For an introduction, click here. Figuring out a reasonable method for how to structure each write up to my season re-view was more of struggle than I anticipated. After messing with a few confusing ideas, I've settled on simple; going chronologically through the game. Hopefully, this will help give individual plays context and keep these reviews on a structured path. Each week will likely be presented in two halves, and as we get further into the season maybe some supplemental posts will be necessary. First, let's get it going.
In my introduction mentioned a bunch of things I'd be thinking about and its likely new things will come into the fray, anyway. For every game I'll link the NFL.com gamebook, here. If you aren't familiar with the gamebook; it's a great resource for a complete statistical rundown of the game, play by play and other pertinent information.
Back to Week 1 we go.
The Seahawks received the kick and after a solid 28 yard return by Leon Washington. On the first offensive play of the year Seattle comes out with an unbalanced line, Anthony McCoy at left tackle. Russell Okung saw a handful of snaps at right tackle as part of this look.
Right away we see the Tom Cable influence on the offensive scheme. Unfortunately, the play went for a yard and the 49ers forced three and out, resulting in a John Ryan punt of 69 yards; this was negated by a roughing the kicker.
Another set of downs and what do the Seahawks do on the first 2nd and short of the season; another unbalanced line look in a '21', and this time Michael Robinson motions out wide.
This is something we've seen Marcel Reece do frequently in Oakland under Tom Cable; a motion to create a mismatch or take man a out of the box to run the ball. In this case it opens up some room for Lynch to run for the first down at the SF 42.
The Seahawks punt from the SF 42 after enduring a 1st and 20 - Lynch dropped swing pass on a play that would have been negated due to penalty anyway - and a 3rd down sack. The 49ers go three and out, the thing to note here being the Seahawks come out in an over, and not under, 4-3. Brandon Mebane had a good series, and K.J. Wright looks big in the middle.
The second offensive possession begins with a very different look:
Given that West Coast teams often script their first 15 or so plays, I think this is the Seahawks testing the waters early and seeing how the 49ers matchup, trying to be unpredictable and get yards in different ways on first down. They get six, but then Michael Robinson is injured on a fullback dive that sets up a 3rd and 2. James Carpenter has struggled to this point (as he did a lot in the preseason), but remember that he's playing left guard due to the Robert Gallery injury.
The next sequence caught my attention for a few reasons. First, during the preseason, Tarvaris Jackson talked to the media about his familiarity and comfort with one side of the field reads because of his college system, and how one of his biggest adjustments as a pro has been learning to see the entire field. On this next play the coaching staff tried to make it easy on him, but played right into the teeth of the defense and they were totally ready for this.
Second, we see how the early chemistry issues between Jackson and Williams hindered this offense in crucial situations, perhaps exacerbated by the absence of Sidney Rice. This was a missed opportunity to get Jackson and BMW going early in this game.
Seattle in '12' with Leon in the backfield. Tate comes in motion.
There are three receivers to the left; there are at least three defenders out there too. Williams is 1 on 1 up top against soft man.
Jackson drops back looking at the trips - there isn't much of a play action fake here either, if there was intended to be one - and no one is open as the 49ers drop six, with three defenders tight on the receivers to the left. Meanwhile, notice up top...
If Jackson had dropped back, able to see Williams, or even willing to glance his way, maybe there is a quick throw. Instead, Jackson is yet to finish his drop; both tight ends are covered within five yards and in traffic, and Tate is covered by the corner.
Uh oh, here comes Justin Smith, but at least Russell Okung is on him. It's way too late to look right because Jackson is not throwing off of his back foot to Williams, who is now covered. Jackson needs to be set and getting the ball out in the next frame...
He's not. Here we see Tate is covered.
The window he was hoping would open downfield for one of his tight ends, didn't.
There are many ways to see the play, but my personal view of this one: I think a 3 step drop or shotgun snap with Leon coming across from the right, maybe with play action, to block the backside if the short out is not open would have made sense; read coverage right and throw, or pump and come back to the other side. They maybe could have gotten the first down even if Williams was covered. Do we see an adjustment down the road during the season, in one way or another?
