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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers positional game grades after Week 15 overtime win vs. Seahawks

Dec 16, 2018 at 6:55 PM

The San Francisco 49ers finally ended a 10-game losing streak to the Seattle Seahawks, beating their NFC West division rivals 26-23 in an overtime thriller. Let's grade it out by position.

The San Francisco 49ers no longer have to worry about answering questions regarding their elongated losing streak to their NFC West division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, who will have to wait until Week 16 to clinch a playoff berth this season.

Meanwhile, the Niners got their fourth win of the year after beating the Seahawks 26-23 on a game-winning overtime field goal by kicker Robbie Gould amid an increasingly wet field at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad looked nothing like the group that was embarrassed 43-16 two weeks ago up in Seattle. Instead, the team largely played poised and aggressive, taking full advantage of a whopping 14 penalties for 148 yards committed by the Seahawks. For much of 2018, the Niners were the team making too many mistakes in this department.

Meanwhile, quarterback Nick Mullens continued his solid play, ensuring the 49ers would have a chance at a win. Let's grade out the team's efforts, starting under center.


Mullens was a solid 20-of-29 on the game for 275 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 110.6. Those numbers look good, sure. But what stood out was the ability to take more than a few hits, particularly in the second half when the Seahawks were bringing extra pressure on the second-year pro.

One of Mullens' best throws was a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Dante Pettis early in the fourth quarter, which eventually led to a Niners field goal.

"It's a play that we like agaisnt man coverage," Mullens said of the play. "As long as I just held the safety, then I like Dante on the matchup. He did a great job of giving me space to throw it and made a great catch with a wet ball."

Mullens can play in this league, no more doubting that.

Grade: B+

Running Back

Running back Matt Breida reinjured the same ankle that held him out of the Niners' Week 14 matchup. But that didn't take place until late in the game. Before that, Breida managed just 50 yards on 17 carries, averaging 2.9 yards per attempt, but he also managed 46 receiving yards on five catches.

Meanwhile, fellow tailback Jeff Wilson was the more effective runner. But he also coughed up yet another fumble, one which was recovered by Seattle, marking the third time in as many games he's suffered such a gaffe. Wilson's ball security remains a concern for Shanahan.

Grade: C-

Wide Receiver

It's fun to watch Pettis emerging as a true No. 1 target, and he finished with that impressive 30-yard fourth-quarter catch and a total of 83 yards on five catches.

"That was a dime," Pettis admitted of the fourth-quarter catch. "[Mullens] dropped it right past the defender. I was just happy that I held onto it. It was a great throw."

Fellow wide receiver Kendrick Bourne had a key drop in the fourth quarter, however, and there weren't any other notable wide receiver efforts outside of Pettis, which knocks this overall grade down a bit.

Grade: C+

Tight End

Well, it's been a while since "Celek Time" was a thing, but that's precisely what happened when Mullens found veteran tight end Garrett Celek for a 41-yard touchdown at the 9:37 mark of the second quarter:

That would be San Francisco's lone offensive touchdown of the day, and Celek finished with 61 yards receiving compared to his teammate, George Kittle, who had 51. Kittle later admitted the Seahawks were focusing more on him and not Celek, saying:

They were looking at me a lot, so Celek definitely ran free a little bit. I am going to take credit for that a little bit. That is coach Shanahan. His game plan was that we are definitely going to give Celek some shots because they won't be looking at him the way that they are looking at the other side of the field.

Well, it worked.

Grade: A

Offensive Line

It wasn't the prettiest day for the 49ers offensive front, which surrendered three sacks to Mullens and gave up a number of hits. Laken Tomlinson was hit with a false start, and center Weston Richburg had a penalty gaffe as well. San Francisco managed only 3.6 yards per carry on the ground against a Seahawks team that was allowing a fourth-worst 5.0 rush yards per carry entering Week 15.

On a positive note, however, the Niners O-line and Co. managed to keep Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner off the stat sheet. Somewhat, at least, limiting him to just seven tackles -- a far cry from the outstanding game he had against the 49ers two weeks ago.

Grade: D+

Defensive Line

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recorded two sacks, making him the first 49ers player to get double-digit sacks since Aldon Smith back in 2012.

And the second one was pretty crucial, requiring Buckner to chase down quarterback Russell Wilson near the sidelines.

The Seahawks did manage 168 rushing yards again, although the pressure from Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead helps negate that to a large extent. Especially when Buckner led all Niners defenders with 11 tackles and four tackles for a loss as well.

Grade: B


Rookie linebacker Fred Warner was flagged for a questionable roughing-the-passer call, which seemed a bit silly. Other than that, though, he recorded another solid game in coverage and finished with nine tackles. His linebacking mate, Elijah Lee, finished with 10 tackles of his own, trailing only Buckner for the defensive lead.

Lee has now taken over starting duties for veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith, whom we'll likely not see in a prominent role the rest of 2018.

Grade: B-


The 49ers were bit by the injury bug again, losing cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to a knee sprain. Shanahan confirmed an MRI for Monday, and the hope is it's not an ACL tear. Witherspoon suffered the injury while trying to tackle Seahawks running back Chris Carson at the Niners' 5-yard line. After Witherspoon exited, San Francisco replaced him with rookie defensive back Tarvarius Moore, who subsequently allowed a touchdown to wide receiver Doug Baldwin -- one of two Baldwin scored in the game.

Moore bounced back, however, earning praise from fellow corner Richard Sherman.

"Moore came out there, was ready for his moment," Sherman said. "I think sometimes you run into situations where a young guy gets thrown out there and he hasn't played substantially throughout any part of a season. For [Witherspoon] to get hurt and for him to go out there ...and make those plays for us, I can't say enough about the job he did."

After the touchdown allowed, Moore bounced back nicely with two pass breakups.

Grade: B

Special Teams

Well, Gould was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goals, the most important one being the game winner.

"I've had a lot of success against the Seahawks, surprisingly," Gould later told the press. And San Francisco is perfectly glad its representative for the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award was instrumental in the victory.

That would have been impressive enough, but the Niners finally got an explosive kickoff return that meant something -- Richie James' 97-yard touchdown return to answer the Seahawks' opening touchdown of the day:

"I couldn't stop running," James admitted afterwards. "I don't know. I just felt like I wanted to keep running. i wanted to go to the other end zone where I was just at."

Yes, James. We felt that enthusiastic too.

Grade: A

Now at 8-6, the Seahawks still have to wait to clinch a playoff berth and were unable to do so at Levi's Stadium. Meanwhile, the 4-10 Niners can feel pretty good about their first win streak of 2018 an ending that long losing streak to Seattle as well.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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