In a game coach Jim Harbaugh compared to a 3½-hour root canal, the 49ers narrowed the gap in the NFC West to two games with a gritty 19-17 win against the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park on Sunday.
The game went back and forth, but swung in San Francisco’s favor on a 51-yard dash by 49ers running back Frank Gore with 4:21 left in the game. Gore smartly fell down in bounds at the Seahawks’ 18-yard line to keep the clock running and setting up a go-ahead field goal by Phil Dawson with 26 seconds left.
“My O-line did a good job,” Gore said of the game-changing run. “O-line, receivers and I saw the goal. I kind of knew that [Seattle safety Earl Thomas] is so fast to the ball. I kind of knew he was going to overrun it. So I kind of sent him outside and broke it back in because he’s so aggressive.”
Gore finished with 110 yards rushing, reaching triple digits for the first time since Oct. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals and just the third time this season.
Harbaugh said he kept the motivational talk to a minimum during this one.
“They didn’t need to hear that,” he said. “This was one of those games where there’s very little talk. Very little motivational kind of talk. They didn’t need to hear anything about how to play.”
While the third-year coach said these back-and-forth games against a fierce division rival are not what he enjoys, his players had a different take.
“I love it,” said linebacker NaVorro Bowman. “Some games, you win or you get up early and teams fold. There’s something about this game, it requires a full 60-minute game, it requires you to be smart, requires you to do your job against the Seahawks, and if we do that, we’ll be OK.”
The 49ers got out to an early lead with a pair of field goals in a first quarter that saw a total of just five first downs between the two teams.
Seattle came storming back in the second quarter, though, with a pair of touchdowns — one on the ground by ex-Cal running back Marshawn Lynch and one through the air from Russell Wilson to Luke Willson — giving the Seahawks a 14-9 lead late in the first half.
But unlike the game earlier this season in Seattle where the Niners were unable to rally after falling behind, quarterback Colin Kaepernick led San Francisco on a 72-yard drive capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis just before halftime. It was the only touchdown by the Niners all game.
Kaepernick finished the day 15-of-29 for 175 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who said he expected to come into Candlestick and win in a blowout, said the game was swung by factors beyond the teams’ control.
“They got a few questionable calls on third down,” he said. “We had a few missed opportunities. That’s about it.”
NOTES: 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin became the 30th NFL player to compile 11,000 receiving yards in his career, though he said the milestone meant “nothing” to him. … The 49ers have now won five consecutive home games against Seattle, though they have lost in Seattle four of their past five trips.