One play, in particular, shifted the momentum in the 49ers’ favor during San Francisco’s 41-23 NFC Wild Card Game victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium.
With San Francisco leading 23-17 with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter, 49ers defensive end Charles Omenihu’s strip-sack of Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, which was recovered by Nick Bosa, gave the 49ers the ball back during a crucial part of the game.
The 49ers then marched down the field for a seven-play, 70-yard drive. That resulted in a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Purdy to running back Elijah Mitchell, giving San Francisco a 31-17 lead.
Speaking to reporters postgame, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said that the strip-sack of Smith was the play that shifted the game in the 49ers’ favor.
“Oh, it was huge,” Shanahan said. “That was our first turnover. Once we got the turnover, that’s when I feel like the momentum completely changed for the whole game and it took him a while. He was in that pocket for a little bit. The longer they’re in there, the more people get open and off-schedule timing, so I was worried the whole time and then the ball went down on the ground and all I was asking, ‘Just jump on it, please.’
“We had a couple the last time we played him and they beat us to it and then once he did jump on it, I kind of was wishing he scooped and ran with it, but regardless I think we ended up scoring, so it was a huge play in the game and I think once our defense did that, I think they got their mojo back and played great. It was awesome to be able to protect some of them there that last drive.”
From that point on, the 49ers outscored the Seahawks 18-6 to close out the game.
The 49ers’ defense forcing that key turnover, plus a potential dirty play involving Seahawks safety Johnathan Abram and 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel gave San Francisco the fuel it needed to put away its division rival and advance to the NFC Divisional Round.