Charvaris Ward shuts down TK Metcalf and 49ers feast in Thanksgiving win over Seahawks

SEATTLE — Geno Smith must have thought he was being swallowed by an avalanche.

Early in the fourth quarter, after the Seattle Seahawks wrestled the pace from the San Francisco 49ers and threatened to bite even deeper into San Francisco’s lead, Smith recovered the ball at their own 13-yard line. The drive started with high hopes from Seahawks fans that it might see a Thanksgiving comeback for years, but ended like most of Smith’s drives on Thursday — all white uniforms crashing into him for a third-down sack.

The 49ers defense was so dominant during the 31–13 victory that the press box announcer twice announced a sack as a “team sack” instead of the 49ers trying to spot Smith on a fly that brought him to the ground.

“It’s funny,” Nick Bosa said afterward. “After the game, nobody knows what their stats are. It’s a good problem to have.

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For the record, Bosa and Aric Armstead were each credited with a half-sack in the fourth quarter, which came at a point when the 49ers’ offense erupted and the Seahawks clawed their way back into the contest. However, San Francisco’s defensive stoppage settled the entire team. After a Seahawks drive, the 49ers offense regained control as it had at the start of the contest, with Brock Birdie inserting the final piece through the heart of the Seahawks with a 28-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Iuck.

For the second time since their bye week, the 49ers’ opponent failed to score an offensive touchdown. The sacks, which had seemed so stagnant and stiff during the three-game skid, flowed freely. The 49ers scored six more on Thursday and six more past Smith, who was questionable for the game with an elbow injury.

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“The way the defense played tonight was unbelievable,” Kyle Shanahan said afterward. “Keeping them out of the end zone the whole game, six sacks, the way I thought our corners played on the outside. Real impressive game. It’s really exciting to see.”

“They beat us – it’s that simple,” Smith said. “There is no excuse for that. It’s football, sports. Sometimes a group comes out and beats you. But the good thing about it is that we have another chance to go up against these guys in a few weeks. I think everyone should take it personally. I know I am. We all have to take it personally. Can’t keep coming out and beating us like that.

Bosa was one of the standouts of the game and led the team with two sacks. But the revitalized pass rush, perhaps more than in the past, was truly a team effort, underscored by the number of players credited with a half-sack during the contest. The list includes Bosa, Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Kevin Givens and Dashaun Gibson Sr.

Defensive linemen will also be a secondary, forcing quarterbacks to hold the ball longer than earlier in the season.

Just like last year’s game in Seattle, cornerback Charvaris Ward was given a more ambitious task: the Seahawks’ biggest and most dangerous receiver, D.K. Metcalf, casting shadows wherever he lines up.

Ward’s last chance at prime time, Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, went badly for him, and he was fuming in the visitors’ locker room afterward. He had an interception in the first quarter of that game, but when he got a second chance just before halftime, the ball slipped from his grasp and turned into a long Minnesota touchdown that was debated and dissected for the next few weeks. .

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“I was very angry because I clearly had the ball in my hands and I let the ball get out of my hands,” he said Thursday. “I wasn’t mad at the play calling, the coaches, any of it. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I played a terrible game.’

In fact, Ward reported having the worst season of his career and admitted he suffered a team-high 10 penalties, many of which came during the 49ers’ three-game losing streak.

He said the offense made him play cautiously and he couldn’t always be the aggressive, fighting cornerback he wanted to be. In fact, one of the officials approached him during warmups before Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and warned him that they were going to be wary of a more physical game.

“I was like, ‘Oh no. Why me?'” Ward said. “It slowed me down like I had my hands on the receiver last week. If they let me play my game, I think I can be one of the best corners in the league. I hate flags. The coaches have been telling me not to worry about flags – just be yourself. But it’s obviously in my head.

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Against Metcalfe, however, officials allowed him to play to his strengths. Ward had two pass breakups on the Seahawks’ first series. He sidestepped Metcalf on two deep ball attempts, knocking one down. He broke up a pass in the end zone. And although he was targeted nine times, Metcalf exited the game with three catches for a season-low 32 yards.

Afterward, Ward joined his top teammates — Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and Bosa — as one of 49 people tapped to enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey on national television.

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“It was my first time playing on Thanksgiving, so I was excited to be one of the players in the game and get a turkey leg,” he said.

He had a strong game against Metcalf in the regular season last year, while Metcalf returned and had 10 catches for 136 yards during the teams’ playoff game.

“We’ve got another rematch in two weeks,” Ward said. “We’ll see how that goes.”

Thursday’s win over the Seahawks means it’s been 663 days since the 49ers lost to a division foe, the most recent loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2021 NFC Championship Game. The 49ers have beaten Seattle four times head-to-head, and each year the magic the Seahawks have held over them — especially in Seattle’s once-impenetrable home stadium — fades a bit above the past.

Now the 49-year-olds are turning their attention to a bird of a different feather, the Philadelphia Eagles. The feeling after their loss in Philadelphia in January was that it wasn’t a fair fight, and they were eager for a rematch when they were at full capacity, especially at the quarterback position.

On Thursday, however, most 49ers said they still couldn’t focus on that game and couldn’t summon any of the emotions they had when the 2022 season ended.

“I didn’t really think about it because we had to take care of business here,” Fred Warner said. “But we’ll be ready when that time comes.”

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(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

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