The play results in the second third-down allowed sack in a row. Punt. Now it's 49ers ball at their 27, 5:27 Q1. A vicious Earl Thomas tackle in the flat on Vernon Davis on second and short sets up the first 5-2 look of the year.
A Seattle stop on a Gore run for -2 sets up an Andy Lee punt for 64 yards, downed at the 2.
Seattle runs right on 1st down with a fake end around action included:
I think handing the receiver the ball 5 yards deep in the end zone is a peculiar idea in an area of the field where ball security and simply gaining positive yards reign supreme, not to mention the whole safety or turnover for a touchdown thing. I hope it was scripted as part of the 15 or so play opener (this being the end).
They run right again on 2nd down, this time with Miller at fullback because Robinson got hurt - again, the Reece thought comes to mind - and then the one side of the field read play on 3rd and 10 does nothing.
(Reece is a free agent, by the way. One I'm very intrigued by because of his versatility and familiarity with Cable, a player with the skill set of Michael Robinson/John Carlson/Cameron Morrah to an extent. He could give the offense a new dimension in the screen and passing game as a converted wide receiver, and my impression is he's a solid enough blocker. I want to look into that more, though.)
Anyway, John Ryan punts 52 yards, unfortunately for a net of 21.
Then this play happens:
'22' vs. 4-3. Delanie Walker goes in motion.
Fullback Morran Norris offsets, H-back Delanie Walker moves to the outside and behind slot receiver Josh Morgan, previously in the outside.
Walker comes back down before the snap to the line as a blocker. Norris leads Gore outside as he gets the toss from Smith. K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill are pursuing the toss hard. Now notice the arrow man, left tackle Joe Staley, pulling. Smith is doing a U-turn, too.
Oh. The 49ers have an intricate, hard nosed and tough to prepare for running scheme. Great. Gore changes direction, led by his quarterback and left tackle. Smith gives Trufant enough of a block to get Trufant off-balance for his failed tackle attempt on Gore; Staley and Smith help Gore get 15, tackle by Chancellor.
But Alex Smiths fumbles the snap on the next first down; after a change in quarter they hold the 49ers to a field goal.
Interestingly enough, the first offensive possession of the second quarter brings another unbalanced line, a run for -1. Then on third down Seattle comes out in this '10' set:
Coming up is Seattle's first 3rd down conversion of the year. Sweeeet.
Jackson 5 step drop.
Steps into this one and takes the hit.
The ball is thrown low and away, under the defenders where only Baldwin can get it. Nice catch.
I went to the week one game in SF and had an interesting perspective watching this play (out of the top left corner of the picture); based on the formations of both teams, I felt pretty strongly pre-snap that Jackson had to go to that exact spot in the zone. It was the type of routine but difficult throw Jackson needed to make to facilitate his finding a rhythm.
Well, crap. This happened on the next play, 1st and 10 at the 27:
Anthony McCoy versus Parys Haralson.
Haralson starts to the outside and gets McCoy to come out towards him...
..and off of his line enough so that Haralson can disengage and cross McCoy' on the way to the quarterback.
The fact that Miller doesn't chip on the release makes it a free run to the quarterback.
Even with a halfway decent block there is a chance Jackson gets a strong throw off, as he will have single coverage down the middle or on the outside, depending on where the safety goes.
The coaches film for this play at the time of the strip (theoretically the time of the throw) shows Williams putting his foot in the ground and turning back for the football, just short of the first down marker.
But remember, Haralson crosses the face of McCoy and Jackson gets clobbered for the 3rd time. Haralson sack-fumble, 49ers ball at the Seattle 9.
Seattle's defense comes up big again, as a three and out leads to a field goal. 6-0 49ers.
After the kickoff, Seattle gets the ball on their 16. They run three straight plays; two runs with Justin Forsett for 1 and -1 yards, Russell Okung false starts, and then a screen on 3rd and 15 to Forsett. Personally, I thought the decision to run a screen pass after two runs already took a little juice from Forsett's legs, deep in your own zone against one of the game's most dangerous middle linebackers, was a curious decision. Football is about matchups; this one is pro 49ers, big time.
