Colin Kaepernick’s 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter Sunday should have looked familiar to 49ers fans, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said after the game.
Facing third and 7 at the Seattle 15-yard line and wanting to shave precious seconds off the clock, Kaepernick rolled to his left, picked up blocks from wide receiver Mario Manningham, guard Adam Snyder and left tackle Joe Staley and dived for the first down.
Four plays later, Phil Dawson made a 22-yard field goal with 26 seconds left that gave the 49ers a 19-17 win over rival Seattle. The 49ers (9-4) reaffirmed they can beat a playoff-caliber opponent – something they hadn’t done all season – and remain one of the better teams in the NFL with three games to play.
“Enjoy it?” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said when asked about the win. “That’s not the word I would use. It feels like (when) you go to the dentist chair, and 31/2 hours of getting root canal work done. They’re tough. These games are only for the tough.”
Afterward, Roman noted that Kaepernick’s run was virtually the same one former quarterback Alex Smith made nearly two years ago against New Orleans in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The 49ers trailed the Saints by a point and faced third and 8 when Smith took off to his left and raced for a 28-yard touchdown.
Kaepernick didn’t reach the end zone on his run. But the critical first down assured that Dawson – who earlier in the day had a set a 49ers record for consecutive field goals – would have a chip-shot attempt and that Kaepernick’s counterpart, Russell Wilson, would have only a few seconds for a comeback.
“Very similar,” said Roman, who noted wide receiver Anquan Boldin had a big crack-back block just as Kyle Williams did against the Saints. “As a matter of fact, I thought there’d be some irony there if we did the same shift and everything.”
That wasn’t the only key play Roman was holding in reserve.
During the week, he talked about how “chunk” plays – gains of 20 yards or more – would be key in toppling Seattle’s No.-1 ranked defense.
Before their game-winning drive, the 49ers had only two such plays – receptions of 27 and 20 yards by Boldin.
After Seattle (11-2) had taken a 17-16 lead on Steven Hauschka’s 31-yard field goal with 6:20 remaining, however, Roman dialed a play – called 97 G-rub – he hadn’t called all season. Roman said the play, an outside run to the left by Frank Gore, was unique because of the angles used by the 49ers‘ blockers against the fast and aggressive Seahawks defenders.
Every San Francisco lineman had a solid block off the snap, and Gore cut back to his right against the pursuing Seahawks defense at precisely the right time. At that point, Gore saw something he’d seldom seen since the 49ers’ bye – room to roam – and ran 51 yards before sliding down in bounds to keep the clock running.
“It’s hard to get hats on hats against the Seahawks,” Roman said. “They like to outnumber you. They keep a lot of dudes down around the box. They’re a hell of a defense. And everybody got the job done, it looked like, and Frank got it done.”
After the game, the team’s offensive linemen said the 49ers knew the play would work. It was just a matter of finding the right time to run it, something Roman said he wrestled with earlier in the game.
Said center Jonathan Goodwin: “Fortunately for whatever reason, it got held until the end of the game, and it popped big for us.”
Gore hadn’t topped 100 rushing yards since Oct. 13 against Arizona, and he hadn’t even reached 50 yards in the last three contests. He finished Sunday’s game with 110 yards against the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
“We popped one,” Roman said. “And it’s been tough to pop ’em lately. We finally caught one at the perfect time.”