49ers rely on defense, Gore in tough win over Seahawks

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49ers rely on defense, Gore in tough win over Seahawks

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers went back to what they do best Thursday night to prevail in what coach Jim Harbaugh called, "A real football fight."And that's something Pete Carroll and Harbaugh saw the same way. Both were in agreement that the game was unusually physically demanding.
"We found ourselves in the midst of a real slugfest here tonight," Carroll said after his Seattle Seahawks lost a 13-6 decision to the 49ers at Candlestick Park.RELATED: Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 13, Seahawks 6
As they often do in such situations, the 49ers relied on a stout defense and running back Frank Gore.The 49ers entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked defense. They only strengthened their hold on the top spot with a performance in which they allowed only 251 total yards and kept an opponent out of the end zone for the third time in four games."They were playing so physically up front," Harbaugh said. "Justin (Smith), Ray (McDonald), Isaac (Sopoaga), Aldon (Smith), thought he had a terrific game. And the two linebackers (Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman) were just outstanding."And then the secondary made some plays -- big pass breakups. It was a real football fight and our guys won it."Quarterback Alex Smith did not have a great night throwing the ball. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The best thing Smith did was to get the 49ers into run plays to maximize Gore's impact behind the 49ers' determined offensive line."(I) thought Alex had a very good game, made really good decisions," Harbaugh said. "He was fantastic for us all night. Really had a perfect game in the run game, and did a great job of getting us into the right play."Gore finished with 131 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with bruised ribs. He said X-rays taken after the game were negative.MAIOCCO: Gore batters Seahawks, absorbs pounding
"We knew coming in that we had to be successful in the run game to win this game," left tackle Joe Staley said. "It's a tall task."The Seahawks entered the game with the NFL's No. 2-ranked run defense. The 49ers did not get much going in the first half, but they put together a 10-play, 86-yard drive to open the second half.Smith hit tight end Delanie Walker on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Vernon Davis was held without a catch for the first time since 2008, but he still managed to make a contribution with a block near the goal line.
"If he didn't make that block, I probably would've never got in," Walker said. "It was a great block, got me around the corner and got me in for the touchdown."After that, the 49ers managed only a David Akers field goal. But the 49ers controlled the tempo of the game with its ground attack."Frank was hitting the holes hard," Staley said. "Kendall (Hunter) was hitting the holes hard. I'm really proud of the whole offense, the way they played and stuck with it. It wasn't pretty, a little bit in the second quarter, especially. But we stuck with it. Nobody was down. We just had to execute better."The 49ers' defense certainly executed a lot better in the second half, too.The 49ers allowed only 74 total yards in the second half. NaVorro Bowman had a big hit on Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson that led to a Dashon Goldson interception. Aldon Smith sacked Wilson during the Seahawks' last chance at a game-tying drive."We were obviously playing a great defense out there," said Wilson, who completed just 9 of 23 pass attempts for 122 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. "They made some key tackles and did some good things on the defensive side of the ball. We expected them to play at a high level."Safety Donte Whitner agreed with Harbaugh, who said the second half was the most physical performance he has seen from the 49ers in the past two seasons."My body feels like it," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "I'm sure everybody in this locker room feels that way. I feel Seattle feels like that also. But it's two physical football teams. The NFC West is a tough division right now. You have four of the top defenses in the National Football League in the same division."The 49ers (5-2) take a one-game lead over the Seahawks (4-3). The Arizona Cardinals (4-2) play at Minnesota on Sunday.
The 49ers had their hands full against Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, one of the league's top ball carriers.Lynch became the second back in a row to rush for more than 100 yards against the 49ers. Last week, Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants had 116 yards on 27 carries in the 49ers' 26-3 loss. On Thursday, Lynch 103 yards on 19 attempts. "Every time we play him, we know that we have to come with it," Willis said. "We know he's going to run the ball hard. It's just who he is."Said Justin Smith, "I thought the whole game was pretty physical. They have the right man for the job in 24 (Lynch). We were watching tape all week and just said, 'Man, we have to be ready to go.' He got some yards. He got a lot of yards."But we came out with the win, and that's all that matters."

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.

On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.

Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.

Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”

Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.

Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.

Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.

If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.

Conflicting reports over Tomsula to Washington

Conflicting reports over Tomsula to Washington

Former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula reportedly might be back in the NFL after a one-year hiatus.

Tomsula, who spent his first eight NFL seasons as a defensive line coach, could be returning to that job with Washington, Carol Maloney of NBC4 reported on Sunday. But according to the Washington Post, a deal is not done between the two sides.

If the deal were to happen Tomsula would be rejoining Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and general manager Scot McCloughan, both of whom he worked with while members of the 49ers organization.

Tomsula was promoted to the head-coaching job over finalist Adam Gase two years ago after the 49ers' “mututal parting” with coach Jim Harbaugh. Tomsula was fired after the 49ers went 5-11 in 2015. Chip Kelly was hired to replace Tomsula. Kelly was fired after the 49ers went 2-14, including a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak.