Count the Seattle Seahawks among those who closely watched the 49ers hand the Pittsburgh Steelers a convincing 20-3 loss on Monday night at Candlestick Park.
Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who played collegiately for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, said he was impressed with the San Francisco secondary after seeing the 49ers force three interceptions. And while the rest of the league may be surprised with the 49ers’ quick turnaround under Harbaugh, Baldwin isn’t stunned at all.
“I knew that he would go in with the same mentality that he came in with when he went to Stanford,” Baldwin told Bay Area reporters during Tuesday’s conference call. “Obviously, he has a lot of talent there in San Francisco and I’m not surprised at all.”
But Harbaugh isn’t the only coach on the 49ers staff responsible for the team’s new fortunes. Both Baldwin and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had plenty of kind words for 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Under Fangio’s watch, the 49ers have become the league leader in scoring defense (13.2 points per game), rushing defense (71.5 yards per game) and turnover margin (plus-25). The 49ers have also become the first team in NFL history to not allow a rushing touchdown through 14 games.
“Vic does a fantastic job,” Carroll said. “He understands this game as well as anybody in the league.”
But the Seahawks feature one of the league’s hottest running backs in Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of his last seven contests, while piling up 12 touchdowns on the year. Carroll likened Lynch’s hard-nosed running style to that of Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, while saying much of his recent success is due to an improved offensive line unit.
“He’s been running hard all year, but he was getting knocked in the backfield a lot earlier,” Carroll said. “We’re just a little better than we were. You can see the benefits of a system and staying with the philosophy and approach; he’s been putting together his yardage in the past six, seven weeks or so.”
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