Editor’s note: Former 49ers Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia, now an NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, shares his thoughts on the team each week throughout the season. This week, he looks at how the 49ers have pulled off back-to-back upsets at this stage in the season.
For a team that has struggled to find wins this season, you have to appreciate the preparation and effort that we have witnessed from the 49ers these last two weeks.
With the 49ers owning just two wins and facing four potential playoff teams in this fourth-quarter final stretch, none of the critics gave this battered team a chance to compete. This is where believing in themselves, staying together and blocking out the noise has helped this youth movement to grow up and elevate their game.
Team-first mindset key to upset win
Coming off an impressive win over the Broncos and facing a division rival that destroyed them two weeks ago in Seattle, 43-16, who would have thought that the 49ers could put together a total team effort that would lead to an exciting and impressive 26-23 overtime win?
This Seahawks team has everything to play for, battling for a playoff berth and riding a 10-game, five-year winning streak versus the struggling 49ers.
This is where the preparation, the energy and the team-first mentality helped them prevail. This game was a reminder of the great 49ers-Seahawks battles during the Jim Harbaugh era, where the games went down to the wire and both teams had a run-first, smash-mouth mentality.
The Seahawks stayed true to that this past weekend — the league leaders in pounding the rock went for 168 yards compared to the 49ers’ 94. But it was a clutch 16-yard overtime run by the young 49ers running back, Jeff Wilson Jr., that set up the game-winning kick by sure-footed Robbie Gould.
When I say team effort, that’s exactly what it was.
DeForest Buckner leads defensive charge
Defensively, the 49ers were challenged by talented Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but they did an admirable job of containing him and pressuring him into short dump-off completions throughout the game.
Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner became Wilson’s backfield buddy, getting after him and sacking him twice. The 49ers’ young secondary competed throughout, with unknown names like Moore, Exum, Reed and Harris stepping in and stepping up, limiting Wilson and the ‘Hawks to 217 total passing yards and three sacks.
Team is growing before our eyes
Offensively, the 49ers were aided by a first-quarter 97-yard kickoff-return touchdown by rookie Richie James that answered the Seahawks’ opening-drive score.
From that point on, we saw a 49ers offense that was efficient and exciting, with big completions coming from the young quarterback, Nick Mullens, to Dante Pettis, Garrett Celek and George Kittle. Just when you thought the Seahawks would break it open, the 49ers answered back.
We saw tough running from the tandem of Wilson and Matt Breida. We saw an offense that continuously competed and overcame adverse situations throughout the game. And when it came time to put together that game-winning drive, the 49ers stepped up to the moment.
We have seen a young team grow up in front of us. They have weathered many storms but continue to fight and battle with that next-man-up mentality.
They face another challenge this coming weekend with Da Bears coming into town. Chicago has a tough, opportunistic defense led by pass-rushing monster and game changer Khalil Mack.
We’ll all be sitting on the edge of our seat to see which 49ers team shows up. Of course, the optimist in me believes we’ll see the one that we all witnessed these last two weeks. It’s consistency that builds championship-caliber teams, and here’s another opportunity to show what they’re made of against a division-leading opponent.