The Seahawks starting running back Marshawn Lynch was ruled out roughly 90 minutes before game time while dealing with an abdomen injury, giving Rawls the start. And according to 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, that threw his team for a loop.
"We prepared for 24 (Lynch). And 24 didn’t play. So I don’t know what effect that had on us," Bowman said. "But they did a great job taking advantage of it."
Rawls, who went undrafted out of Central Michigan in the spring, had 255 all-purpose yards on 30 carries and three receptions, scoring once running and receiving in the 29-13 win.
His fourth-quarter touchdown, a 31-yard reception where he beat linebacker Michael Wilhoite to the end zone, sealed the game after San Francisco threatened to make it close in the second half with a pair of field goals that cut the deficit to 23-13.
On the defense's first play from scrimmage, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey left the game with a knee injury. The 49ers are fearing a torn ACL after he was carted off the field.
"Glenn going down early, I think that really hurt us," Bowman said. "And I think Rawls wanted to prove himself to the Seattle Seahawks today, so he came out there with a little chip on his shoulder. But anyway, we have to play better, we have to tackle better. And if we do that, this game would have been a lot better."
49ers head coach Jim Tomsula indicated after the game he thought the team properly prepared for Rawls during the week.
"I wasn't shocked but I was disappointed, very disappointed in the way we played the run today," Tomsula said.
Tomsula and 49ers defenders said they didn't believe Rawls impacted Seattle's offense from a schematic standpoint. But his running style differed from Lynch, according to outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
"Marshawn is hard to bring down. This guy seemed like he could get up the field a lot quicker," Brooks said.
The performance against the run is especially troubling for San Francisco considering what happened in its previous game. Before last week's bye, the 49ers allowed the league's former leading rusher, Devonta Freeman, to 12 yards on 12 carries, which played a role in Falcons coach Dan Quinn electing to kick a late field goal from the 1-yard line instead of go for the go-ahead touchdown.
"I think the whole team looked lifeless," Tomsula said. "We didn't tackle well. We didn't fit up the run well. That has to be better."
Rawls' 209 yards rushing on the day were the most the 49ers have allowed since Sept. 1993, when Falcons running back Erric Pegram tallied up 192 yards on 27 carries. Additionally, Rawls' 255 all-purpose yards are a record for San Francisco's opponents.
"Is it embarrassing? It should be. It should be for us," Brooks said. "We’ve gained a reputation around this NFL, holding guys under 100 yards. We haven’t lived up to that standard this year. We just got to keep fighting, man."
The 49ers are now 3-7 and 0-5 on the road. Bowman, the team's unquestioned leader, calling out the team's preparation during the week does not bode well for Tomsula, who finds his team with more wins than just three other teams, and tied for the worst record in the NFC.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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