SEATTLE — Carlos Rogers, the 49ers’ cornerback who missed the past two games with a pulled hamstring, valiantly suited up and played against the Seahawks. And then he gave up the game-winning touchdown.
It was fourth-and 7 at the 49ers’ 35-yard line. The 49ers were ahead by four points. The fourth quarter had just begun.
Aldon Smith jumped offside and the Seahawks snapped the ball. A free play for Seattle. If it didn’t work out, the Seahawks could take the penalty. If the play did work out, they could decline it.
“They went to max protection and ran three verticals,” said 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of the Seahawks. Russell Wilson dropped back and fired a pass deep to one of the receivers running a vertical route — Jermaine Kearse who had beaten Rogers by a step.
“They threw the ball at me,” said Rogers. “I’ve got to make the play on the ball regardless of if the throw is good or inside or outside.”
The throw was better than good. It was perfect. Rogers jumped and missed the pass by a few inches. Kearse jumped and caught the ball in the back of the end zone.
The Seahawks took the lead and never gave it back.
Although Frank Gore made a clutch 17-yard catch on fourth-and-2 with just two minutes left in the game, he did not play well.
Gore ran the ball 11 times for only 14 yards. And nine of those yards came on one run. That means 10 other carries gained just 5 yards.
“That’s a good question,” Jim Harbaugh said at the podium after the game. “I don’t have that answer right now.”
“They played great defense,” Gore said, shrugging. “We just couldn’t get nothing going.”
The Seahawks do not have a great run defense. They gave up 3.9 yards per carry this season, but held Gore to 1.3 yards per carry in the NFC championship. Gore might have been more productive, but 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman kept calling runs up the middle and the Seahawks kept stuffing those inside runs. The 49ers usually have the most creative run game in the NFL. But against the Seahawks, the 49ers showed zero creativity in how they used Gore.