All season long I've told you that the 49ers are unbeatable when they play their best. It's now getting to the point where they're really damn tough to beat even when they don't do that.
Week 14 grades, let's go!
Brock Purdy: A-
Even with me being a tough grader, Brock is still crushing it. Early in the game, he was forcing passes over the middle of the field - including one that led to George Kittle being hit so hard he bit a hole through his tongue.
Besides that and an untimely interception on a miscommunication with Brandon Aiyuk, Purdy was on fire.
Each week, Brock is dismantling both opposing defenses and the arguments against him for MVP. The supposed "check down merchant" went 6 of 7 on passes travelling 15+ air yards for a total of 225 yards and 2 touchdowns (54 and 44 yards, respectively).
He also didn't enjoy great pass protection for most of the day. The box score says he was sacked 3 times, but it was even worse than that. Without Purdy's mobility the 49ers would not have scored 28 points on the day.
Take this play, for example, which is only made possible by Purdy rolling out, keeping his eyes on the receivers, and delivering an accurate ball deep down the field:
Brock is second in the NFL in passing yardage and tied for second in touchdown passes. He's also on pace to break the 49ers single-season passing yardage record in 16 games, and when you play QB in San Francisco, that's saying something.
Running Backs: A+
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his team prepared all week to defend the toss to the left, and then Christian McCaffrey did this on the very first snap of the game:
CMC is so great that plays like this have become routine. On the day, McCaffrey touched the ball 17 times for 153 yards - and failed to reach the endzone for just the second time as a 49er. The fact that the Niners could put up 28 points on a day when Christian had his second-fewest touches of the season speaks to the power of the offense right now.
Shoutout to Jordan Mason as well, who was RB2 because of an injury to Elijah Mitchell. Mason finished off the first touchdown drive of the day, and performed well in mop up duty (again), maintaining his five yards per carry average.
Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk combined for 351 receiving yards on the day, and each of them had a play that went for at least 44 yards. They shredded Seattle - again.
Let's start with Deebo Samuel, who Kyle Shanahan said is playing the best football of his career. On the day he gained 150 total yards on eight touches with two TDs. In the last three weeks, Deebo has 26 total touches, 382 total yards, and six touchdowns. He had five touchdowns in all of 2022. Whether it's through the air or on the ground, Samuel is getting back to his all-world form of 2021 at just the right time for the 49ers.
Brandon Aiyuk also tore up the Seattle secondary for 126 yards on six catches. He does get slightly lower marks than Deebo for being involved in the 49ers' two turnovers on the day, but he was still incredible. There's no one Purdy trusts more in crucial spots and late in the play.
Let's not forget George Kittle gobbling up 76 yards on just three catches, including his sixth tuddy of the season. Kittle is now up to 13 touchdowns in 19 career regular season games with Brock Purdy as his QB. That's a staggering 35% of his career total in just 20% of his total games played.
We are finally seeing quarterback that can absolutely maximize the talent of everyone around him (including the play-caller).
Defensive Front Seven: A-
Even with some injuries weakening the unit, the 49ers still terrorized the Seahawks in this game. Seattle ran the ball for just 3.5 yards per carry, and Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Clelin Ferrell, and Randy Gregory combined for four sacks on the day. Chase Young chipped in as well, sacking Drew Lock on a two point conversion attempt and also hitting Lock's arm during a throw in the fourth quarter that led to Fred Warner's fourth interception of the year.
Warner also baited DK Metcalf into getting ejected at the end of the game (which apparently was a goal of Kyle Shanahan this week). Bonus points to Dre Greenlaw for not getting any 15 yard penalties yesterday, either.
One cause for concern: Arik Armstead is already dealing with foot and knee injuries, and now Javon Hargrave has a balky hamstring. Cluster injuries can kill any team, so that's definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.
Charvarius Ward left the game with a hamstring injury on the first series of the afternoon, and it barely mattered in this one.
The Seahawks did have eight plays of 20+ yards on the day, but on the whole Steve Wilks' unit performed admirably in this one. The aforementioned Metcalf had just two 2 catches for 52 yards on the day, and none beyond his first quarter touchdown. Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir held up on the outside, and Isaiah Oliver wasn't exploited in any way that hurt the team.
Rookie safety Ji'Ayir Brown notched another interception and also had five solo tackles in the game. He continues to grow in place of the injured Talanoa Hufanga, which is very encouraging to see.
Special Teams: A+++++++++++
Ever since I found out Mitch Wishnowsky had some Austrailian football experience when he was drafted four years ago, I have been waiting to see him try a fake punt. It was every bit as glorious as I'd imagined:
Unfortunately Ronnie Bell blocked someone below the waist and the play didn't end up counting, but my god how beautiful was that? Fourth and 12 and you gain 30 yards!? After the game Kyle Shanahan said he didn't actually call for a fake, but Wishnowsky saw the opening and took off on his own. He also said Mitch reached 20 MPH on the run, but I don't know whether he was being serious (although Wish did run a 4.63 40-yard dash at the Combine).
Kyle Shanahan: A+
The 49ers punted the ball five times and turned it over twice - and still had their biggest offensive yardage total of the season (527 yards). The offensive averaged 9.9 yards per play in the game. The team has won five straight against the Seahawks, 11 straight in the NFC West, and five straight overall since the bye week. They're tied with the Cowboys for the longest active winning streak in the league.
Simply put, Kyle Shanahan is in his bag right now. Despite all the consternation before the year, and all the panic during the three game losing streak, here we sit on December 11th and the 49ers stand alone atop the NFC standings.
I have a feeling the best is yet to come.