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Surging Seahawks knock 49ers out of playoff race

The Seahawks (10-4) remain alive in the race for the NFC West after knocking San Francisco (7-7) out of playoff contention with a convincing 17-7 win over the 49ers on Sunday. Our takeaways:

  1. Seattle owns a legitimate chance to win the NFC West after nipping the Niners at CenturyLink Field. Sunday's affair was another classic example of the Seahawks wearing down the competition with their clock-chewing ground game and a defense that looks primed for another Super Bowl run. Allowing 6.75 points per game over the past four weeks, the Legion of Boom shut down passing lanes and made the play of the game with a fourth-quarter stop on fourth-and-1 in Seahawks territory. With six sacks, six hits on the quarterback and 10 tackles for a loss, Seattle on Sunday looked like what they are: Still the team to beat in the NFC. San Francisco, meanwhile, has been eliminated from playoff contention.

 2. Colin Kaepernick made a beautiful pass on San Francisco's first touchdown drive, leaving the pocket to throw a 31-yard rope down the sideline to tight end Garrett Celek. Three plays later, the 49ers quarterback converted on third down with a 15-yard laser to Anquan Boldin. Kaepernick hasn't made enough of those throws this season, but he looked sharp out of the gate on Sunday. We also saw the quarterback go right at Richard Sherman, completing his first five passes in the cornerback's direction for 79 yards. The second half was another story, though, with Kaepernick and the 49ers eating up eight minutes with a 14-play, 55-yard drive that ended without points. 

  1. San Francisco's second-half meltdown had plenty to do with a banged-up backfield. Frank Gore blasted his way for a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter before exiting the game with a concussion. Rookie Carlos Hyde looked great plowing for 55 yards at 9.2 yards per clip before leaving with an ankle injury. With nobody else to turn to, little-used Alfonso Smith came on to run for just six yards off four carries. The injuries took a massive toll on a Niners offense that lost its rhythm down the stretch.
  1. Marshawn Lynch was held in check in the first-half, but bounced back to rumble for 91 yards and a touchdown against an amped-up Niners defense. Since trading away Percy Harvin, the Seahawks have returned to their run-happy roots, averaging 179.3 yards per game since Week 6. That has everything to do with Beast Mode, who has played his best football of the season over the past month.
  1. Soon to be a goner, Jim Harbaugh was rightfully livid after the 49ers were slapped with a highly questionable roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter. We saw linebacker Nick Moody hit Russell Wilson cleanly in the midsection and former VP of officiating Mike Pereira told Fox that he agreed. Coming after a Wilson incompletion on third down, the flag set up a Seattle touchdown for a 17-7 lead they wouldn't lose.
  1. Seattle's showdown with the Cardinals (11-3) next Sunday looms as a mega-doozy. If they win that game and take care of the Rams in Week 17, the Seahawks might very well own home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 15 and discusses all the playoff implications. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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