This game is possibly easier to write up than it was to watch. The 49ers were thoroughly beaten on Thursday night in a game that convincingly demonstrated the offensive line deficiencies of both teams, but the Seahawks looked more like the team we are used to as they ran out 20-3 winners.
Unfortunately for the fans in San Francisco, the 49ers first drive setup a familiar pattern for the rest of the game as they failed to move the ball or get a first down as they went three and out. They would have a further five three and outs in this game and punted the ball a ridiculous nine times. The opening drive included a play where Colin Kaepernick had lots of time in the pocket, and he found Vance McDonald for a yard, but that was the only time in the game that this happened. The protection was awful from the offensive line, and whilst the 49ers were trying to help Kaepernick by the extensive use of play action to provide simple reads, he was sacked six times and was hit a further eight. As a consequence the 49ers were unable to get anything going through the air with only four catches to going to wide receivers, a total matched by Vernon Davis on his own in a stretch where it looked like the 49ers might be able to take advantage of Seattle’s problems against tight ends this season. It was not to be, and combine this with a failure to run the ball or sustain drives at all, and it was all too obvious why they only scored three points.
If the 49ers offence was bad in this game, some credit must go to the Seahawks’ defence which looked a lot more like the frightening unit of recent years. In particular their defensive line was incredibly effective with Michael Bennett and Clif Avril combining for five sacks between them and seven quarterback hits as they terrorised the 49ers o-line and made life miserable for Kaepernick. The legion of boom looked more like their dominant selves, although this was not a stern test and the play of Cary Williams still needs to be monitored. More worrying still for this team is that they came into this game ranked thirty-first by DVOA in pass defence against tight ends, and if they give up six catches for seventy yards to tight ends against this offence, then they are going to continue to have problems. There is still time to turn things round, but this is something I will be keeping an eye on over the coming weeks.
In fairness to the 49ers, their defence looked pretty solid, although losing strong safety Antoine Nethea is going to hurt, but they got pressure of their own and picked off Russell Wilson twice. Some of this was due to the Seahawks bad o-line, but I was impressed with second year outside linebacker Aaron Lynch who had two sacks and a further two QB hits, and was causing all sorts of problems from the outside. The big plays they gave up to Russell Wilson will worry them, but the offence was giving them very little time off as the Seahawks had the ball for over thirty-eight minutes, and right now I would not be overly concerned with where their defence is despite their lowly ranking as it didn’t look that bad to me.
The Seahawks got back to their old formula on offence, with the opening drive a statement of intent as they repeatedly ran Marshawn Lynch, who looked much more like himself and was finally able to find the end zone after five previous snaps inside the five yard time on the opening drive, finishing the game with one hundred and twenty-two yard. The passing game was a bit more hit and miss with some big chunk passes going for twenty-three, thirty-six, and forty-three yards and a touchdown, but Russell Wilson also through two interceptions, one on a long bomb that I’m not sure why he threw the ball into double coverage, and one in the end zone where he did not see the safety. Wilson was again scrambling to keep plays going and they could have given up more than five sacks if he had not been so mobile. If they can keep the running game going then they can recreate the pattern that has served them so well in recent years, but it is still strange for them to have given up so much for Jimmy Graham and not utilise his skills more.
The 49ers played horribly in this game, and whilst they lost a lot of players in the offseason, it is still startling to see how quickly what was once one of the best offensive lines in football has fallen apart. They need more talent on both sides of the ball, but they have to find a way to generate more than one hundred and forty-two yards of offence if they are going to add to their win total this season.
We are going to need to see more than one sold win against a poor 49ers team to say that the Seahawks are back in the hunt, but it was a good start. However, they still need to find a way to provide Russell Wilson with better protection, and their trouble against tight ends could really hurt them if they can’t get it resolved.