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The Seattle Seahawks came into this game riding high off one of the most emotionally-charged regular season games you can imagine. Winning their season opener against their former franchise quarterback, in front of the largest Monday Night Football audience in 15 years, the possibility of a letdown performance was very real. Adding to the challenge was a road game against a very good divisional opponent on a short week. Still, I was optimistic that this team could keep the game close and potentially steal a win through grit, grime, and a little more magic. I was real wrong.
The San Francisco 49ers started with the ball and looked fantastic, executing Kyle Shanahan’s incisive offense with precision and explosiveness. A series of quick completions and gashing runs were highlighted by Trey Lance, Brandon Aiyuk, and rookie running back Tyrion Davis-Price. In less than three minutes, the 49ers had a first and goal, but Seattle’s defense continued their redzone dominance, stuffing San Francisco on three consecutive plays, culminated by Cody Barton cutting down Jeff Wilson Jr on a 3rd down dump-off. Still, the Niners would kick a short field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Seahawks started their first drive with consecutive handoffs to Rashaad Penny, who ran hard for a combined nine yards. Then, on 3rd & short, Seattle put both of their running backs in the backfield and handed it to Ken Walker III for his first NFL carry, and the rookie delivered, sprinting ahead for six yards and a first down. However, those three plays would account for 60% of those RBs’ yards on the day. That was followed up by consecutive short completions to Noah Fant and DK Metcalf but a third down slant to Metcalf was broken up and the ‘Hawks punted it back to the home team.
The 49ers wasted no time getting right back to business, hammering the Seahawks front with relentless runs highlighted by a beastly 52-yard Deebo Samuel run that showcased every part of why they gave him such a big contract in the offseason. The Niners found themselves in the redzone again and, after a short run by Wilson Jr, Trey Lance kept it on a read option and darted up the middle. Unfortunately for him, and potentially for the 49ers’ immediate future, Barton was waiting.
Barton, who had a sensational performance last week, thumped Lance to the turf, where he folded awkwardly and stayed down. At first I thought he had just had the wind knocked out of him, or at worst, cracked a rib. But then the medical cart and air cast came out and a somberness settled over the stadium. We’d later learn that the promising young quarterback suffered a broken ankle and is likely out for the season. Now, the 49ers offseason was a mess with regards to their QB position, as they essentially took away Jimmy Garoppolo’s playbook and made him stand in a corner all summer while they begged every team in the NFL to trade for him. Unable to pull that off, they begrudgingly reworked his contract and left his handsome shadow hanging over their intended QB of the future.
But that organizational malpractice ended up being the 49ers’ saving grace, as Garoppolo’s presence allowed him to step seamlessly back under center. His first play was a 3rd & goal and he flicked one out to Aiyuk in the left flat, but Coby Bryant and Quandre Diggs were there to chop him down and force another field goal. The score was just 6-0 at that point but it felt like the snowball was picking up speed.
Seattle would get one more first down on their next possession before punting again, and the Niners wasted no time getting right back after them. Using a pass interference and mid-range completions to Aiyuk and RayRay McLeod to get back into scoring range, Shanahan dialed up some misdirection that left backup tight end Ross Dwelley all alone on a crossing route. Dwelley caught the easy pass and sauntered 38 yards into the end zone to make it 13-0.
Seattle’s answer was to throw an interception into traffic over the middle putting their own defense right back on their heels. They’d hold, getting a 4th down stop when Diggs broke up a prayer in the end zone and that’s when things got weird. On the next drive, Geno Smith pitched it to Walker III, who then tossed it back to his QB. Smith set his feet, cocked his shoulders, and heaved it downfield towards a waiting Metcalf. The ball hung up in the air, forcing a jump ball and DK seized his moment. Skying over the defender, Metcalf snagged the ball with one hand and crashed to the turf with one of the best catches we’ll see all season. Unfortunately, right tackle Abe Lucas had drifted a step too far past the line of scrimmage and was flagged for an illegal man downfield. It was such a kick in the nuts after Seattle’s first really good play.
No matter, Smith would find Tyler Lockett on a couple of big completions putting Seattle inside the 10 yard-line and ready to slice the deficit down to size. On the next snap, they lined up four running backs in a weird, inverse wing-T formation with Deejay Dallas taking the snap and handing it to Walker III, who broke three tackles en route to an impressive six-yard gain. Seattle went right back to that odd formation again but instead of handing it off, they decided to let Dallas try to throw a pass.
As Dallas ran to the right, he had Metcalf in the back of the end zone but instead of lofting it to the massive receiver with the 40” vert, he tossed it like a toddler using their off-hand. The floppy pass went straight into the chest of an unsuspecting defender, snuffing out the opportunity.
Seattle’s defense would respond with another forced punt but they couldn’t even take advantage of that correctly. With Lockett waiting innocently under the ball, his blocker Xavier Crawford was shoved into him and the ball bounced off Crawford’s arm and was recovered by San Fran. A few plays later, Kyle Jusczczcz(cz)yk tunneled into the end zone to extend things to 20-0 before the half. That made it four consecutive scoreless quarters for the Seahawks offense and the reality many were expecting for this team began to set in.
The Seahawks received the kick to start the 3rd quarter and continued their whoopee cushion offense, going backwards on their first play and coming up short of the sticks on a 3rd down out route to Lockett. Michael Dickson booted it away for what seemed like the 37th consecutive drive and the Niners just kept rolling. Wilson Jr, Samuel, and Aiyuk continued to press their feet onto the throats of the Seattle defense, moving the ball all the way down to the Seahawks’ 2 with a series of chunk plays. That’s when things finally started to break Seattle’s way.
