Around the NFC West: 49ers' special victory

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
9:51
AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- The 2011 San Francisco 49ers dominated field position through superior special teams.

The team hadn't been as good in that area this season. Missed field-goal tries and leaky coverage units -- to say nothing of a recent spree of interceptions -- were putting the 49ers' defense in tougher positions.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had hinted at the possibility for a tougher defensive season when asked over the summer whether the 49ers could improve on his side of the ball. He said improvement might not show up in overall defensive stats, because some of the 49ers' defensive success last season related to field position.

Those advantages played a significant role in the 49ers' 13-6 victory against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.

Seattle began its drives at its own 15-yard line on average, the worst average starting field position for any team in a game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Punter Andy Lee and the 49ers' coverage unit pinned the Seahawks inside their 20-yard line five times.

Teams beginning their drives inside their own 20 on average are 0-8 this season.

A few other game notes from ESPN Stats & Info:
  • Since suffering a finger injury against Buffalo, Alex Smith has completed 1 of 5 passes with an interception on passes traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. It's tough to say whether the injury has contributed to those struggles. The Seahawks and New York Giants also played well defensively.
  • Frank Gore carried 16 times, and all 16 carries were between the tackles. His 131 yards rushing between the tackles was the fifth-highest total for a player in the NFL this season.
  • Seattle's Marshawn Lynch has hurt defenses by powering through contact. Gore hurt the Seahawks before they could touch him. He gained 107 of his 131 yards before contact. That was his most rushing yardage before contact since Gore had 115 against Arizona during a Week 14 game in 2009.
  • Before Thursday night, Smith ranked first and Seattle's Russell Wilson ranked second in completion percentage on passes traveling at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. Wilson completed only 2 of 8 such passes Thursday night. Seattle dropped two of the passes Wilson threw that far.
  • Smith completed 12 of 15 passes on throws traveling five or fewer yards past the line of scrimmage. It was the fourth time over the past three seasons Smith has completed at least 80 percent of such throws in a game.
Programming note: I'll be boarding a flight home in the next couple hours, then heading to St. Louis on Saturday for the Rams' game against Green Bay on Sunday.

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