Seattle is in shotgun '1' at the snap. All three receivers and the tight end run downfield, and appear pretty covered, as the 49ers commit five guys to the line of scrimmage, three of them rushers, and six in coverage.
Patrick Willis (52) and Donte Whitner (31) are watching the backfield. Carpenter is about to release with Willis in his view. If the two spys are accounted for via blocking, the play will have a little room to work.
Instead, Carpenter turns his back on Willis, who then splits the two pulling guards. Whitner is pursuing as the man behind Willis, and now Bowman (53) is the deep man in pursuit. Moffit has no chance at Willis and the Seahawks have trouble getting a hat on a hat.
Carpenter never engages, and Unger has joined Moffit in the "oh, crap" run towards Forsett, who catches the ball with his back towards Willis and then has the ball knocked out. Now, it's all about the ball.
Ruled an incomplete pass, this was almost a big mistake. The 49ers were totally ready for it, and Willis exposed a young offensive line as he diagnosed and blew up the play.
Punt, now 49ers ball at the SF 36 with about 9:30 left. Five plays later, SF has 4th and 1 at the Seattle 28. Red Bryant gets called for an encroachment as he reacted to the 49ers' lineman stepping out to go in motion. Questionable call in my opinion, as it looked like it was maybe a jump that the lineman then sold very well as a motion.
The Seahawks stiffen up near the red zone. Here, Gore and Earl Thomas meet with a full head of steam each, and ET does this on 1st down in run support:
On 2nd down Gore is heading towards the outside, untouched and full speed, but gets rerouted to the ground by Browner.
and goes for the strip, which technically may be seen as a no no because he should try and wrap as the first man there. But, Browner has huge mits (circled) and is savvy hog-tier.
Gore gets grounded. Earlier in the game, Browner flattened Gore on his way to making a 3rd tackle on Braylon Edwards (one that had a similar strip and hog-tie look to it). I like having a corner that can out-physical the most savvy and strong of backs.
The Seahawks win on 3rd and short to force a field goal after 9 plays in 6:38. This makes it 9-0 at the 2:44 mark in the 2nd quarter. The Seahawks are about to get the ball after a touchback and given that the 49ers get the ball to start the second half, this is a potentially big possession.
Darell Bevell goes right back to the "drive starter" screen with Justin Forsett, this time with Jackson under center and using play action, which results in this:
Sadly, this "throw away" has already hit the ground and is on the bounce back up. This call made more sense given field position and game situation, but it's still discouraging to see it fail so poorly both times. Two incompletes isn't the worst that could have happened, either. Tough start for Forsett, too.
Unfortunately the Niners force a three and out - I think the Seahawks tried to get Baldwin on a corner route coming out of the two minute warning, but the play couldn't develop.
49ers ball at the Seattle 49, 1:44 left; the Seahawks blitz Aaron Curry and get pressure on 2nd and 5, but Kendall Hunter slides left and stones Curry in the backfield; Smith escapes for 11. The next play, Seattle gets zero interior pressure and Smith finds Vernon Davis along the sideline - guarded by Aaron Curry - down to the 14 with the clock inside of a minute. On 3rd and 5 at the 9, Anthony Hargrove jumps; then on another 3rd down (they were lucky to have another one) Brandon Browner interferes on Braylon Edwards in the end zone. 1st and goal and former all-pro safety John Lynch says on TV, "I think play-action would be very effective for the Niners."
Smith comes off the snap facing right, gives a half-hearted fake to Gore and rolls out with his back. Kam Chancellor covers Gore in the flat, and then we get here:
Where this happens...
Plants the foot...
and spins over Chancellor (who goes too low on the tackle) for the touchdown. Smith was the aggressor here, and he won.
The Seahawks had a chance to get back in this within two minutes, but instead the 49ers took control into the locker room ahead 16-0. Check the stats below; The Seahawks offense was stagnant and both teams were inept on third down. Time of possession was pretty equal, but average starting field position was a huge factor in favor of the 49ers. On defense, Earl Thomas has been everywhere and the stats show it. Part two will be up tomorrow. Stay tuned.