On 3rd & goal, the Niners center hiked the ball up his own rectum, killing the play and forcing the Niners to settle for yet another short field goal. It seemed inevitable that the score would be 23-0 but Tariq Woolen came firing off the left edge the moment the long-snapper twitched, spreading his massive wings and slapping the kick away. The ball bounced into the waiting hands of Michael Jackson, who continues to find himself in the right spot. Jackson scooped it up and moonwalked 90 yards the other way to make it 20-7.
The dramatic turnaround breathed some fire into the Seattle defense and they stopped San Francisco twice on the next drive. The first one was overturned by illegal contact against Bryant but the ‘Hawks kept the pressure on and forced a punt anyway. Still, all that nonsense used up the entire third quarter, and the Seahawks’ ensuing three-and-out extended Seattle’s offensive scoreless drought to five quarters.
The fourth quarter was just more of the same, with the Niners controlling the clock nearly the entirety of the period. The only scoring came at the end of a seven-minute drive when Garoppolo dove in from a yard out before basking in the joy and adulation of his teammates.
When the clock finally hit triple-zero, the Seahawks were dragging their muddy asses off the field with a 20-point loss, having held the ball for just 21 minutes with 216 yards and no offensive points to show for it.
~Sometimes, completion percentage is overrated. Geno Smith converted on 24 of his 30 passes but had just 197 yards, no TDs, and an INT to show for it. Make no mistake, the Seahawks were outclassed at every position besides maybe WR in this one, but it would’ve been nice to see even a modicum of sustained production. Well okay, they had a modicum. They had the one long drive that ended in the Dallas interception but still.
For as good as Geno can be for stretches, it was beyond obvious that this team had no chance of overcoming a two-score deficit. They enter their next game on a 90-minute offensive scoreless streak.
~Games like this make it tough to judge running backs, because they spent the whole contest in a negative game script and their OL was getting blown off their stances throughout. Rashaad Penny got the start but only six carries, notching 15 yards while Ken Walker III got four for 10. Not much else to say about that.
~DK Metcalf dominated targets last week but today belonged to Tyler Lockett. Smith looked Lockett’s way on 11 of his 30 attempts and the little guy snagged nine of them for 107 yards. Metcalf, for his part, caught four of six for 35 though it’s worth mentioning that his acrobatic 52-yard grab was nullified by some bullshit. Could’ve been a very different story for him. Still, that’s two games and 71 yards for DK this season. Whew.
~The offensive line was dead the moment they showed up today. Not because they weren’t prepared or didn’t try hard, but because Nick Bosa and the rest of the 49ers front was completely unblockable. They just had no shot in this one and that kind of is what it is. They allowed two sacks among seven tackles for loss and let Smith get hit nine times. They also provided just 36 rushing yards on 14 carries. Tip your hat and keep it moving. Lots to learn from this week’s film sessions.
~27 points and 373 yards allowed doesn’t sound excellent but given that they spent the whole game on the field, I thought the defense did okay. Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a nightmare to defend when they’re clicking, as the constant misdirection, combo blocks, and fleet of impossible-to-tackle skill guys just wear you down over time. Still, there were some standouts this afternoon.
Al Woods was tremendous up the middle, clogging up the run game with seven tackles including an incredible three for a loss. He even batted down a pass. It was a dominant performance that got hung out to dry. Behind him, Jordyn Brooks led the charge the way he always does. Brooks logged 11 tackles and doing his darnedest as he flew sideline to sideline trying to keep the explosive San Francisco offense in check.
Cody Barton looks like the real deal. I mentioned last week how he was the guy I was most worried about but he is playing with a combination of discipline and ferocity that fits perfectly in any defense— but especially this one. He had 11 tackles to match Brooks.
Coby Bryant was targeted regularly throughout the game and held up pretty well. He gave up a few receptions, as anyone would, though he did get called for a drive-extending penalty for the second straight week. Still, he played mostly tight coverage and was a very willing tackler. He also talked loads of shit, which I love.
Tariq Woolen is a dog. If you’ve been listening to the podcast, you’ve heard the hushed tones with which members of the Seahawks beat have discussed Woolen’s potential and through two games, he’s lived up to it. He split more time with Sidney Jones than last week, but he continues to look the part of an NFL corner. He also blocked the field goal with as clean of a special teams rush as you’ll ever see.
Michael Jackson continues to be in opportune positions, recovering two fumbles in the end zone last week and getting the scoop-n-score on the blocked kick this afternoon. He also had six tackles.
~Last week the play-calling looked crisp and deliberate. Today it looked desperate. A bunch of trick plays that didn’t work for a number of reasons and which basically signaled that they had no chance running their normal stuff. I’m not indicting Shane Waldron overall, and he gets a general pass from me on this game and honestly, this season, provided we see some extended stretches of goodness. But when you’re overmatched everywhere, it’s tough to dial up an effective script.
~Penalties, man. A huge reason Seattle won last week was because they played disciplined football for the entire game. Today, it was the opposite. Ten penalties for 106 yards while the 49ers committed just one.
This game sucked and I think we all knew there would be a handful of these this year. For me, this season is much more about evaluation than it is about living and dying with each individual outcome. While I hope I’m wrong, nothing about this team is fooling me into thinking they’re ready to compete with the elite teams in the league yet, so I wanna see which players and which aspects are sustainable. I wanna know who and what is gonna be here when the team is competing for a championship again. Think 2011.
In the meantime, let’s see what we’ve got, and hope it’s a lot better than what we saw today. Onward and upward, friends.
The sorry viewing experience was salvaged somewhat by the beefy and tasty Carillo Toro from the Tobacconist’s Association of America. I’d never smoked anything from TAA before but it made a hell of a debut, smoking long and smooth with a flavor profile that morphed throughout the stick. Very cool smoke.
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