Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 13-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night at Candlestick Park:
What it means: The 49ers moved to 5-2 and secured sole possession of first place with a hard-fought victory over the Seahawks (4-3). Quarterback Alex Smith struggled, but the victory was what mattered the most. Seattle has now completed its NFC West road schedule with an 0-3 record in those games. The Seahawks scored 35 points in those three road games against Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco. Coach Pete Carroll has now gone 1-7 in his past eight games against current NFC West head coaches.
What I liked: Both teams ran the ball better than expected despite facing run defenses that have been extremely stout since last season. The 49ers' Frank Gore and the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch each topped 100 yards rushing.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw down the field without fear and put his receivers/tight ends in position to make big plays (they did not make nearly enough of them). Seattle’s offensive line rose to the occasion, clearing holes in the running game while giving Wilson enough time. The 49ers' offensive line answered by springing Gore for big gains repeatedly. Niners return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. helped swing field position in the 49ers’ favor multiple times.
What I didn’t like: Both teams seemed a little too content settling for field goal tries. Seattle’s decision to run Leon Washington on third-and-3 comes to mind. Washington didn’t get the first down. Seattle wound up missing a long field goal try. The 49ers settled for a second-half field goal after running a quarterback draw on third down.
The Seahawks’ Evan Moore, Robert Turbin and Golden Tate missed chances to make receptions for big gains. Tate dropped an easy pass on third-and-short to force a punt after Seattle moved into 49ers territory on its first drive of the second half. Turbin and Moore dropped downfield throws.
The 49ers got Gore running early, but he had only six carries in the first half and wasn’t a big enough part of the plan, it seemed. It’s possible the Seahawks forced the 49ers away from Gore, something New England’s Bill Belichick said Seattle did through its scheme and personnel. Still, Gore was running well enough to command additional carries.
Both teams conceded first downs with penalties in short-yardage situations. Seattle’s Brandon Mebane jumped across the line early on one of them. The 49ers’ Ray McDonald lined up over the center illegally on a Seattle punt.
The interception 49ers quarterback Alex Smith threw near the goal line looked like it would have been picked off by a deeper defender if the Seahawks' Brandon Browner hadn't intercepted it first. Smith appeared tentative and seemed to continue a regression that began with his three-interception game a week earlier.
Chop-block or not: The Seahawks completed a fourth-down pass for an apparent first down while trying to rally with 43 seconds left. Officials wiped out the play, calling a chop-block penalty against Seahawks guard Paul McQuistan. I wondered after watching replays if McQuistan struck the 49ers' Aldon Smith in the thigh area or lower. It didn't matter in the end, however, as officials determined Seattle had not gained a first down.
Losing composure: 49ers safety Dashon Goldson drew a 15-yard penalty for taking an extra shot at Lynch during a pileup. The hit appeared to be retaliatory in nature. Lynch had run over Goldson and fallen on him a few plays earlier. The penalty helped Seattle move into position for a 52-yard field goal on its opening drive -- a drive that began at the Seattle 4-yard line.
Harbaugh’s non-challenge: Officials denied 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s attempt at challenging a potential fumble by Seattle deep in Seahawks territory. It looked like Seattle recovered the ball anyway. Harbaugh was incensed and could be heard berating an official.
Drop watch: Seattle suffered from at least four dropped passes. Tate had two of them. The 49ers’ Randy Moss dropped a ball with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman hanging on him. Officials seemingly could have thrown a flag on that play. Lynch dropped a third-down throw with Seattle deep in its own territory and trailing 10-6 with 10:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Missed tackles: Sherman, Earl Thomas and K.J. Wright missed 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree along the sideline, allowing Crabtree to escape for a 16-yard gain. The 49ers had trouble taking down Lynch, but every team does. He might be the toughest back to tackle in the NFL.
Injury watch: The Seahawks lost receiver Doug Baldwin to an ankle injury. They lost backup linebacker Malcolm Smith to a concussion. Defensive tackle Jason Jones limped off in the second half after a teammate inadvertently fell on the back of his leg.