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49ers notes: Defense matures, another strong Mullens performance, Gould is wanted back

Sherman excited how this young 49ers team stepped up and beat his former team

Sherman excited how this young 49ers team stepped up and beat his former team
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Sherman excited how this young 49ers team stepped up and beat his former team

The Seahawks’ playoff berth will have to wait.

Seattle could have clinched its ninth postseason trip in nine years with a victory over the 49ers on Sunday, but San Francisco’s young defense had other thoughts, even without several starters on the back end.

The 49ers forced the Seahawks to punt eight times in a 26-23 overtime victory, including Seattle’s final three possessions and the first series of overtime. San Francisco did it with its fourth-string free safety (Antone Exum Jr.), backup cornerback (rookie Tarvarius Moore), reserve strong safety (Marcell Harris) and third-string nickel (D.J. Reed).

“What I was excited about was our defense never let them break them down, even when they gave up some plays,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They didn’t worry about any bad play, just one play at a time. They did it all game.”

Only cornerback Richard Sherman started Sunday’s game at the same position he played in Week 1 in the 49ers’ patchwork secondary. The Seahawks managed 385 total yards but averaged just 5.6 yards per play. They were less efficient than San Francisco, which averaged 6.1 yards.

“Honestly, it means a lot beating Seattle for me but it’s just the way the guys showed up and kept battling throughout the game,” Sherman said. “This was a tough game. Those guys played their hearts out. We’re out there with an incredibly young team. I would guess we’re putting out the youngest guys in the league at this point.”

Moore, a third-round pick last spring, was forced into the game after Ahkello Witherspoon sustained a knee injury in the first quarter just before receiver Doug Baldwin scored his first of two touchdowns.

He was targeted on consecutive throws late in regulation while Wilson tried to make last-ditch efforts to get Seattle in range for a field goal.

Mullens gets high praise from Sherman - Quarterback Nick Mullens has 1,021 yards passing in his past three games, including 689 in two games against the Seahawks, which is the most allowed by Pete Carroll’s team since he took the job in 2010, according to The Associated Press.

Sherman had high praise for San Francisco’s second-year quarterback, who opened the season on the practice squad after going undrafted from Southern Mississippi in 2017.

“I just hope we can keep him because teams need a quarterback,” Sherman said. “This guy is not just playing like ‘Oh, conservative football, get the ball in the right places.’ He’s making the right decisions. He’s making good throws under pressure.

“I’d say he’s playing like a top-half quarterback in this league. You’ve got guys that are out there right now that are not playing better football than Nick Mullens, and he could be a starter for a lot of teams in this football league. We appreciate that we have him, and he’s playing his tail off for us.”

49ers hoping for good news on Witherspoon’s injury - Witherspoon left in the first quarter with a knee sprain. The team’s medical staff didn’t determine Witherspoon has an ACL tear, which was apparent during on-field testing of Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee in Week 3.

“They haven’t ruled (an ACL tear) out yet, so I’m not sure,” Shanahan said.

Witherspoon has played well of late following a rough start to his second season. He hadn’t allowed a touchdown in coverage in six games after allowing six in his first six contests, according to Pro Football Focus. An extended absence for Witherspoon would mean Moore starts the final two games against the Bears and Rams.

Gould is wanted back - Kicker Robbie Gould has been one of the most consistent in the NFL since joining the 49ers in 2017. He made all four field-goal attempts Sunday, including the winner in overtime from 36 yards in the rain.

Gould, 36, signed a two-year, $4 million contract when he joined the team. Shanahan said he would like to have Gould back next season.

“Of course we want Robbie back,” Shanahan said. “He’s been great for two years. It’s nice for a coach, that when you get to the end of that, I’m not thinking about him missing it at all.”

Gould became the 23rd kicker in league history to reach 1,500 career points with his 14 scored Sunday. He’s made 29 of 30 field-goal attempts this season and 24 of 26 extra points.

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