
Lumen Field brings out the best in George Kittle
Is it the atmosphere in the stadium? Is it the opponent on the other sideline? Whatever the cause may be, we have seen some of the greatest moments of Kittle’s storied career come at the expense of the Seahawks’ defense on their own home turf.
Kittle finished this game with four receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns, making it his second consecutive trip to Seattle with multiple touchdown catches. Here is what Kittle’s numbers look like from some of the 49ers’ recent trips to face off with the Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest.
2022 – 4 receptions/ 93 yards/ 2 touchdowns *
2021 – 9 receptions/ 181 yards/ 2 touchdowns
2019 – 7 receptions/86 yards *
(* denotes a game the 49ers clinched a division title in)
On first review, Pro Football Focus had Kittle with a 93.2 grade in Thursday’s win, which would be tied for the second-highest individual game grade of his career. Remarkably, the three highest-graded games of Kittle’s career have all come on the road against the Seahawks.
2019 – 93.8
2022 – 93.2
2021 – 93.2
The tangible impact of Christian McCaffrey on the 49ers’ rushing attack
Hey, who knew that adding one of the best running backs in the league to your backfield would yank you out of the rut that your rushing attack had been in prior to his arrival? In all seriousness, the addition of McCaffrey has jump-started the 49ers’ ground game in a way that might end up being the thing that ultimately saved their season.
Before McCaffrey arrived, the 49ers ran for over 100 yards in three of the six games they played. Since McCaffrey has been with the team, the 49ers had eclipsed 100 yards in seven of their eight games, with the only exception being when they ran for 96 against New Orleans in Week 12.
Half of those games since McCaffrey arrived had seen the 49ers run for over 150 yards, including Thursday night’s win over Seattle when they amassed 170 yards on the ground. That included 108 from McCaffrey, marking the second consecutive game that the 49ers’ star running back eclipsed 100 yards with a touchdown.
This 49ers’ defense is beyond special
I wanted to end this on a high note, so I saved arguably the best for last. The things that DeMeco Ryans and his defense are doing this season are on par with some of the greatest defenses we have ever seen.
Through 14 games, the 49ers’ defense is allowing 15 points per game, which is the third-lowest total since 2012, trailing only the 2013 Seahawks and 2019 Patriots. They stifled the Seattle offense for the majority of this game, holding them to just 13 points even after conceding a late touchdown with three minutes remaining.
That was the only touchdown the 49ers surrendered to the Seahawks offense in eight quarters of play this season, and it took Seattle 117 of the 120 minutes they were slated to play to find pay dirt in the end zone.
Keep in mind this is a Seahawks offense that boasts a top-ten passing offense while also ranking top 10 in points allowed. The 49ers’ defense held this explosive offense to a paltry 4.7 yards per pass attempt in this game while keeping them out of the end zone until they were down double digits in the waning moments of this game.
This dominant defense has recorded more interceptions (14) than they have conceded passing touchdowns (13). That is unheard of in the wide-open spaces of the modern pass-happy NFL.
In the age of high-profile quarterbacks and explosive offenses lighting up the scoreboard, these 49ers are an ode to the throwback contender, the team built around a dominant defense as the backbone of its high-caliber roster.
Here is where the 49ers’ defense currently ranks in some crucial areas this season:
Points Allowed – 1st
Yards Allowed – 1st
First downs allowed – 1st
Rushing yards per attempt – 1st
Yards per drive allowed – 1st