SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers’ unbeaten streak has come to an end after nine games. After a back-and-forth affair that lasted deep into the final seconds of overtime, the Seattle Seahawks escaped Levi’s Stadium victorious, 27-24, and improved to 8-2 Monday night thanks to a relentless defense, another strong outing by Russell Wilson and a 42-yard Jason Myers field goal.
Here are three things that stood out from the game:
1. Tested and found wanting — The 49ers received their toughest test yet and couldn’t quite find a way to overcome the many waves of adversity that engulfed them. San Francisco has had to deal with injuries and depth challenges throughout the season, and Monday night was no different. Already without tight end George Kittle and kicker Robbie Gould, the 49ers lost their most talented wideout — Emmanuel Sanders — to a rib injury in the first half. That forced other players like tight end Kendrick Bourne, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and kicker Chase McLaughlin to step up. The 49ers lacked their usual potency on offense even so. The Seahawks harassed Jimmy Garoppolo often, recording three takeaways. But San Francisco remained in the game because of another robust outing from their defense.
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With the offense struggling, the defense stepped up and reclaimed the momentum with a fourth-quarter fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. But that momentum shift was short-lived. The 49ers had to settle for a game-tying field goal with 6:17 left rather than a lead-securing touchdown, and then the Seahawks’ rushing attack finally wore the 49ers down as Seattle went 47 yards in 11 plays and kicked a 46-yard field goal to take a 24-21 lead with 1:45 left on the clock. Refusing to wilt, the 49ers tied the game with a 47-yarder with a second left. Then in overtime, when needing one final stand, San Francisco’s defense showed why it ranks among the best in the league while denying Wilson & Co. The 49ers couldn’t capitalize, though. They missed the potential game-winner, and then after another defensive stand, they went three-and-out and had to punt.
2. Defensive battle — The 49ers’ defense wasn’t the only unit that had to do the heavy lifting. The Seahawks defense compensated for their own offense’s struggles by recording three takeaways and a defensive touchdown on a first-half Jadeveon Clowney fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. Two of those takeaways came in the second half when Seattle stripped Jimmy Garoppolo once more in the second half, and also recorded an interception. Seattle scored offensive touchdowns off of both second-half takeaways, benefitting from the short field that their defensive stands provided.
Seattle’s defense entered the game ranked 24th in the league in yards allowed per game. But the unit ranked seventh in the league in takeaways. The Seahawks did a good job of pressuring Garoppolo. They also caused him to hesitate before letting go of passes. They played a lot of single-high-safety to prevent the 49ers from attempting many down-field passes. Like the 49ers, Seattle’s defense refused to relent, finally providing one last stand late in overtime. And unlike San Francisco, the Seahawks offense and special teams units sealed the deal.
3. Still waiting — For much of this season, the 49ers have found themselves waiting for quarterback Garoppolo to take his game to another level. He had his best outing of the season last week versus Arizona (317 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions), but didn’t exactly build on that outing Monday against Seattle. He had two fumbles and one interception off of a tipped pass, and for the night, completed just 52 percent of his passes.
Garoppolo did just enough in the final minutes of regulation to position his team for a game-tying 47-yard field goal. Garoppolo also helped move his team into position for the potential winner in overtime. But then, his accuracy struggles returned again and the 49ers went three-and-out. There was a noticeable difference between the cool, calm, collected and decisive Russell Wilson and Garoppolo, who appeared to second-guess himself and held onto the ball too long under pressure. Up next for the 49ers are the Cardinals, Packers, Ravens and Saints. To help his team rebound and make a deep playoff run, Jimmy G must deliver greater consistency.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
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