49ers 26, Seahawks 21: Grades

Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister (48) is stopped just short of the goal line by San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw, left, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. The 49ers won 26-21. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The 49ers took ownership of the NFC West and earned a first-round bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs with a last-second, one-inch victory over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night. Here are the 49ers’ grades:

GAROPPOLO: A. He never had played in a game this important or on a stage this big, but the stage wasn’t too big for him. He played like he’d been on that stage dozens of times, like Seattle’s CenturyLink Field was just any other stadium. Garoppolo was deadly accurate — he completed a gaudy 82 percent of his throws. But most importantly, he made zero bad plays. He seemed like a veteran quarterback who can win a Super Bowl this season.

RUNNING BACKS: A. Just when people had forgotten about Kyle Juszczyk, he caught a 49-yard pass. Wonderful player. Raheem Mostert didn’t start, but he led the 49ers in carries, averaged 5.7 yards per rush and scored two touchdowns. Mostert now has scored eight touchdowns in the past six games. He’s a big reason the 49ers’ offense became elite the second half of the season. Without Mostert, the 49ers might not have a running game. Starter Tevin Coleman gained just 11 yards on five carries.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A-MINUS. Deebo Samuel is a fantastic athlete. He had 102 receiving yards, averaged a whopping 20.4 yards per catch and scored a 30-yard touchdown run. Samuel, Mostert and George Kittle are Garoppolo’s three best weapons. Samuel could become an elite wide receiver if he improves his hand-eye coordination and ball security. He fumbled once against the Seahawks, but recovered the ball. Veteran Emmanuel Sanders had just 25 receiving yards. He has become a bit of an afterthought in the offense the past few weeks.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B-MINUS. They blocked well in the run game and allowed just two sacks. But late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, backup center Ben Garland committed a silly personal foul after a play and cost the 49ers 15 yards and an opportunity to run out the clock. That mistake almost cost the 49ers the game.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B. Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead all played extremely hard and made positive impacts on the game. They’re terrific players. Still, the 49ers pass rush was mostly non-existent. This defense needs a rest in the worst way. Fortunately for the 49ers, they just earned a week off.

LINEBACKERS: B. They struggled to defend Seahawks speedy running back Travis Homer, who averaged 6.2 yards per carry. But they held Marshawn Lynch to 2.8 yards per carry, and rookie Dre Greenlaw was the defensive player of the game. He recorded a game-high 13 tackles and sealed the victory with a clutch, violent tackle at the one-inch line with just a few seconds left. The 49ers would have lost had Greenlaw missed that tackle.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: C-PLUS. They limited Russell Wilson to just 5.8 yards per passing attempt, which is excellent pass defense. But one cornerback, Ahkello Witherspoon, almost sabotaged this group’s grade and the 49ers’ season. The Seahawks picked on him relentlessly and he gave up two touchdown catches, meaning he was directly responsible for 14 of the 21 points the 49ers gave up. The 49ers benched him for the final drive and replaced him with Emmanuel Moseley, who made a clutch pass breakup in the end zone. Moseley should remain the starter throughout the playoffs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Robbie Gould made both of his field-goal attempts, including a 47-yarder. The game certainly wasn’t too big for him. But it may have been too big for rookie Mitch Wishnowsky, who booted a kickoff out of bounds in the fourth quarter and gave the Seahawks the ball at their 40-yard line.

COACHES: A. They beat the freaking Seahawks in Seattle. Huge accomplishment. Kyle Shanahan proved there is no blueprint to stopping his offense. If you try to take away his running game and make his offense one-dimensional, it can beat you passing. And you can’t take away his running game, because Mostert is too good. Robert Saleh continued to get the most out of his tired, banged up defense, which came up clutch on the final drive. Saleh and Shanahan stuck with Witherspoon too long, but they benched him before he could single-handedly lose the game, and they get credit for that. The 49ers now have the inside track to the Super Bowl and they earned it. Respect.

This article has 58 Comments

  1. People are talking about PI in the endzone on the last Seattle drive and while there may be a point there, the unnecessary roughness call on Garland when he was just blocking downfield because he couldn’t hear the whistle was huge. That essentially took a possession away from the niners when they had just given up a TD and wanted to respond with some points. Seattle could not stop the 49ers offense otherwise.

    1. And that PI call on Williams the possession before was a joke. both guys hand jockeying down the field. That was on a 3rd down. Seattle should’ve been punting. Instead they scored a TD

    2. And who on the field could have heard the whistle? The Refs did their best to give the game to the Seatooters but failed D- for the refs.

    3. the NFL said that they actually reviewed the play….

      “Well, we actually looked at it here in New York,” Riveron told pool reporter Tim Booth of The Seattle Times. “We had a great look. NBC gives us a great look of the entire route. So, we actually did perform a review, but based on what we saw, we didn’t see enough to stop the game. But we did review it.

