That was the runaway victory it was billed to be; it just took a little longer than initially expected.
Despite rushing out to a 10-0 lead and looking like the substantially better team, the 49ers found themselves in a dogfight for much of Saturday with the Seattle Seahawks.
It was physical, explosive, and times, chippy.
But the team with far more weapons on either side of the ball ran away with it in the end, beating their division rivals in a 41-23 win on wild-card weekend.
That early start gave the wrong impression of how easy of a time the 49ers would have. There were two-straight three-and-outs from the Seahawks offense, while San Francisco tallied a field goal and a touchdown.
San Francisco’s offense was chock full of explosives throughout the game, with Christian McCaffrey ripping off a 68-yard run to open their second drive.
Two plays later, Brock Purdy found Elijah Mitchell with a back foot, jumping throw to get inside the 5-yard line. Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton lost complete track of McCaffrey a couple plays later for a 3-yard touchdown reception.
But Seattle was resilient, at least in the first half.
They were, for the most part, patient in their offensive approach. The Seahawks leaned on dynamic rookie runner Kenneth Walker III and DK Metcalf to attempt to wear down the 49ers defense with a grinding pace.
Seattle responded to that 10-0 deficit with a 14-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that took nearly seven minutes and ended, fittingly, with Walker running in a 7-yard carry.
Things got a little shaky for the 49ers at that point.
They had two field goals on drives which probably should have finished in the end zone.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks continued to cause issues. Metcalf beat Charvarius Ward cleanly for a 50-yard touchdown grab.
The half ended ignominiously, with one of the more embarrassing sequences in recent memory.
After securing what seemed to be a half-ending and lead-taking field goal with 14 seconds left, Robbie Gould kicked off with an ugly squib that got returned to the 38-yard line.
With nine seconds left, that should not have mattered. But Smith scrambled, and in a moment of boneheadedness, as Smith slid, Jimmie Ward came in late for a 15-yard penalty.
It allowed Seattle to take a 17-16 lead over the 49ers at the half. Pete Carroll, prior to this game, was 6-0 with a halftime lead in the playoffs.
But there’s a first time for everything.
San Francisco demolished Seattle in the second half.
Brock Purdy, who had looked shaky at times early on, began to get his swagger back. The 49ers ripped off explosive after explosive, torching Seattle.
There was a clear point of demarcation in the second half when the wind went out of Seattle’s sails.
SF opened that half with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that featured a 23-yard completion to George Kittle and a 21-yard play by Deebo Samuel, which caused a scuffle to break out. At the end of the play former Raiders safety Johnathan Abram clearly twisted Samuel’s ankle, and nothing was called.
Brandon Aiyuk had words with some of the Seahawks players and both sides had to be separated.
Samuel limped off the field after the play, but returned and appeared to be fine. The 49ers, with a second Brock Purdy sneak of the drive — it’s one element he hasn’t shown success compared to Jimmy Garoppolo — took a 23-17 lead.
Seattle looked like it might respond with a touchdown of its own. The San Francisco defense struggled to show it was capable of shutting down Seattle’s offense, which marched down to the 15-yard line on first down.
But after an ineligible man downfield penalty — one of many for Seattle — set up a third and 14, the Levi’s Stadium crowd was raucous. And Charles Omenihu, who had nearly missed a sack on Geno Smith a few plays earlier, got home to him for a strip sack, recovered by Nick Bosa.
That provided a full shift in momentum.
San Francisco ran riot from that point on, with all of its weapons getting fully involved. That fumble recovery turned into an Elijah Mitchell touchdown reception that resembled the McCaffrey touchdown reception earlier in the game.
Purdy bought time, escaped pressure, rolled right, and found Mitchell in acres of space for a walk-in touchdown. He beat his chest to the 49ers sideline, then secured a two-point conversion with a toss-up completion to George Kittle.
After a defensive stop, Samuel notched his first touchdown since Week 14. Purdy rolled out on a play-action fake, providing the ball to Samuel in acres of space.
Ahead of Samuel were George Kittle, who cleared out his assignment, and Brandon Aiyuk, who executed an outstanding block to fully release Samuel for a 74-yard touchdown reception.
Deommodore Lenoir promptly intercepted Smith to send the crowd into a frenzy, nearly setting up another touchdown.
Aiyuk should have had a touchdown of his own, but will only have himself to blame. In what would have been the most impressive touchdown of his young career, Purdy bought a stupid amount of time, rolled out, and threaded the needle in the back corner of the end zone to Aiyuk… who dropped it.
San Francisco took a field goal, and will only malign that drop, and a late, second-half score by the Seahawks thanks to a Samuel Womack III defensive pass interference call.
Outside of that, the second half was borderline flawless.
Purdy had three passing TDs and a rushing TD (the four total TDs as many as Jimmy Garoppolo in six playoff games), and set a career high with 332 passing yards on 18-of-30 passing, plus four carries for 16 yards.
McCaffrey had 135 total yards on 17 touches, a touchdown reception (and probably a rushing touchdown discounted), and a hands team recovery on a late onside kick.
Samuel finished with 105 yards on nine touches, Aiyuk with three catches for 73 yards.
Everyone got involved and despite a close first half, it ended up as the dominant performance expected pregame.
San Francisco will now host the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Minnesota Vikings next weekend.