The 49ers’ game-sealing defensive play was made by a cornerback who at one point Sunday appeared to get knocked out of the contest and perhaps next week’s game against Tampa Bay as well.
During the third quarter, Eric Wright took a knee to the side of the helmet and, after staying on the ground for several minutes, had to be helped up and to the sideline. The 49ers said Wright was being evaluated for a head injury and was questionable to return.
As Wright was being checked out, Darryl Morris, an undrafted rookie from Texas State, filled in when the 49ers were in their nickel defense.
But Wright was back in the game in the decisive fourth quarter. And when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a desperation pass with fewer than 20 seconds to play, Wright leaped and intercepted it.
“We were in a unique style of defense that sort of protected the sideline a little bit more than other areas of the field,” Wright said. “I was able to collapse from outside in, from deep to short, and to make the play.”
Asked if he had suffered a concussion earlier in the game, Wright said, “No. I’d gotten shooken up a little bit. And I just had to get cleared by the doctors to come back. They had to check it out and make sure everything was OK. I was good to go and went back out there and played.”
Wright’s interception was the only takeaway by the 49ers, who limited the Seahawks to one field goal after halftime and held running back Marshawn Lynch to 72 yards and 3.6 yards a carry. The 49ers haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
“It was a playoff game for us,” safety Donte Whitner said. “We understood that every game from here on out is going to be a playoff game … . And that’s why we played the way we did.”
Since then, Dawson has made 20 straight, including his 22-yard game-winner Sunday. The kick before that, a 52-yarder in the second quarter, broke the 49ers’ record for consecutive field goals of 18 set by Joe Nedney in 2007.
Dawson said his last field goal wasn’t easy despite the short distance.
“In the first half, it was cold and the wind wasn’t really blowing all that much,” he said. “And then when we come out to warm up for the second half, it started blowing and the temperature started dropping. It definitely was the type of conditions where you have to pay attention to every little thing.”
The ball squirted off to the side at the Seattle 17-yard line and then was batted to the Seattle 34-yard line by a Seahawks player, resulting in a penalty. The officials told the 49ers if they had accepted the penalty, the Seahawks would have had the opportunity to try the punt again, so the 49ers declined it.
The play led to Dawson’s second field goal of the game, from 48 yards.
“We expected to blow them out, but they got the benefit of a few calls tonight throughout the game, and that helps you, especially on third down,” Sherman said. “We will see them again, and it will be a different result.”