This December defensive stand by San Francisco did plenty for the 49ers and showed a lot to the rest of the league in the process.
The defending NFC champions are still right in the playoff mix, and plan to keep it that way.
After holding Russell Wilson and the archrival Seahawks in check Sunday on the way to a physical 19-17 victory that kept Seattle from clinching the West, San Francisco (9-4) can still largely control its fate by winning out this month.
“I think we showed a championship effort,” safety Donte Whitner said. “I think everybody around the country knows who the 49ers are now. That was a championship football game in a playoff atmosphere and we just made a few more plays than they made.”
Not that coach Jim Harbaugh is spending significant time figuring out all the different playoff scenarios and where his team might wind up for the divisional round come January. Next up is a cross-country road trip this weekend to Tampa Bay, and the Niners are riding a three-game winning streak after back-to-back losses against Carolina and New Orleans.
Quoting the signature phrase of late Raiders owner Al Davis, Harbaugh said: “Al Davis said it as well as it can ever be said, ‘just win.’ Those are our intentions.”
Harbaugh pulled out an old stand-by of his own after Sunday’s win, too: “Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”
The 49ers limited Seattle to 264 total yards. “The defense came to play,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree said. “They saved us.”
And San Francisco still has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, though Justin Smith insists “there’s nothing magical about stopping the run.” Marshawn Lynch looked like he might be on his way with a fast start Sunday, but the Seattle star wound up with 72 yards on 20 carries — just 22 yards after halftime.
“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Harbaugh said of his defense’s streak. “It certainly was in this game.”
Harbaugh simplified his defensive unit’s effort to “just running and hitting, hitting and running.”
It helps to have such talented players at every position.
With Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks swarming at every chance, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis delivering punishing hits and Glenn Dorsey defiantly manning the middle, this defense is in sync up front.
“That team was [11-1]. When you knock off a team that had previously lost one game, you can look over and see [frustration],” Aldon Smith said. “We came out there and were making plays. We clicked. When we’re all on the same page, we’re a hard team to stop.”