PLAYER OF THE GAME
Frank Gore. It could have been a different game if the 49ers running back had not needed only two plays to compile 159 yards and two touchdowns. Gore ran 79 yards for the score that put the 49ers up 10-0 in the first quarter and then 80 yards for another TD on the first play of the third quarter.
Gore is the first player since Barry Sanders on Oct. 12, 1997, to have two rushing touchdowns of 75-plus yards in the same game.
He finished with 207 rushing yards before leaving in the fourth quarter with a sore ankle – 5 yards shy of his career-best effort against the Seahawks at Candlestick Park in 2006. That same season, he also went for 144 yards against the Seahawks at Qwest Field. But in the past two seasons, the Seahawks had limited Gore to an average of 76.5 yards in four games.
Not on this Sunday. At least not on those two runs. On his other 14 carries, Gore averaged 3.4 yards.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Gore’s second TD run. It was longer (by a yard), took less time (by a second) and dashed any hopes the Seahawks were harboring of rallying because it put the 49ers up 20-10.
Defense: Seneca Wallace completed six passes in a row in the fourth quarter to move the Seahawks to the 49ers’ 16-yard line. But on fourth down, cornerback Nate Clements broke up his pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone.
Special teams: Coach Jim Mora had said that he would use Nate Burleson on punt returns if the team found itself needing a big play, despite Burleson being the starting split end and coming off major knee surgery. The Seahawks needed just that in the third quarter, and Burleson delivered with a 19-yard return to the Seattle 47-yard line. But the effort was wasted when Wallace’s pass was intercepted by former University of Washington safety Deshon Goldson.
Who was that dapper guy chatting up Houshmandzadeh during pre-game warm-ups? Jerry Rice, the NFL’s all-time leading receiver who also played for the Seahawks in 2004. Rice was one of several 49er greats on hand because former owner Eddie DeBartolo was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony.
After his 3-yard scramble ended in a collision with 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, QB Matt Hasselbeck headed for the Seahawks’ sideline. But he never made it, at least not on his own power. Hasselbeck started to fall, but was held up by members of the team’s medical staff. He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays (which proved negative) and also a CT scan, which revealed that he has a bruised rib. It looked worse. Much worse.
Hasselbeck met the team at the airport for the trip back to Seattle.
Coach Jim Mora was surprisingly upbeat during his post-game session with reporters. Disappointed, obviously. Even a bit perturbed. But then Mora is not just a glass-half-full guy, he’s a glass-overflowing type.
“What I’m impressed with is the resolve of our football team,” he said. “When I looked in their eyes, in the locker room, I saw disappointment. I didn’t see dejection. I saw resolve, a firmness. And I like that.”
Mora later offered, “We’re going to be OK. We’re going to be OK. Have I convinced you?”
In addition to Hasselbeck, left tackle Sean Locklear (sprained ankle) and cornerback Josh Wilson (sprained ankle) also left the game and did not return. Brandon Frye, who was signed after the final roster cut, stepped in for Locklear, while Kelly Jennings took over for Wilson.
Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu started, but lasted only two series before giving way to David Hawthorne. Tatupu strained a hamstring in the season opener and felt he might risk additional damage if he continued to play.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane did not play after straining a calf in practice on Wednesday. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Craig Terrill.
YOU DON’T SAY
“He’s got some jets.” – Defensive tackle Patrick Kerney, when someone expressed surprise over how fast Gore was on his two long runs