By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SAN FRANCISCO — The rancor that filtered through the Seattle Seahawks’ locker room after their loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 was not present Sunday.
Seattle was dealing with its second loss of the season after a 51-yard run by running back Frank Gore put San Francisco in field-goal position, setting up a 22-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to lift the 49ers to a 19-17 victory Sunday at decrepit Candlestick Park.
General disappointment in losing replaced the bitterness that was present in Indianapolis. The Seahawks, who beat San Francisco 29-3 in September, are 11-2, and still hold a two-game lead in the NFC West. Seattle finished Sunday with the conference’s best record.
“We’re not worried about anything,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “There’s no chance for us to be worried about anything. We would have loved to get the win, but it doesn’t really change anything for us.”
The loss was the Seahawks’ first in more than two months. San Francisco snapped Seattle’s seven-game winning streak by beating them with the heavy-handed approach both sides favor.
The Seahawks’ Steven Hauschka had squeezed through a 31-yard field goal for a 17-16 lead with 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, before Gore’s 51-yard run, his longest of the season, yanked the game back into San Francisco’s palms.
Gore had 54 yards rushing yards in the game before cutting back and zipping through the right side on the game’s biggest play. There was no backside help or safety to be seen, and by the time Gore fell purposely to the ground, the Seahawks were caught in a game dictated by the clock.
“Obviously, somebody messed up,” Sherman said.
A quarterback sweep by Colin Kaepernick on third-and-7 from the Seattle 15-yard line, after the Seahawks used their final two timeouts, packaged the win for San Francisco. Dawson’s kick with 26 seconds to play closed the box.
A desperation pass by Russell Wilson on the Seahawks’ final possession was intercepted at the San Francisco 20-yard line when Jermaine Kearse fell down with 9 seconds to play.
“We had them, then we let them off the leash, we had them, then we let them off again,” safety Earl Thomas said. “When you’re on the road, you have to bring your special teams and defense and we had mistakes in both of those. It cost us today.”
San Francisco trickled out to a 6-0 lead during a stagnant first quarter for the Seahawks. Seattle gained just 36 yards in the quarter.
Marshawn Lynch’s 11-yard second-quarter touchdown run gave Seattle a 7-6 lead. Dawson kicked a 52-yard field goal before Seahawks rookie tight end Luke Willson caught a 39-yard touchdown pass for his first career score, giving Seattle a 16-9 lead.
Vernon Davis’ 8-yard touchdown reception six seconds before halftime gave San Francisco a 16-14 lead.
The expected share of kidney punches and foot stomps from each side was underway. San Francisco and Seattle both strive to play with unmatched force, something they took turns doing Sunday.
San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman spent the day sharing train wrecks with Lynch. Seattle’s Chris Clemons hoisted then planted Kaepernick for a sack. Amid the on-field bell-ringings, a fog horn bellowed whenever San Francisco scored in this antiquated bay side stadium.
There was no scoring in the third quarter, leaving the fourth too be dotted with the two field goals — one hoped to be a game-winner and one that was that. It felt like a natural conclusion for two defenses that dictated the day.
Pushed during the week-long run-up to the game were storylines about animosity between the teams. That was not on display afterward in conduct or commentary. Dozens of players shook hands on the field, then both locker rooms spoke respectful thoughts afterward.
There was universal agreement about the difficulty of disposing the other side.
“It feels like you go to the dentist chair and 3.5 hours of getting root canal work done,” San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh said of playing the Seahawks. “They’re tough. These games are only for the tough.”