By Sam McPherson
Eight times in a row now, and 10 times in the last 11 games against their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers have come up short against the Seattle Seahawks. Sunday’s 12-9 loss was especially painful, since the 49ers took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter after battling back from a first-quarter 6-0 deficit. The SF defense did a respectable job overall, although the unit tired drastically late in the game and was unable to preserve the lead.
As for the offense, it still has not scored a touchdown this year, and it’s hard to win in the NFL if you don’t score TDs. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan is going to have to reassess what’s going on with the offense in a very short time, as the 49ers have a short week ahead in advance of a Thursday Night Football date with the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium in just a few days.
This grade reflects the reality of the running game’s success, as the 49ers offense ran for 159 yards on just 19 carries in the game. There were some big chunks gained at once, though, which somewhat distorts the 8.4 yards-per-carry average. However, the offense as a whole couldn’t convert that success into touchdowns, let alone sustained drives. The 49ers earned just 10 first downs overall in the game and held possession of the ball for just 23 minutes overall.
The San Francisco passing game just couldn’t get going at all against the Seahawks defense, either. Throwing the ball 27 times resulted in just 99 total yards, and Seattle registered two sacks and an interception in the process of stifling the 49ers. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was never going to be a long-term solution at the position, so Shanahan has to decide whether or not it’s time to throw rookie QB C.J. Beathard into the fire or continue to struggle throwing the ball with Hoyer.
It’s hard to blame the defense here, since the Seahawks held the ball for 37 minutes in this game. By the middle of the fourth quarter, the 49ers defenders were gassed, and it showed as Seattle cut through the defense easily on its game-winning TD drive—and then again on the game-clinching, clock-wasting possession that ended the game. Overall, San Francisco surrendered 312 total yards in the game, but so much of that (119 yards) came on the final two drives.
For three-plus quarters, the 49ers defense held the Seahawks offense in check. Without starting rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, out with an ankle injury, the S.F. unit held together well for most of the game. LB NaVorro Bowman had 10 tackles, while LB Ray-Ray Armstrong replaced Foster adequately with eight tackles. He did take a silly personal-foul penalty, however. Holding Seattle to under 200 yards through the first 50 minutes of the game was a very good achievement for this rebuilt defense.
Special Teams: A
Punter Bradley Pinion was better than usual, kicking seven balls for almost 44 yards a pop. He had a long effort of 51 yards, while placing four kicks inside the Seattle 20-yard line. The 49ers also did well with kick/punt returns in the game, which helped with field-position battles all day long. Wide receiver Trent Taylor averaged 13.3 yards on three punt returns, definitely showing some upside as an elusive runner in the open field. Placekicker Robbie Gould, the only player that has scored for San Francisco this year so far, was a perfect three-for-three on field-goal attempts.
It’s realistic to presume that Shanahan was outcoached by Seattle’s Pete Carroll, but the Seahawks had a good defensive plan in place for this game. Shanahan just couldn’t work around the limitations of his offensive talent in the matchup, but he did coach strategically a lot better than he did in Week 1. That’s progress. The 49ers defensive game plan was very good, but the team just ran out of gas at the end as the Seattle offense found its sense of urgency. Shanahan has the team headed in the right direction, and he’s here for the long haul.
Up Next: Los Angeles Rams
It’s a quick turnaround this week for San Francisco, as the 49ers host the L.A. Rams on Thursday Night Football at Levi’s Stadium. The Rams dropped to 1-1 on the year with a 27-20 home loss to the Washington Redskins, but Los Angeles is definitely a much-improved squad from last year as well. It should be a good game on Thursday night in the South Bay if the San Francisco offense can run the ball effectively to give Hoyer some chances to throw the pigskin downfield. Beathard may end up starting later in the year, but on a short week, the 49ers would be nuts to not stick with Hoyer.