By Jerrell Richardson
Century Field was rocking before the opening kickoff, and the Seattle Seahawks gave the home fans something to cheer about the entire game, demolishing the visiting San Francisco 49ers, 42-13. The score was never really close and the outcome was never in question. The only real suspense came from seeing if the Seahawks were going to score 50 points for the 3rd consecutive week. When they have won this season, the 49ers have done so as a team, and on Sunday Night, they lost as one. San Francisco was outplayed in all phases of the game, but there is no need to panic, as the 49ers are still in a great position to make a deep run in the playoffs, so they can worry about the quickly improving Seahawks later.
Colin Kaepernick had his first bad game, but he had no help from his teammates. On the bright side he completed over 50% of his passes, finished with 244 yards passing, and on his only touchdown pass used his legs to buy himself time before finding Delanie Walker in the back of the end zone. He made several accurate throws down the field, and was the victim of several dropped passes. For the most part heseemed to handle the crowd noise after a few early delay-of-game penalties. He was going against one of the best defense’s in the league and was on the road, but will need to play better and lead the offense to more then one touchdown if they hope to have post-season success. However, it can’t be ignored that he got nothing from the running game.
Frank Gore has relished playing against the Seahawks in the past, however, they finally had his number on Sunday night. Part of it was Seattle jumping out to the early lead, but Gore and the running game provided no balance for the offensive attack. Kaepernick out-rushed Gore, whose 28 yards was far under his season average and not what the team expected from the franchise’s all-time rushing leader. Then again, due to the pace of the game he only had six touches and he did have a fumble that San Francisco was able to recover. LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon saw limited action, but were just as ineffective. As a team San Francisco could only manage 82 yards on the ground on 19 attempts. Grade: F
After a second half against the New England Patriots that they would like to forget, the 49ers did nothing to silence the concerns about the amount of points and yards they are surrendering as the season wraps up. The Seattle offense controlled the flow of the game and the clock, and San Francisco could not get off the field. Without Justin Smith they continue to struggle to get any pressure on Russell Wilson, and the result was the second straight week that they look far from dominant. Wilson put himself in the running for the rookie of the year with a very efficient night, passing for 171 yards and throwing four touchdowns, while picking apart the 49ers defense. The first-year sensation was most impressive on 3rd down, converting 11-of-13 chances and was a big reason that they were able to dominate the time of possession, as San Francisco could not get off the field.
With Russell Wilson playing well, it opened things up for Marshawn Lynch, who continues to have his way with the 49ers. He rushed for over 100 yards for the second time in as many games this season against San Francisco, totaling 111 yards on his 28 carries. Lynch also set the tone early with the games first score on a 28-yard run, giving his team a lead that they never relinquished. The 49ers offense did not help them as they were unable to sustain drives and give the defense time to catch their breath, but even so, the defense played terribly. Grade: F
For the first time this season, the entire special teams unit failed to contribute. David Akers was able to hit a 54-yard field goal late in the first half, but it was his blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown that essentially sealed the fate for his team. He continues to struggle this season, and has become completely unreliable, which is bad news for a team preparing to enter the post season. Andy Lee did nothing to hurt the team, and his 51.7 average is not bad, but the team could have used his 60-plus yard punts to swing the field position. LaMichael James, like Lee, was solid in the return game, but could do nothing to help his team get over the hump. Moving forward he does appear to be the best candidate for the kick return job, but this is overshadowed after such a abysmal team performance. Seattle was only forced to punt once, taking Ted Ginn Jr. out of the game. Grade: D-
Jim Harbaugh for the first time as a head coach appeared completely overwhelmed. He has faced Pete Carroll before, and usually comes out on top. This game figures to be the result of the law of averages, but the final outcome can’t be ignored. The 49ers were never in this game and unable to get a handle on what Seattle was doing. Working against Harbaugh was losing Vernon Davis and not having Justin Smith, but part of being a coach if adapting to whatever situation pops up. As they have done at time this year, if San Francisco falls behind early they appear incapable of sticking to their game plan or figuring out how to adjust to the direction of the game. Harbaugh is a good coach, but will need to address this problem if he wants to join the ranks of a great coach. Grade: F
Not As Bad As It Seems
As bad as the final score was, it does not prove anything that the 49ers did not already know. They must keep the score close, and stick to the run if they want to beat quality opponents. In every game they have lost this year they have fallen behind early, and been unable to let Frank Gore and the rushing attack lead the charge. They played this game without the heart of their defense, and they lost two players on offense to injury in the middle of the game. They had a field goal blocked that forced Harbaugh to almost abandon the run and they were unable to keep a very talented Seattle defense guessing. They also played a very good team that is undefeated at home. Add all of these factors together and it equals a road loss to a playoff contender. With one week left, the NFC West is still the 49ers to win, and the playoffs will be the true measure for this team.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.