Niners snatch NFC West: ‘It’s not our end goal’

SEATTLE – With few exceptions, no one on the San Francisco 49ers knows better than defensive lineman Eric Armstead how hard it is to beat the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field.

Throughout Armstead’s eight years in the NFL, he was part of a team that came to Seattle and lost disappointingly. There was only one notable exception, however, in 2019, when the Niners beat the Seahawks in a thriller to clinch the NFC West Division and the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

After Thursday night, there are now two notable exceptions, as the Niners pounced on the Seahawks early and went on to win 21-13. And for the second time in four seasons, the Niners were able to enjoy a jersey and hat celebration in the stadium of their biggest opponent.

“I’ve only done it twice in my eight years, and it just shows you how hard it was,” said Armstead. “And to do it against Seattle, we wouldn’t want it any other way. A team that’s been a thorn in our side since I’ve been here. So, to do it against them was definitely a nice feeling.”

Just like in 2019, the 49ers won the division title at Seattle home field, and with three games to go, this is the first time they’ve finished in the division since 2011. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the first time the San Francisco the Seahawks since the 2011 season.

With the win, the Niners improved to 10-4 and clinched their seventh straight victory, their longest winning streak since an eight-game snap in 2019. The win ensures that they will be unable to finish lower than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs.

The 49ers close out the season with a home game against the Washington Commanders on Christmas Eve, visiting the Las Vegas Raiders on New Year’s Day and hosting the Arizona Cardinals at the end of the season.

Even though San Francisco was plagued by injuries and could use the time off to recover, they still managed to catch the Vikings 10-3 Minnesota for the second seed.

“This is by no means our ultimate goal,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I’m very proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished over the year to get to this. Our goal is to get to the championship and we achieved that today but now everything is trying to set that up to be the best situation we can do. Hopefully we can get some of our guys back in the process as well.”

At the top of the “needs to heal” list is rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. After a short week of suffering a rib and oblique problem on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Purdy hasn’t attempted a single pass in practice this week.

In fact, his only pitching was before the pre-game warm-up Thursday night in a hotel ballroom during the team’s game day tour of Seattle. Even during the warm-up, Shanahan believed there was a chance that Purdy would not play or at least be able to finish the game. Veteran quarterback Josh Johnson was on point.

But Purdy, the 262nd and final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, said he never doubted he’d play against the Seahawks.

“I knew I was going to come out to start the game and just try to get into a rhythm and see how skewed I felt and all that kind of stuff,” Purdy said. Then he made a decision. But my mind was, ‘Man, I’m coming to this place to play and get started.'” “

Not only did Purdy complete the game, but he also put together another solid error-free outing. Aside from the punt that was supposed to be intercepted before halftime, Purdy never put the ball in harm’s way, finishing with no interceptions and two touchdowns while completing 17 of 26 passes for 217 yards for a passer rating of 117.0.

Two starts in his young NFL career, Purdy completed 70% of his attempts with four touchdowns and no interceptions, making him only the third quarterback—along with Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo—since 1950 to hit those marks in his first two Started.

Purdy even flashed his speed and poise with a late scramble from third down that helped smooth the game.

“It was another level for me to just watch somebody do it,” said Shanahan. “The injury he had last week and for him to be ready to go today, which you can still tell in the pre-match warm-ups a number of things that were really difficult for him, just to be able to play, not to mention the way he did it, to protect the ball.” He struggled to move around a bit at times… Our team had a lot of respect for him before the game but a lot more now.”

Purdy also got plenty of help as tight end George Kittle finished with four catches for 93 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the Niners defense held a seventh straight opponent to 17 points or fewer, and Christian McCaffrey cranked up his usual heavy pull.

McCaffrey finished with 32 touches for 138 yards from scrimmage and had a rushing touchdown. It was his fifth game with 100+ scrimmage yards, making him only the second midseason possession to set that mark, joining Eric Dickerson, who had six in 1987 with the Indianapolis Colts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

It’s no coincidence that the 49ers are 7-0 since McCaffrey took over as the full-time starter in Week 8. Prior to that, San Francisco had averaged 20.7 points per game. Since then, the Niners have averaged 27.6 points per game.

It’s been less than two months since the Carolina Panthers traded McCaffrey to the 49ers for future draft picks. McCaffrey moved from a struggling NFC South team to the NFC West champion.

“It’s hard to put into words,” McCaffrey said. “It’s been a wild rollercoaster and obviously we still have a lot left. But it’s nice to be able to celebrate this event with such an amazing group of guys, and I’m so lucky to be a part of that team.”

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