As Richard Sherman shushed the Levi’s Stadium crowd it was apparent the San Francisco 49ers still have not figured out the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman was asking the crowd to hush after collecting his second interception of the game off 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Sherman stuck with receiver Stevie Johnson move-for-move before he jumped an errant pass from Kaepernick for the game-sealing turnover.
Russell Wilson said the Seahawks came out with their “boxing gloves on.” It is fitting as the Seahawks punched the 49ers in the mouth for 60 minutes. San Francisco never could get in a counterpunch, and as a result they were victims to the Seahawks’ wrath for the fourth time in five games.
This one was a punch in the gut. The 49ers have been hampered with a lot this season. Losing inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis stand out, but this 49ers team also has been ravaged with questions about their head coach’s future, along with off the field trouble with the law for multiple players. Still they entered the game in good shape towards making the playoffs and possibly reaching their fourth consecutive NFC Championship Game.
A win over Seattle would have signaled they had weathered the storm, so to speak. All the doubts about this team would have vanished with a breakthrough win over the defending Super Bowl champions and the team that beat them 23-17 in last January’s NFC Championship. Instead, the 49ers learned they still have not figured out the Seahawks.
Earlier in the week Kaepernick called this “just another game,” trying to avoid fueling the importance that the 49ers needed the win to prove to them they had figured out the Seahawks. Kaepernick instead proved he could not figure out the vaunted Seahawks’ defense. He struggled to complete passes and to avoid Seattle’s pass rush, getting sacked four times.
Kaepernick had tight windows to throw the ball to his receivers. Seattle did an excellent job in pass coverage when Kaepernick was not running around trying to avoid getting hit. He completed 16 of 29 yards for a pedestrian 121 yards. Not one completion was over 16 yards. When he challenged Sherman, he lost.
He finished the game with a quarterback rating of 36.7, his second-worst rating of his career. His worst also came against the Seahawks, September 13, 2013. The offense was stagnant, receivers could not get open, leading to the offensive line struggling to hold off Cliff Avril and the rest of the Seahawks front seven.
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has equally been unable to figure out the Seahawks’ offense. Constantly the 49ers blitzed Seattle’s Russell Wilson, and repeatedly the elusive quarterback avoided trouble with his feet to throw the ball downfield.
Wilson did an awesome job getting the ball out of his hands quickly to his receivers. He was 15 of 22 for 236 yards, including a 63-yard pass to tight end Tony Moeaki. Wilson dodged through three potential tackles to dump a pass to Moeaki on his right side. With a lot of green grass ahead of him he rumbled down the field to the one-yard line, setting up an eventual field goal.
Those types of evading moves occurred often when the 49ers tried to get down Wilson. While they did sack him four times, his mental toughness and ability to make the necessary plays downfield showed the 49ers have not quite figured him or the Seahawks out.
Following the loss, San Francisco is 7-5 on the season one-game out of the NFC wild card picture and 2.5 back of first place Arizona in the NFC West. San Francisco has to shake off the letdown felt for suffering another tough loss at the hands of their biggest rivals, and in doing so must figure out how they can match the intensity and will power to beat them. In two weeks the teams meet again in Seattle.
Playing the 49ers brings out the best in the Seahawks. They are fully aware of the importance behind beating the team that has posed the biggest threat to their goals of winning championships. Unfortunately for San Francisco, wondering about their head coach Jim Harbaugh’s next move, injuries, or legal troubles is the least of their worries. The 49ers still have not figured out the Seahawks. Until they do, they cannot get over their biggest hurdle to getting a sixth Super Bowl title.
Commentary by King Motley
Photo by Football Schedule – Flickr License