2022 NFL season, Week 15: What We Learned from 49ers’ win over Seahawks on Thursday night

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Published: Dec 15, 2022 at 11:16 PM

Seattle Seahawks

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  1. Brock Purdy passes another test for NFC West-winning 49ers. When Kyle Shanahan is on, he’s one of the finest play-callers in the NFL. And based on what we’ve seen the past 11 days, Purdy looks to be the real deal. Those aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, most of Purdy’s passes went to open receivers, but he’s still making the throws — and even in tough spots. That’s what counts, and it was what helped deliver San Francisco the NFC West title with Thursday night’s win. Purdy started sharply, hitting on his first 11 passes (with another erased by penalty during that streak). The highlight was a Purdy beauty on the touchdown pass to George Kittle, faking two screens before firing the ball on a delay route to the open tight end, who did the rest of the work on the 28-yard score. Purdy did get away with a few passes late in the first half, throwing what should have been an interception right into the chest of the Seahawks’ Quandre Diggs late in the second quarter. But Purdy got back on track and handled a few tricky spots — maybe where other young quarterbacks might start melting a bit — and played another clean, strong game overall. Through three (nearly full) games, he’s thrown for six TDs and one INT and completed nearly 67% of his passes.
  2. The Seahawks slumping can’t all be put on Geno Smith. A lot of forces were working against Smith against the 49ers, and let’s be honest: These issues have been brewing for a while. While the Seahawks’ defense largely did what it needed to do to keep them in the game, the offense came up short with a pair of field goals. The Seahawks’ offensive line allowed three sacks (and it should have been more) and nine QB hits. Kenneth Walker gave the backfield a little spark, but it was clear he wasn’t fully healthy, having to limp off the field at one point. Travis Homer’s fumble was a killer. DK Metcalf had a quiet seven catches and was flagged for 15- and 10-yard penalties. Smith, as has been the case in recent weeks, didn’t play his best. But he was far from the reason Seattle lost. He took some absolute shots against the 49ers and was still trying to coax his teammates to mount a late fight, which they did. The reaction by the Seahawks’ sideline to Smith getting hit out of bounds by the 49ers’ Talanoa Hufanga tells you just how much Smith’s teammates respect him. Now they need to help him out a bit more if the Seahawks want to earn a wild-card berth.
  3. George Kittle being healthy is a huge difference for the 49ers. Seattle lucked out when Kittle missed the 49ers’ first matchup between the two teams, but Thursday was his payback. Kittle stung the Seahawks for two long touchdowns — 28 and 54 yards, and he was wide open on both — to help break the game open for the 49ers. He’d finish the game with four catches for 93 yards, his highest yardage total since Week 7. The question with Kittle is almost always his health. He plays a rough brand of football and has been beaten up pretty badly over the years, going back to college. But when he’s available and close to full power, Kittle is nearly as good as any tight end in the league, perhaps other than Travis Kelce. Kittle also excels at blocking, making him a complete player and a perfect fit for this system. And though Purdy looks pretty darned good, the bigger point is that the two look good working together and the 49ers are just a far more dangerous team when Kittle is out there.
  4. Seahawks will rue early missed opportunities. The Seahawks were being outplayed early but found themselves down only 7-3 late in the second quarter. That’s when a pretty brutal pair of plays made it that much harder for Seattle to mount a comeback. The first was Diggs’ dropped INT; it was a play he had to make, and there was room to run for a return, too. The second came five plays later when Seahawks running back Travis Homer coughed up a fumble near midfield, which was recovered by the 49ers and eventually converted into a touchdown. That loomed large when the 49ers took their first possession of the second half and went right down the field with it. What could have been a relatively close game was suddenly an 18-point hole for the home team. And it could have been worse had Deommodore Lenoir’s would-be pick-six not been taken off the board on the next series. Which leads us to …
  5. Roughing-the-passer calls are still not going smoothly. Grady Jarrett’s sack on Tom Brady. Chris Jones’ sack on Derek Carr. Jaelen Phillips’ sack on Justin Herbert. All were wiped out for very dubious roughing calls. Those helped contribute to this becoming a hot topic at the recent owners’ meeting, with a discussion about possibly making roughing the passer reviewable. The latest controversial instance came Thursday when Nick Bosa sacked Geno Smith … and then was penalized 15 yards for seemingly just playing football. The officiating crew can justify it by saying Bosa drove Smith to the ground, but you could see Bosa release his left arm as he’s going down. What else can Bosa realistically do in that situation? It’s worth noting, however, that roughing calls on the whole are down compared to last season. There were 72 of them called through the first 208 games this season (average of one every 2.9 games) through Week 14. Last year, there were a total of 154 roughing calls in 278 games, or one every 1.8 games. So they’re less frequent but still occasionally controversial, and we’ve had enough big ones that the rule might change eventually.

Next Gen stat of the game: George Kittle had 8.8 yards of separation when the pass arrived on his 54-yard TD reception, his second wide-open TD on Thursday (5-plus yards of separation). Kittle gained 23 of those yards after the catch, gaining plus-11 yards over expected. The touchdown probability on the play was only 14.7%.

NFL Research: Christian McCaffrey had his third straight game with a touchdown on Thursday, the first time he’s done that since scoring two TDs in all three games he played in his injury-shortened 2020 season.

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