      “What we see is, we see the offensive player come in and initiate contact on the defensive player — nothing that rises to the level of a foul which significantly hinders the defender, nothing that is clear and obvious through visual evidence, which hinders the defender. The defender then braces himself. And there is contact by the defender on the receiver. Again, nothing which rises to the level of a foul based on visual evidence. Nothing happens that rises to the level of a foul while the ball is in the air before it gets there by either player.”

    4. I predicted a 24-21 win in a struggle. These two teams are evenly matched. Bad call on Garland. We lost to Atlanta by inches and stole one in a brilliant tackle by Greenlaw. gREAT draft pick!

    5. Strat Mosely. Duh. We have known that for over a month. The Spoon nearly lost this game by himself. Thomas did nothing. If we can trade him over the offseason, we need to do ti. Just a total first-round bust.

  2. #1 SEED …. Booyah!

    What a crazy ride this season has been! Now go get some much needed rest, Niners, you’ve earned it. In fact, my heart needs a rest, and I feel like I’ve earned it as well!

    GO Niners!

  3. I thought the PI on K’wan Willians late in the game that kept a Seat TD drive alive was total bunk. Im not hear any Seattle fans talk about that.

  4. That personal foul penalty on Garland was a joke. He had no idea the play ended or was it because he went low to the knees?

  5. The call on Garland was a joke… Everyone but Grant sees it. Meanwhile the offense will need to continue to carry the load… the defense has been a liability the last 6 games and Saleh failed to see Moseley should have retained his spot when Witherspoon got healthy. Saleh hardly inspires confidence though I would love for him to prove me wrong.

  6. Stat of the night (ode to Jack Hammer):

    Total Plays:

    Seattle- 71
    San Francisco- 48

    With a disadvantage like that you’d think the defense would be gassed late.

  7. Hey people, is it just me or do other fans rate the officials. As soon as I saw the head official I told my wife we’re in trouble. The game last week was some great refereeing. If you can’t remember the refereeing last week that’s because it was good.
    The head referee should be in control at all times he should seek out opinions of other referees before awarding the penalty. The top refs in the league do this. The call on Garland was complete BS and the head ref should have at least sought out a second opinion. The pass interference on Williams was marginal at best. A ref should be taught to hold his flag on certain types of penalties that can be challenged.
    That crew is not the worst crew however those two calls kept Seattle in the game. Having said that if the Saleh could call a better game defensively The niners should have won by 10. Just Saying, Also over my many years I have noticed certain teams at home seem to get good calls.. Seattle, Green Bay and New Orleans come to mind. The call last year in the NFC championship with New Orleans was a missed call, not a bad call. It was terrible but the referee never threw the flag.

    1. Perfect call Hammer.
      I’m screaming… THE STAND TWO!

      Razor…. you hit it on the head, and I agreed whole heartedly.
      Clowney got owned!

      Grant I gotta day Saleh got out schemed in the second half.. tired or not they shut down Seattle in the first half, and got torched in the second. I knew Pettey would come out and make adjustments.
      Horrible second half calls on defense.
      Coaching deserves a B because of Saleh.
      And Shanny with the timeout on the 3 rd down was horrific.
      Wasted a timeout when they picked up the 3rd down anyways. That could have cost them had Seattle scored.
      Yeah I’m nitpicking, but that will not be good for SF in the playoffs.

      I’m happy but just keeping it real.

    2. Irish-American coach (first season 2-14, second season a few more wins), Italian-American QB, stable of running backs by committee. I remember being lambasted before the season started by making those comparisons.

  8. JimmyG is 100% comfortable in this offense…..nobody can stop this..

    In other news….its really not that hard to come up with a defensive scheme to shut down a #1 WR on ONE drive…how come Saleh scks at this…

  9. This one really could have gone either way in the end, plenty of calls that could have gone differently and the delay of game was huge, but the 49ers deserved the win.

    Great effort to get the #1 seed. Now its time to heal and rest up, and get focused for second round of the playoffs.

  10. With all the references to heart attacks after such a nail biter, I would like to urge the “slightly” older Niner fans to have their blood pressure checked and if it’s high, go see a doctor. I had my BP checked a few years back and it was “unexpectedly” high. I had no idea because I didnt feel anything different. I’m on medication now and everything’s under control…and believe me I needed my meds tonight!

  11. Here is a look at the 49ers’ opponents for next season:

    Philadelphia Eagles – W
    Washington – W
    Buffalo Bills – L
    Miami Dolphins – W
    Green Bay Packers – W
    *Arizona Cardinals – W
    *L.A. Rams – W
    *Seattle Seahawks – W

    Dallas Cowboys – W
    N.Y. Giants – W
    New England Patriots – W
    N.Y. Jets – W
    New Orleans Saints – L
    *Arizona – L
    *L.A. Rams – W
    *Seattle – W

  12. Pass rush was non-existent? Which game did you watch? Pass rush is more than just sacks. I saw Wilson under pressure all game. More than half the time he rabbited out of it, extended the play and made a good throw. But his timing was thrown off of his initial reads and he was even tackled for a couple yard gain (Bosa, Armstead and some of the linebackers did a great job of limiting Wilson’s damage scrambling).

