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Monday, November 20, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hawks humbled by 49ers

Seattle Times staff reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — In search of a third straight win and the NFC West theirs for the taking, the Seahawks struck fools' gold.

This is 49ers country, after all, and not every gold miner was successful in the 1849 California Gold Rush.

Nor were the Seahawks on Sunday against the football 49ers, losing to San Francisco 20-14.

San Francisco used some offensive creativity, Seahawks turnovers and a bull of a young running back named Frank Gore to stun the Seahawks at Monster Park. The 49ers could have won by more, and yet the Seahawks missed their share of opportunities as well.

"I didn't think they'd do that well against us," Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson said. "Live to fight another down, I guess."

Sunday was truly the 49ers' day. Much of what they tried worked on offense, at least in the first half. And when it didn't, they had Gore, the second-year pro whose 212 yards were the third-most by an opponent against the Seahawks in team history.

"We have to do a better job of tackling in the open field, and we have to do a better job of recognizing formations and the plays that are going to come out of them," defensive end Bryce Fisher said.

"He just made us miss and never let us get a full-flush hit on him."

The 49ers defense forced five turnovers, miscues that made the difference in the game. Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace, despite an improved second half, threw three interceptions, his first in four games.

The return of running back Shaun Alexander, the reigning MVP, was believed to be an addition that would help the Seahawks extend their two-game winning streak. Even without starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was available but did not play, the Seahawks figured to score points and keep a struggling 49ers offense in check.

Alexander, however, was a non-factor with 37 rushing yards on 17 carries. The Seahawks, who had run the ball well with Maurice Morris the past two games, were held to 70 yards on the ground against San Francisco's rapidly improving defense. And the 49ers offense had 416 yards total yards, 262 on the ground with Gore picking up 51 on one run and 50 on another.

The 49ers spent the afternoon one step ahead of the Seahawks. Quarterback Alex Smith's bootlegs, screen passes and a couple of end-arounds kept the Seahawks off-balance enough to aid in the win.

"They executed them pretty well," Holmgren said of such plays.

"Usually when those things happen that way, the discipline breaks down on a play."

San Francisco took advantage of its first interception to drive for a Joe Nedney field goal and a 3-0 lead. That lead became 10-0 after cornerback Walt Harris picked off Wallace, and the 49ers drove for their first touchdown. With an empty backfield, Smith zipped a pass to wide receiver Arnaz Battle for a 9-yard TD with 10:11 left in the second quarter.

Gore set up the 49ers' third score with runs of 20 and 23 yards, and Smith had a bootleg misdirection pass to Battle for 23. Smith scored when he faked a handoff to Gore from the 1-yard line and ran all the way to the right side and into the end zone.

San Francisco elected to kick a field goal just before halftime after a touchdown pass was reviewed and overturned.

Down 20-0 at halftime, the Seahawks tried to make a game of it in the second half.

Alexander picked up 16 yards — his longest run of the game — on Seattle's first drive.

Wallace then found Deion Branch with a pass in between two defenders, and the fleet receiver split the pair and dashed into the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown.

The Seahawks had the momentum when Craig Terrill blocked a 30-yard Nedney field-goal attempt. But it took them too long to score again.

Wallace hit Darrell Jackson for a 41-yard touchdown, and the Seahawks trailed 20-14 with 6:40 remaining.

On fourth-and-one from the Seattle 37, the Seahawks needed a first down to sustain a drive right after the two-minute warning. But Alexander was dropped for a 1-yard loss.

"I would have called the play if Shaun couldn't play," Holmgren said.

"I made the call, it didn't work, so it was a crummy call. Had it worked, it would have been a good call."

The 49ers still gave the Seahawks one last good chance when Gore fumbled on the very next play.

But Harris intercepted Wallace for a second time, and even when Nedney missed a 27-yard attempt with 34 seconds left, the Seahawks didn't have enough time to get the ball down the field.

The 49ers (5-5) served notice that they are a vastly improved team and a franchise on the rise. The loss for the Seahawks (6-4) trimmed their division lead to one game over the 49ers with one more meeting set for Dec. 14 at Qwest Field.

The loss snapped Seattle's 10-game win streak against division opponents, going back to the end of the 2004 season.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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