SAN FRANCISCO — The Seattle Seahawks came into Candlestick Park and proved that the NFC West will be no cakewalk in 2012, taking swings at the defending division champions from the very start of the game.
The 49ers hit right back, clamping down on the Seattle offense in the second half and trudging off the field with a 13-6 victory Thursday night.
“That was the most physical 30 minutes of football in that second half that I’ve ever seen our team play,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said afterward, unable to hide his elation.
Down 6-3 at halftime, the Niners put the ball in Frank Gore’s hands, and dared the Seahawks to do the same with Marshawn Lynch. Seattle’s workhorse back ran for 55 yards in the first half, to 39 by Gore. But the 49ers controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage after halftime. Gore finished with 131 yards, averaging 8.2 a carry, to Lynch’s 103.
And presented with two final chances to drive the field and tie the score late in the game, the Seahawks went nowhere behind their rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson. In fact, they actually lost yards on their final drive. Their last gasp ended when Wilson’s pass to Ben Obomanu on fourth-and-17 came up a yard short of a first down.
The 49ers could have accepted a safety on the play, as guard Paul McQuistan was guilty of a chop block in the end zone. But Harbaugh, far from his days of running up the score against opposing coach Pete Carroll, declined the penalty so his quarterback, Alex Smith, could take a knee and run out the clock.
Gore looked invigorated in the second half, but at times it looked almost easy behind an offensive line that was killing the Seahawks’ interior defense. Center Jonathan Goodwin and trapping guards Alex Boone and Mike Iupati opened huge holes for Gore and his understudy, Kendall Hunter.
“I think we just got angry,” Boone said. “We just went out there said, ‘Hey, we want to be a physical front five. This is a great defense, this is a great week to prove it.’ We did a good job of coming back in here (to the locker room), regrouping, really kind of refocusing on what we needed to do best. And I thought it was a great second half.”