The 2019 San Francisco 49ers are NFC West champs and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs! It's been a long, long road, but the rebuild under John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan that started in 2017 is finally over. This team is for real, has a legit quarterback, and is ready to shine in the postseason. Here are my takeaways from last night's thriller in Seattle:

1) Winning in Seattle is Huge for Several Reasons


What a finish! As if any of our hearts can take this amount of stress, the 49ers won in Seattle by a razor-thin margin as Dre Greenlaw tackled tight end Jacob Hollister inside the one-half line! It was reminiscent of Dan Bunz in Super Bowl 16 (who also wore number 57 and the final score in that game was oddly 26-21) when he tackled Charles Alexander short of the endzone on that memorable goal line stand. Greenlaw's tackle ended a nightmarish losing streak at Century Link Field that began in 2012 and lasted eight games, including the 2013 NFC Championship Game.

San Francisco just seemed snake-bitten whenever there was a game in Seattle against Russell Wilson. Somehow it would lose. Somehow, Seattle would get it done and it felt like the pain would never end. Well, last night, it ended. The 49ers sent the Seahawks and the "12s" home searching for answers, while the good guys can rest up and prepare for either Minnesota, Philadelphia, and yes, even Seattle.

Overcoming Seattle gives the 49ers confidence that they can beat the Seahawks in the postseason if necessary and it also prevents San Francisco from having to jump on a plane and go across the country to immediately face the Eagles in a Wild Card matchup. With home field advantage, rest, and the confidence that they can beat any of the NFC's contenders, the 49ers are set up with solid odds to get to the Super Bowl. It doesn't get much better than that.

2) The Offense is Taking the Next Step


At the start of the season, the defense and the ground game were the talk of why the 49ers were good. Jimmy Garoppolo was viewed as a simple "game manager" who was asked to "not screw it up", at least in the eyes of most pundits. Very few people believed Garoppolo was going to be as good as he is turning out to be. The offense is a complete unit. The ground game is still very, very good, especially with the emergence of Raheem Mostert. Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman are more than capable backs, each with the ability of a starter. Mostert is becoming the most consistent and when it's all said and done, could be the starter going forward.

The biggest positive change has come from the addition of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Since he arrived, everyone's numbers are up, especially rookie sensation Deebo Samuel.

Teams can no longer lock in on George Kittle. Sanders is the sure-handed receiver who is money on third down, but also, as the Rams can attest, is capable of the big play. His leadership and experience have helped the development of Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, and all of the young receivers. But perhaps most importantly, the addition of Sanders has given Jimmy G the confidence boost he needed to get his game to the next level.

During this last five game stretch, the offense has shouldered the load as the defense got depleted with injuries. These games contained some of the most difficult teams in the league in Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans and Seattle. The offense did the job, scoring 37 and 48 against the Packers and Saints, respectively, and played very well in Seattle.

Against the Seahawks, Garoppolo completed 18 of 22 passes for 285 yards. The ground game did all the scoring, but Garoppolo moved the chains repeatedly, made plenty of big throws, and did not turn over the ball. There was a great mix of run and pass, and had just a couple of small things not gone wrong, this game could have been a rout.

It is now apparent that the 49ers can win any way, play any style, and compete in any conditions. They are going to be as difficult to beat as anyone. If the defense can get back even somewhat to what it was earlier in the year with Dee Ford, Jaquiski Tartt, and possibly Kwon Alexander returning, they will win it all.

3) Dre Greenlaw is the Real Deal



Greenlaw, a rookie fifth round pick, has far exceeded most expectations this year. Early in the offseason, it was thought that Greenlaw would be a special teams stud and work his way into playing time. San Francisco never did find a "SAM" linebacker better than what Greenlaw showed in preseason, so the job was his.

He had a huge game against Seattle in Week 10, but has been very consistent after he had to fill in for Kwon Alexander, averaging just over nine tackles per game. There was no play bigger than his tackle of Hollister on the one inch line.

Greenlaw is another mid-round draft pick who has turned into a homerun by this front office and should be a key player for years to come.

4) Help is on the Way for the Pass Rush



The defensive unit has fought through a lot of adversity with injuries and young guys getting settled into their positions. The unit most decimated has been the pass rush. Julian Taylor, Ronald Blair, D.J. Jones, and Demontre Moore are all out for the season. Dee Ford has missed several games with hamstring and knee issues. The pass rush is still very good at creating pressure, but the sack totals have definitely dropped.

Against Russell Wilson, the pass rush just couldn't finish many times and the scrambling wizard figured out how to beat the defense most of the second half. Obviously, Wilson does this to pretty much everyone, but the 49ers can't allow these great playoff quarterbacks to have time and make consistent plays on the defense.

There have been many instances where the defense needed to get a little more in the way of a pass rush to close out games and it just hasn't been there. Once Dee Ford returns and if he can remain healthy, sack totals should rise again. A large part of the issue has been generating a rush from the opposite side of Nick Bosa. The reserves haven't been able to do it and the snap counts for Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead have been higher than in games past. Ford should be able to provide pressure and allow the starters to get more rest during the postseason.

A bye week will greatly help the entire unit get rested up for the next, hopefully, three games.

Extra Points


- Ahkello Witherspoon struggled again at times and near the end of the game, was subbed out for Emmanuel Moseley. Coach Shanahan stated that "Witherspoon did not have a bad game." Overall, that is mostly true, but there were also the several catches that receivers made on him and the coverage wasn't there. Hopefully, both Witherspoon and Moseley will play better in the postseason.

- Marshawn Lynch was held to 31 yards on 12 carries. Half of that yardage came on one play. While his energy pumped up the Seahawks and the crowd, the 49ers ensured he did not have a big game and treated him like they would have any other back. While Lynch scored from a yard out, rest assured, Rashad Penny and Chris Carson would likely have done the same.

- Jadaveon Clowney did not have nearly the game he did in Week 10. Joe Staley was on his game and held Clowney to one tackle. Overall, Seattle's pass rush was a non-factor as the 49ers' offensive line gave Garoppolo plenty of time for most of the game.

- Robbie Gould continues to silence his doubters, going two for two on field goals, including a big 47 yarder. Gould very much looks like his old self again.

- Deebo Samuel was a huge part of the offense again, finishing with five catches for 102 yards and also scoring on a big 30-yard end around. His toughness and willingness to fight for every yard is contagious. This rookie class is shaping up to be one of the best in football.

- This week, the 49ers will rest during their bye week and await either Philadelphia, Seattle or Minnesota.