49ers up to test in playoff-type atmosphere


49ers up to test in playoff-type atmosphere

SEATTLE -- The 49ers' vaunted run defense allowed a 100-yard rusher on Saturday.Heck, they even allowed a rushing touchdown.The 49ers have also gotten to this stage of the season as NFC West champions due, in large part, to their run defense and ability to win the turnover margin. And while the run defense caved in against one of the hottest runners in the NFL, the 49ers forced a turnover when it was needed most.The 49ers held on for a 19-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the type of struggle on Christmas Eve that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says will toughen his team for the playoffs.

"It was just a great job by our guys," Harbaugh said. "It was a playoff type of atmosphere, a playoff type of game that's great preview for our team of what the playoffs are going to be like. Overcame a lot of things. We overcame adversity. We overcame the opposing crowd."It really makes you feel like a man when you can do that."Inside linebacker Larry Grant, making his third start in place of All-Pro Patrick Willis, stripped Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson from behind and Donte Whitner recovered with 1:07 remaining to help the 49ers preserve the victory."Larry made a tremendous, all-out effort play," Willis said. "He missed the guy and just kept hustling to the ball to make the play. That's what we talk about all the time -- just never giving up and hustling to the ball."The huge defensive play came in a game in which Seattle's Marshawn Lynch broke a couple of impressive 49ers streaks. The 49ers had gone 36 games without surrendering a 100-yard rushing game. Lynch took care of that with a 107-yard performance on 21 attempts.Also, the 49ers were the first team in NFL history to not allow a rushing touchdown in the first 14 games of a season. Lynch scored on a 4-yard run with 6:41 remaining to end that streak, and give the Seahawks a 17-16 lead in the process."We take a lot of pride in those things, not giving up a 100-yard game or a touchdown," Grant said. "And Marshawn is one of the best running backs in the league. But our main goal every Sunday -- and in this case on a Saturday -- is to win the game. That's all that matters."Lynch's touchdown came just one play after Andy Lee had his first punt blocked off the season.Quarterback Alex Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree hooked up on a 41-yard pass on the ensuing possession to help move the 49ers into field-goal range for the winning points. Crabtree made a leaping catch and landed on his back along the right sideline"That was a tremendous play by Michael," Harbaugh said. "We don't win that game without him."And the 49ers might not have won the game without kicker David Akers, either. Akers made four field goals and broke the single-season NFL record for field goals in a season. He came through with a 39-yarder with 2:57 remaining. Then, the 49ers defense closed it out.Akers has made 42 of 49 field-goal attempts on the season to break Neil Rackers' record of 40 in 2005."That was a tough one," 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald said. "But we didn't expect anything less."Alex Smith finished with 14 completions on 26 attempts for 179 yards with no touchdown and no interceptions. Crabtree had a game-high five catches for 85 yards. The 49ers had just 39 net passing yards at halftime."We just put in our minds that we wanted to put some points on the board," Crabtree said. "It was really just drawing up the plays and executing those plays in the second half."The victory moves the 49ers another step closer to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. They can clinch that spot Monday if the Atlanta Falcons defeat the New Orleans Saints. Or the 49ers would wrap it up for themselves with a regular-season closing victory at St. Louis next Sunday."It's good to get that bye," Crabtree said. "That's what we've really been talking about, getting that bye, then finishing the last game and we can start thinking about the playoffs after that."The Seahawks needed to win their final two games to have a shot at the playoffs, so this was important for them, too."We know what was on the line," Smith said. "You hear all the talk coming out here all week. They were playing for their playoff lives and as you can see, they threw everything at us. This is as hostile of an environment as it gets. It's a tough place to play. I don't think we've won here for a few years. It's always going to be tough, especially when there's something on the line for both teams."The 49ers needed only one touchdown to pull out the victory, and that came on the first possession of the third quarter. One of the key plays was a fourth-and-2 situation. Harbaugh decided to go for it.During a timeout, he was seen challenging the offensive line -- as if a run play would be called."A little bit of gamesmanship," Harbaugh said. "I was trying to direct it to the offensive line, saying we're going to run the ball to them. So come off the ball. But we had a play-action pass called."The 49ers even sent out extra blockers Isaac Sopoaga and Alex Boone for the play. After Smith's play-fake, he found tight end Vernon Davis down the right sideline for a 16-yard gain."I was over there and he was going off on a tirade about running the ball," Smith said. "And I thought, 'It's fourth-and-2.' And then he kind of alluded it was going to be the play-action pass. It was a good play call, and Vernon made a good play to stick with it because he wasn't the primary (receiver)."Nothing surprises us any more with him. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve."Running back Frank Gore scored on a 4-yard run to cap the drive and pull the 49ers into a 10-10 tie. Gore finished with 83 yards rushing on 23 attempts."We had to play a full 60 minutes," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. "This is a very hard place to play. The crowd is always really into the game, making a lot of noise. The stadium is always really rockin'. It was a 60-minute game, and we knew that coming in. We were prepared for it."

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists


Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, in his final year on the modern-era ballot, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 10th consecutive year.

Craig is among 27 semifinalists announced for the Class of 2018. The list includes six first-year eligible candidates and four other players who have been eligible previously but are semifinalists for the first time.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and safety John Lynch, currently 49ers general manager, are among the return semifinalists. Lynch was among the final 10 players last year, while Owens made it to the top 15.

The list of first-year eligible semifinalists includes wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

The four previously-eligible players who are semifinalists for the first time are safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie O’Neal and Simeon Rice, and cornerback Everson Walls.

In January, the list of modern-era candidates will be trimmed to 15 individuals. There will be a total of 18 finalists, including contributor finalist Bobby Beathard and seniors finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer. Hall of Fame rules stipulate from four to eight new members will be selected every year.

Beathard, Brazile and Kramer will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive 80-percent approval from the full selection committee at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Craig's teams made it to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons, including his first eight years with the 49ers. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Owens, who played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, was a first-team All-Pro performer six times. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Lynch, a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his 15-year career. He recorded 26 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles and recovered nine in his career.

Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2005, 2010-18)
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2009-18)
Brian Dawkins, S – 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2014-18)
Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Ray Lewis, LB – 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2013-18)
Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Randy Moss, WR – 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Leslie O'Neal, DE – 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-1997 St. Louis Rams, 1998-1999 Kansas City Chiefs | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Brian Urlacher, LB – 2000-2012 Chicago Bears | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Everson Walls, CB – 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is one of 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'


John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch came close Tuesday to announcing which quarterback will start for the 49ers this week.

But the official announcement that rookie C.J. Beathard will start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks will have to come from coach Kyle Shanahan, he said.

“C.J. (Beathard) played extremely well against the Giants, and that’s likely,” Lynch told reporters at Levi’s Stadium. “But I’ll let Kyle speak to that.”

Lynch reiterated that they want to give newly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo the best chance to succeed. Garoppolo spent part of the 49ers' bye week learning the basics of the offensive system in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. Garoppolo also met one-on-one with Shanahan.

Beathard had his best game as a pro on Nov. 12, before the bye week, as he threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. Garoppolo arrived in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Lynch said he feels Garoppolo “is going to be our guy,” so the organization does not feel any urgency to rush him onto the field. In fact, Lynch sounded as if the 49ers are not placing a high priority on spending big on the quarterback position with Garoppolo and Beathard on the team.

"You still study every position, but we feel pretty good about where our quarterback room is,” Lynch said.