Talk about a game neither team wanted or deserved to win. Being a Seahawks fan, I’ll gladly take the win as it gives the team one more than all of last season, but it was ugly. Despite a close score, it was a boxing match between two guys with their gloves tied together.
The play of the game was three plays from the end. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck dropped back with 20 seconds left in the game. He glanced left and then threw a beautiful pass that dropped perfectly in rookie wide receiver Deon Butler’s hands. The completion went for 32 yards and put Seattle in position to kick the game winning field goal.
1. Seahawks third down defense. San Francisco went 1-for-13 on third down. Part of the reason, I felt was that the 49ers completely forgot they had Frank Gore, who has a history of gashing the Seahawks, in the backfield. Gore ran the ball nine times for 25 yards with a longest run of six yards. In the last meeting, he went 207 yards on 16 carries against basically the same defense. Instead the 49ers took to the air and Alex Smith threw a career high 310 yards on a career high 45 attempts. In 11 more attempts, Smith only completed two more passes than Hasselbeck.
2. Fourth down defense. On the 49ers second drive, which started on the Seahawks 22 after a sack and forced fumble my 49ers linebacker Manny Lawson, they went for it on 4th and goal rather than take the field goal. Seattle stopped them cold and took over on downs. Naturally the Seahawks went three and out but the early stop set a tone for the game.
3. Running game. Julius Jones was back in the lineup after missing a couple of games with a bruised lung. Although he didn’t run badly, 20 carries for 67 yards, watching him showed how much Justin Forsett suits this offense better.
1. Hasselbeck. Although he finally threw a touchdown pass, breaking a two game drought, it was painful watching Hasselbeck out there. He clearly didn’t trust his line and was breaking out of the pocket repeatedly when the pressure wasn’t there. An early sack and lost fumble contributed to the feelings, I’m sure, but as a usually calm leader, Hasselbeck has one of his worst games as a Seahawk.
2. Special Teams. If you are going to use Nate Burleson as a punt returner, why would you not use two gunners on each side to block the 49ers’ gunners? On every punt, Burleson had a gunner in his face after the catch but Seattle repeatedly used only one blocker on them.
3. John Carlson. It was especially frustrating to see the 49ers tight end Vernon Davis have a great game knowing that the Seahawks tight end, John Carlson, was just as good or even better weapon in the passing game. Thanks to a poor offensive line, Carlson was forced to stay in to block. Not having a tight end running a pattern allowed the 49ers linebackers to stay home or blitz, increasing the pressure on an already gun shy Hasselbeck.
4. Seahawks Linebackers. Vernon Davis is a freak of nature, a player that has always promised lots but delivered very little up to this year. He’s a matchup problem for any team but Aaron Curry was drafted in part to help cover a tight end. More often, as the game went on and the 49ers seemingly refused to run the ball, Curry and Leroy Hill were not on the field. Seattle went to a nickel and dime package, concentrating on trying to stop Alex Smith instead of Frank Gore. The linebackers are the biggest strength on the Seahawks defense. Taking two thirds of them off the field on any given play is a win for the other team every time.
1. Running back pass plays. The chapter in the Seahawks playbook that contains the running back screen pass and swing pass needs to be forcibly removed and burned. Even better, take whoever is calling that play over and over again and burn them with it. Julius Jones caught five passes for a negative three yards. This was with a long reception of seven yards! Just one example will suffice. With 2:57 left on the clock in the 4th quarter, game tied, Seattle moves the ball well to the San Francisco 40 yard line. Only about 10 yards away from a tie breaking field goal, with 1:08 to play, Hasselbeck throws to the right flat to Jones. 49ers all universe linebacker Patrick Willis takes Jones down for a 5-yard loss. The Seahawks call a timeout and come back with the same exact play, with the same exact result, followed by a punt. If Seattle hadn’t gotten lucky that the 49ers couldn’t get a first down and had to punt it back, this game would have gone to overtime. Please, someone, stop them before they run that play again.
2. The offensive line. It was purely offensive. Hasselbeck was sacked five times and was scrambling at least that many times over again. Early in the season we could pin the blame on injuries but this is the third game the line has been not only the same but the line Seattle planned on using after the preseason. There is no excuse for them not to be better except that possibly the players themselves are not as good as advertised.
3. DPI calls. Another game, another bogus defensive pass interference on Marcus Trufant. He leads the league in DPI calls despite having missed most of the season so far due to a back injury.
4. Time outs. San Francisco called time out on the first play of the game. Within 10 minutes of the first quarter, the 49ers were out of time outs completely. I was praying for a controversial call against San Francisco that Mike Singletary couldn’t challenge because he was out of timeouts. Once again, I was thwarted.
Seattle travels to Houston next Sunday to face the Texans. It should be an interesting match between two 5-7 teams. Both have the slimmest of playoff chances. Both are probably going to be eliminated soon.