The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks kicked off NFL Wild Card Weekend with a clash between NFC West rivals. After beating the Seahawks twice in the regular season, San Francisco finished off the three-game sweep to advance to the Divisional Round.
Running backs stole the show early. Christian McCaffrey turned his first two touches into 71 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, pushing the 49ers out to a 10-0 lead. Seattle’s rookie Kenneth Walker III responded, rumbling for 41 yards on nine carries including his first playoff touchdown to make it a 10-7 game.
It proved to be a closer game than anyone expected for three quarters. Thanks to DK Metcalf and some mistakes by the 49ers’ defensive backs, Seattle scored 17 second-quarter points and nearly tied it before a strip sack in the red zone flipped things in San Francisco’s favor and it spiraled into a fourth-quarter explosion.
The turnover is all the 49ers needed. They promptly turned it into a seven-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that put the game out of reach. Everyone expected San Francisco to handle its business in the Wild Card Round and that’s precisely what happened.
Let’s dive into the winners and losers from the 49ers’ decisive win over Seattle.
Winner: Christian McCaffrey is a game-changer
One of the best players in the NFL is back. We knew that before Saturday – McCaffrey eclipsing 1,200 scrimmage yards in 11 games with San Francisco – but his performance against Seattle highlighted it further. On his 68-yard run in the first quarter, McCaffrey’s top speed of 20.8 mph was his fastest recorded since 2019.
The All-Pro offensive weapon did it all, rushing for 100 yards and tacking on a receiving touchdown. McCaffrey might’ve had two total touchdowns had San Francisco challenged the ruling on the field. Even without it, he makes big plays with the football in his hands and his mere presence without it influences what the defense does.
Loser: Wards’ mistakes nearly cost San Francisco 49ers
Blunders are a lot easier to forget when the team wins, but Charvarius Ward and Jimmie Ward left defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans with a lot to critique in the film room next week. San Francisco’s No. 1 corner was taken to school by Metcalf, allowing a 50-yard touchdown and then getting beat by multiple steps repeatedly the rest of the way.
While getting beat in one-on-one matchups is bad, unforced errors are what drive coaches crazy. San Francisco was poised to take a 16-14 lead into halftime. All of that changed when Jimmie Ward threw himself into Geno Smith after he slid, drawing a 15-yard penalty with 9 seconds remaining. Seattle immediately took advantage, kicking a 56-yard field goal to take a 17-16 lead.
Winner: DK Metcalf gets redemption, ends season strong
On an afternoon when so many things went wrong for Seattle, outside of the second quarter, Metcalf provided fans with reasons to celebrate. Facing one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, the 6-foot-4 wideout rebounded from two poor showings in the regular season vs San Francisco with one of his best games of the season.
In his previous two matchups against the 49ers’ secondary, Metcalf compiled just 90 receiving yards on 15 targets. He made it clear from the jump that he wouldn’t be bottled up again, turning Ward around on a 50-yard touchdown. Metcalf later showed remarkable concentration on a clutch third-down grab and finished with just his third 100-yard game of the season.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks run defense falls flat again
Seattle always matched up poorly against San Francisco. Not only do the 49ers boast one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL with arguably the best running back in football, but they also have one of the best strategists we’ve ever seen.
- San Francisco 49ers rushing stats (Wild Card): 181 rushing yards, 5.5 yards per carry
The Seahawks allowed three opponents to rush for 200 yards during the regular season, with four other instances of their opponents eclipsing 170 rushing yards. In an era when NFL teams average 4.5 yards per carry, Seattle finished the season with 12 of its 19 opponents averaging at least 4.8 ypc. It’s not hard to see what weakness the Seahawks’ front office must address this offseason.