    Most of the pressure came from the edges. The question I have: were the interior tackles told to control their blockers inside in order to limit Wilson’s inside running lanes?

  13. Not that Saleh is great but the last D call was not bad at all….

    The Sea RB was meant to pull Greenlaw from the middle of the field to the sideline…..but the Zone under man call had the DB switch from WR to cover under which pulled him To the RB….#20 FS takes the WR .. …allowing Greenlaw to stay put in the middle…..which helped because Warner lost his man on the slant…

    Not a bad call to prevent an underneath pass…you need smart LB’ s to stay disciplined……

  14. Oh and go back and look at their first TD.
    Not only was Wilson over the line eh emm ball was over the line, but it was a delay of game too.
    Niners finally best Wilson and Carrol in Seattle and the refs.
    They were horrible tonight

    1. Ball was over the line, but the announcers were saying the rule is that the entire body has to be over the line. He had one foot just barely behind the line. Seems stupid actually. In most cases, it’s where the ball is – why should this be any different?

      1. Pretty much lol. That dude is the biggest pu$$y on the team and only his 3rd pick investment is keeping him on an NFL roster. What a waste.

        I used to feel bad for him given his awful story re: his sister but it seems like he’s sort of hiding behind that tragedy as a bit of an excuse. This year he supposedly looked completely different in training camp… and then… same old Solly.

  15. Always love reading these Grant. Thank you! The only thing I thought differently on was the Emanuel Sanders “afterthought” comment. They came out targeting him on the very first passing plays. It seemed like he was their first thought and that helped open up other things. =)

    1. He’s not an afterthought. Kyle is very calculating. And he goes with his gut a lot. If he loses confidence in you or feels that you’re not playing up to snuff, he just won’t give you a chance until you get back in his good graces.
      Sanders seems to be playing a little tentatively since his injury. Yesterday he missed on an uncontested catch that was low, but very catchable. As a veteran leader, you have to make those.
      The week before he catches the bomb but doesn’t keep his feet under him and falls over with no one laying a hand on him. He really should have scored there. Actually it worked out better for the Niners that he didn’t, because they got to run out the clock. But imagine the outcry if Gould had missed the field goal. It was no sure thing. Gould has missed an extra point recently.
      I think Shanahan knows exactly what he’s doing. it’s his subtle way of telling Sanders to shape up without saying anything directly to him.
      Right now, Shanahan’ s inner circle is Kittle, Deebo and Mostert. He trusts those guys. He’ll pitch in Juschek as a change up maybe. Sanders used to be part of the inner circle; right now he’s not so much.
      I think Kyle will get him to heal up these next two weeks, see how he looks in practice. Probably give him a couple of shots early in the next game to see how he looks and then go off that.
      Just my sense. Look what how he’s handled Pettis. Once his favorite hand-picked WR. Now . . . nowhere. He’s about to do the same the Witherspoon. Breida has been in his doghouse too. he’s given him a couple of shots recently to see how he reacts. Breida played a lot more violently this last game; he knows the score.

  16. Grant, not so sure an “A” for coaching is accurate. End of the 2nd quarter 9ers could have drove for a field goal with. Maybe more aggressive play for a number 1 seed playoff spot. Beginning of the 3rd quarter, appeared the offense was not engaged and went 3 and out. Aggressive play should have been focus, apteral playing for number 1 seed. Defense kept getting torched by number 25 in second half with no adjustments. Finally, should have gone for for it on 4th down with 3 minutes left in game. Would not have mattered at that point Seattle got the ball on 9ers 30 or Seahawks 30, at that point SEA was at will with our defense. Coaches got lucky with a stop.

    B plus or A minus

  17. I called out during the game that the play clock had gone down to “0” before Russell Wilson scrambled and eventually through the ball across the line of scrimmage. The announcers stated that the rule is that his whole body has to be over the line and the replay showed one of his legs still behind the line. The principal behind this rule is simple! It would be very difficult for the officials to be able to tell with consistency whether or not the “ball” is over the line, but much easier to tell if the whole body is over the line. It sounds dumb and stupid, but as long as both teams are held to the same standard its one of those calls that sometimes goes against you ( like last night ) or works for you.

  18. It’s funny. Niners get into playoffs, Grant switches sides and is all positives. WHAT A BANDWAGONER. Watch start of the season he will be a hawks fan all over again.I would no be surprised if he went out and bought his first niners Jersey, just to show he has been faithful this whole time. Straight up punk B@#$h

  19. Congrats to 49ers. Could have gone either way. No excuses. Jimmy G played better than I expected. Wilson not so well the first half. Rubber match in 2 weeks unless Vikings win. 49ers Hawks winner going to SB,Good luck.

  20. Silly penalty on Ben Garland? He was downfield blocking and anticipated the running back to follow. Garland could not hear the whistle and continued to block only a second or two after the tackle. Silly to me is a provocative call at a crucial time. There was no foul but a call was engineered. That’s silly.

  21. Watching the replay from last night. Locketts and Metacalfes touchdowns, Witherspoon was so out of both plays he should be benched.

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