San Francisco 49er fans tuned in Sunday night to watch their Super Bowl contending team in action and were instead treated to a throwback game to the Mike Nolan era. The 42-13 drubbing by the Seahawks was their worst beating since 2006.
The 49er defense was awful, the offense was awful, the special teams were awful, and the coaching was awful. Making matters worse, all this awfulness could not be blamed on Alex Smith.
The 49er loss, coupled with Green Bay’s win over Tennessee, dropped the team from the second to the third seed for the upcoming playoffs. They will get no bye week. They can still win the NFC West with a victory over Arizona next Sunday. That should be an easy win, but Colin Kaepernick has played three games against NFC West teams and has yet to win any of them. What distinguishes NFC West teams, of course, is good defenses.
The Seahawks held a whopping ten minute advantage in Time of Possession, and they scored touchdowns on all four Red Zone efforts. The 49ers didn’t score any TDs in the RZ until the last garbage time minute of the game. Even worse, they had a field goal blocked and returned for the TD that made the game essentially over by half time.
The battle of the hotshot young QBs was no contest. Russell Wilson was in total control and his elusiveness bedeviled the 49er pass rushers the entire game. The team also had trouble early in the year with another elusive QB in Christian Ponder, who hasn’t baffled too many other teams all year. Kaepernick, on the other hand, looked rattled, hesitant, confused, inaccurate, and continued to have problems getting plays executed before the play clock expired.
The defense obviously misses Justin Smith. Since he went out in the Patriots game, the defense has given up 66 points in little more than five quarters. During this stretch, the offense has scored just 23 points. This does not appear to be a winning combo.
Compounding the wilting of the team in all areas, just like last year an injury free season has gone south as the playoffs approach. There’s no guarantee Justin Smith will return this year, Vernon Davis left Sunday’s game with a “minor” concussion, and Mario Manningham was carted off with a leg injury. The WR corps is once again looking very thin at crunch time. Rookie first round pick AJ Jenkins should suit up next week, but he has yet to catch a pass the entire season.
With the change in QBs, the team has gone from a ball control offense to a home run or bust offense. The quick scores or three and outs is wearing out the defense, which still looked tired from the Patriots game. If they hit as many home runs as the Patriots, this approach might work. But they don’t. And it doesn’t.
Changing offensive philosophies in mid season is not generally a sane idea. It only seemed like a good idea (to some folks) because Jim Harbaugh has had a golden guru touch so far. Pete Carroll, on the other hand, installed his offense, and the QB to run it, at the beginning of the year and waited for it to mature. As the two coaches met at mid field after the game, it was Carroll finally having the last laugh — a laugh he may be enjoying for quite some time.
The team is a lot better than it showed Sunday night. But they are not a team entering the postseason on a roll. That distinction belongs to the Seahawks.