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."