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49ers HC Kyle Shanahan: 'The way the defense played' against Seahawks was 'unbelievable'

San Francisco's defense appears to be peaking for the stretch run. 

The 49ers' first-ranked scoring unit again showed out on Thursday night, overcoming a third-quarter offensive lull by holding steady in its domination over the Seattle Seahawks to help deliver a 31-13 victory.

"The way the defense played tonight was unbelievable," head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. "To keep them out of the end zone the whole game. The six sacks. The way I thought our corners played on the outside. Just a real impressive game, and we're real excited to watch it."

Seattle found itself overwhelmed in all three phases at first, surrendering a score to San Francisco on every other drive of the 49ers' eight first-half possessions. Christian McCafrrey accounted for two of those scores on 1- and 8-yard touchdown runs, and totaled 104 yards through two quarters.

The defense packed an even stronger punch, holding the Seahawks to 56 yards in the first half while allowing just three first downs and three points on Seattle's first six drives. Even the special teams delivered a fumble recovery on a muffed punt.

By halftime, the 49ers held a 24-3 lead and a 22:31 to 7:29 discrepancy in time of possession.

But this was a divisional battle, with the NFC West lead on the line and the two clubs separated by a single game in the standings.

The Seahawks cut into the lead three and a half minutes into the third quarter with a tipped pick-six by Jordyn Brooks, bringing the Seattle crowd to a frenzy that coincided with a quieted San Francisco offense.

The Niners would take over 22 second-half minutes to score again. Their defense found no such slump.

Although the Seahawks managed a 78-yard drive that stalled for another field goal to bring the score to 24-13, they were otherwise shut out, unable to tighten the gap again.

It was a group effort by the Niners D, especially along a line that consistently met Seattle quarterback Geno Smith in a simultaneous swarm for the majority of the team's six sacks, four of which came in the second half. Four sacks also came on crucial third-down plays.

"It's funny, after the game nobody has any idea what their stats are," pass rusher Nick Bosa said of San Francisco's tendency for group sacks. "It's a good problem to have."

Although it was a collective effort to bring Smith down multiple times and to force him into rushed decisions, Bosa still served as the leader of the D-line as he so often does. Last year's Defensive Player of the Year had eight QB hurries -- five more than anyone else on the team -- and led the way with two sacks.

On the back end, Charvarius Ward played the starring role.

The corner spent much of the night following DK Metcalf, allowing just one 14-yard reception to the big-bodied receiver on seven targets as the nearest defender, per Next Gen Stats. He logged two passes defensed against him and had another deflection covering Tyler Lockett in the end zone.

"From what I saw out there, I thought he was unbelievable," Shanahan said about Ward. "I don't get to see all of it, so I'm excited to see it on the plane, but he's been pretty consistent coming here. I thought he had an unbelievable game last year on Thursday night up here and seemed very similar today."

Regarding the challenge he posed to Ward about shadowing Metcalf: "He didn't hesitate. He was up for the challenge. He's been up for it throughout last year as you guys can see. He was up for it today and didn't disappoint. He was real impressive."

The defensive effort helped cap off the 49ers' third straight victory and ensured a two-score game still felt somewhat out of reach even before Brock Purdy and Co. woke up with a nail-in-the-coffin TD drive.

Amid the winning streak, the defense has surrendered just 7.7 offensive points per game and has 15 total sacks.

It's becoming increasingly clear that this version of San Francisco -- not the banged up one that suffered a three-game losing streak heading into its Week 9 bye -- is the one future opponents must contend with.

On Thursday night, the chasm between the 49ers and Seahawks was also made clear.

Seattle will have an opportunity for a rebuttal when these two teams square off again in two weeks time.

For now, though, the NFC West's cream of the crop is clear, something San Francisco has its defense to thank.

"Staying focused through four quarters is big because in a hostile environment a 14-point lead doesn't really go a very long way," Bosa said. "We came into the second half with a mentality that we need to put our foot on their throat, and that's what we did."

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