And just like that, the San Francisco 49ers are NFC west champions.
It took the final play of the game for tonight's primetime matchup to be decided. A play that was inches away from gifting the Seattle Seahawks the division crown. Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner mustered a prideful stop on fourth down against tight end Jacob Hollister to keep the Seahawks out of the end-zone. Their gang tackle stop clinched the game for the 49ers and it is a play that will be etched in 49er lore.
Thanks to that clutch play, the 49ers were able to go against history in Seattle to clinch the NFC west, as well as a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The 49ers are more than deserving of the top seed and a week off. 2019 has been a phenomenal year for them. Finishing as a Wild Card just would not have been fitting. In fact, anything less than a division title would have been disappointing. Not only did they get the division title, but they accomplished it in a place that they had not won since 2011. Russell Wilson has owned the 49ers at home ever since stepping foot in the NFL. Tonight marked his first ever loss against them at CenturyLink Field.
A loss that has cost them the NFC west. Now the Seahawks will have to travel across the country to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. That could have easily been the San Francisco 49ers had they fell to the Seahawks. But their mental toughness once again came through for them. It has proven to be one of their most valuable traits time and time again this season. They showed it last week against the Los Angeles Rams when they overcame two third-and-16 plays on the same drive.
And they showed it again in tonight's win after allowing the Seahawks to reach the goal line to set them up for the game-winning touchdown. Most teams would have caved in that situation. The pressure to try and stop Seattle four consecutive times to end the game would have been too immense for most teams. Yet, the 49ers came through. Nothing like this should ever shock people who have watched the San Francisco 49ers in 2019. This what they do. Toughness is in their DNA. That is what makes champions and they proved that by becoming NFC west champions.
Now the 49ers will have their eyes set on the next piece of silverware, which is the NFC championship game. A game that the 49ers will likely reach and host at Levi's Stadium. It's too difficult to envision the 49ers as a one-and-done team in the playoffs. They are just too talented, too well-coached and too locked in to allow that to happen. Take the performance from Jimmy Garoppolo tonight as an example. The guy did not have a single incomplete pass in the second half of the game. It is just unreal how he lives up to the moment every single time.
The criticism against him from most of this season now looks like ignorance.
Garoppolo can lead this team to a playoff win. Tonight's game in Seattle was essentially a playoff game as well as the games against the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints and the Rams last week. Garoppolo could play terrible for the bulk of a game and he will still execute to perfection as if nothing has happened. Once again, it is the 49ers' mental toughness. That is the embodiment of every player and coach on this team.
To be able to call yourself a champion in this league, you have to have toughness - both mental and physical. With all of the pressure in the world in two consecutive games, Garoppolo and the 49ers delivered. Even the defense is attributed to this. The pass rush has been the staple of the defense all season long, yet they have not put up the numbers in the last four games. Yet, they still managed to hold strong until the very end. This team is focused and hungry. Nothing can derail, outside of injuries which has been the cause for the defensive decline.
That is why attaining a first-round bye was crucial for the 49ers.
Not only does it make it one less game for them to reach the Super Bowl, but the rest will be vital for key players like Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt. Even Kwon Alexander could potentially make a return as he looks better every week. No matter the case, this season has been a special one for the 49ers. They went against history in Seattle to clinch the NFC west to become the top seed in the NFC. From picking No. 2 in the draft to becoming No. 1 in the playoffs. I think it is safe to say that the San Francisco 49ers will not be finished when the divisional round comes along.