How 49ers' Dre Greenlaw played final snap almost perfect in West clincher


SANTA CLARA -- Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw made the defensive play of the year Sunday to provide the 49ers with some much-needed rest and set up a favorable postseason itinerary.

Greenlaw stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve a 26-21 victory at CenturyLink Field and earn the 49ers the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Does Greenlaw understand the significance of the play?

“A little bit,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s like, I mean, I don’t know, I’m just a rookie, man. I don’t know really what I did. I’m just playing football. That’s it.”

Greenlaw, making his eighth consecutive start in place of injured starting weakside linebacker Kwon Alexander, registered his second straight 13-tackle game. None of his stops was as important as his last.

“It was a great play altogether,” Greenlaw said. “Great execution by everybody. The game was on the line and we needed a stop, and it was to determine whether or not we’d be playing this week or just practicing.

“So everybody’s happy about it and I got a lot of encouragement from my teammates, a lot of praise from them. Personally, it just feels good to be able to do it and put it on tape and do it for my teammates and coaches, and let us all reap the benefits of it.”


On a fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds remaining, 5.5 yards from the end zone, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson unloaded quickly to Hollister, who lined up outside the left tackle, and ran a quick slant. Greenlaw initially shuffled a few steps to his left to cover running back Travis Homer out of the backfield.

Hollister got inside of 49ers linebacker Fred Warner and caught the pass just inside the 2-yard line. Greenlaw immediately saw the play develop and shifted his attention to Hollister. Greenlaw stepped up to hit Hollister with authority, keeping him out of the end zone by mere inches.

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Greenlaw executed the design of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s call to near perfection.

“There are always things you can do better on every play,” Greenlaw said. “You’re not perfect. No specific thing I could’ve done better. Footwork, eyes, all that type of stuff. There’s never a play where you go, ‘Wow, that was 100 percent.’ But at the same time, I did enough.

“I did my job. I did my assignment. I mean, I was 100 percent on assignment, 100 percent on job. If you wanted to be just a (jerk) and be critical, you could say, ‘Hey, you don’t have to back up as much,’ because I was maybe an inch or two in the end zone. But at the end of the day, as long as the play is made, it’s all right. It worked out.”