Brock Purdy and the 49ers breeze past Seahawks to clinch NFC West

SEATTLE — The San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West Thursday night with a 21-13 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Rookie Brock Purdy, the Niners’ third starting quarterback this season, led the team to an away win over a division rival four days after defeating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first NFL start.

Purdy threw for two touchdowns while running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for another after the Seahawks lost a fumble. San Francisco’s defense kept quarterback Geno Smith and the Seahawks’ offense out of the end zone into the final minutes of the game.

While the Niners will continue to battle for playoff spot in the NFC, the Seahawks’ playoff chances dropped drastically after the loss. The Seahawks have lost four of their last five games and face the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets in the next two weeks.

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San Francisco 49ers

For the second time in four years, the 49ers are NFC West Division Champions.

And now the fun begins.

The Seahawks have long been a thorn in the side of the Niners, especially at Lumen Field. But the Niners, led by another outstanding performance from McCaffrey, defeated their most troublesome opponent with relative ease on Thursday night, extending their winning streak to seven games.

At 10-4 and 5-0 in the NFC West division, the Niners can’t fall below the No. 3 spot in the NFC postseason picture, meaning coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff will have a bit of a balancing act in the final three weeks the season.

Theoretically, the Niners could still take the Philadelphia Eagles to No. 1 overall, but realistically, they’re unlikely to jump higher than No. 2. As it stands, the 10-3 Minnesota Vikings have a half game ahead of them, but with an 8-2 record in the NFC, the Niners hold a potential tiebreaker if they finish with the same record as Minnesota.

Shanahan, no stranger to serious injuries, could choose to manage the workload of some key players over the past three weeks. But he probably won’t do it as long as the No. 2 is in play. Additionally, Purdy could use as many snaps as possible before embarking on his first trip to the playoffs.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Shanahan said. “I mean, that’s by no means our ultimate goal. I’m very proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished throughout the year to make this happen. Our goal is to get into the tournament and we achieved that today, but now it’s trying everything we can to make this the best situation we can and hopefully get some of our guys back in the process too.

For now, the Niners can take a “mini bye” ahead of their Christmas Eve clash with the Washington Commanders and bask in celebration of another division title at Seattle’s home stadium.

QB Breakdown: Purdy was ruled questionable this week with a rib and oblique injury, but it would have been hard to tell based on his performance against the Seahawks. With McCaffrey at the helm, Shanahan planned out some easy looks for Purdy to keep George Kittle in the end, and Purdy was again mostly balanced and on-point.

He finished 17 of 26 for 217 yards with two points and no interceptions for a 117.0 passer rating. He also became the second rookie quarterback in franchise history to win his first two starts, joining Scott Bull circa 1976.

Promising trend: Kittle continues to be an integral part of the Niners offense, but that hasn’t shown up in passing as often as it has in years past. He finished Thursday night with four catches for 93 yards with two points. With receiver Deebo Samuel nursing a sprained left knee and ankle, the Niners need Kittle to produce more and provide McCaffrey with an complement. Thursday evening was a step in the right direction.

key game: The Niners controlled the game for most of the first half but struggled to extend their lead, seemingly leaving the door open for Seattle to take the lead just before halftime. As the Seahawks moved the ball late in the second quarter, running back Travis Homer caught a short pass and tried to find space on the open field before being hit by cornerback Jimmie Ward. Niners linebacker Dre Greenlaw converged shortly after and shook the ball loose. San Francisco cornerback Charvarius Ward recovered and rushed 40 yards to the Seattle 6-yard line, and McCaffrey hit two games later to make it 14-3 and effectively end the game.

Next game: vs Commanders (4:05pm ET, Dec 24)

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Seattle Seahawks

That was demonstrated in Week 2 when the Seahawks were left without a point of attack in a 27-7 loss to the 49ers in Santa Clara.

It’s become even clearer in recent weeks as the 49ers extended their lead in the NFC West, taking out opponent after opponent while the Seahawks lost three of four, all against teams with worse records than their own.

And Thursday night at Lumen Field, it was once again clear just how wide the rift has suddenly grown between the Seahawks and the division competitor who owned them not so long ago. Faced with a third-string quarterback who didn’t have his best offensive weapon in Samuel, the Seahawks watched the 49ers win the NFC West in their building by controlling the game from start to finish.

The Seahawks are still a team on the rise. They have a strong young core and a boatload of draft capital for 2023, including what will likely be a top 5 pick thanks to the Russell-Wilson trade. And they’re still in playoff contention, with the same win count as the two teams currently occupying the NFC wildcard spots, the New York Giants and Commanders.

But they got another reminder Thursday night of just how far they have to go to catch up with the 49ers. And while they have to lick their wounds, things won’t get any easier with a game against the 10-3 Chiefs on Christmas Eve at Arrowhead Stadium — especially since wide receiver Tyler Lockett is expected to miss time after breaking a bone in his hand .

QB Breakdown: Smith was mediocre and that’s about all you could expect from him in extremely difficult circumstances. He already faced the NFL’s best defense with a difficult running game, and when the Seahawks fell wide early on, they were forced into throwing mode against a charged pass rush. Smith completed 31 of 44 passes for 238 yards and a late touchdown pass to Noah Fant. He also threw a pick-six that was nullified by a dubious roughing penalty.

key game: Late in the second quarter, with the Seahawks trailing 7-3, safety Quandre Diggs was in the perfect position to execute an over-the-middle throw from Purdy. But instead of an interception that put Seattle in good field position, the ball bounced off Diggs’ hands and resulted in a punt that put the Seahawks to their own 19-yard line. Four games later, Homer lost a fumble that the 49ers recovered and returned to the 6-yard line where he set up an easy touchdown. Diggs has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of the last two seasons but hasn’t played at that level this year.

Worrying trend: The Seahawks have now conceded at least 150 rushing yards in five straight games, the biggest way their defense has returned to their preseason form after a promising turnaround. The 49ers scored 170 points in 34 tries. And while the Seahawks did a good job — at least by their standards — in keeping McCaffrey from overrunning them for much of the night, they allowed Jordan Mason to break free for a 55-yard gain that ended the game Path. McCaffrey finished with 108 yards on 26 attempts. Seattle was already without its best defenseman in Al Woods, losing its replacement, Bryan Mone, to an ACL injury in the first quarter.

Next game: at Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 24)

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35261232/brock-purdy-49ers-breeze-seahawks-clinch-nfc-west Brock Purdy and the 49ers breeze past Seahawks to clinch NFC West

Emma Bowman

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