SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After the Seattle Seahawks scored on Thomas Rawls's 31-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter made it a 29-13 game, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula elected to punt on three consecutive fourth downs.
The thinking was, Tomsula said Monday, he didn't want to fall behind by three scores, making a comeback virtually impossible. He punted on fourth-and-12 (10:42 remaining), fourth-and-13 (5:45), and fourth-and-8 (3:09).
"It was a two-score game. Going into it, we’re thinking, ‘Okay, we’ve got to get two touchdowns and two two-point conversions'," Tomsula said. "We’re going to punt that ball. You go for a fourth down right there, if something happens, it’s a three possession game. So we wanted to punt it, use two timeouts, get to the two-minute drill, onside kick and try to win the game. That’s what I thought, that’s what I still think."
It was a very conservative strategy considering the way the game had gone. The 49ers were unable to stop the Seahawks for the majority of the game, allowing Rawls to rack up a record 209 yards rushing and 255 all-purpose yards. Both numbers were a record for 49ers' opponents.
Against Seattle's defense, which entered Sunday second intotal yardage and passing yards, going for it on fourth-and-long is a risky proposition.
"Defensively, you’re going to pin your ears back, here we come. It’s something that you’re going to be under duress. It’s a long conversion. So, if that doesn’t happen right there, now you’ve got a three-score game. There is no time," Tomsula said.
But down 16 points at the end of the game, it's difficult to see why punting is the best way to win considering the way the Seahawks were able to move the ball.
"Either way you’re not in a good situation," Tomsula said. "My point was, they put another score on there, you got a three-score game. Now you’ve got to get the ball back three times."
Tomsula did the same thing in the previous meeting with Seattle on Oct. 22, when the Seahawks defense nearly pitched a shutout against Colin Kaepernick at Levi's Stadium. Seattle won that game 20-3, with Tomsula electing to punt as late as 3:13 remaining down by three scores.
The 49ers face the first-place Arizona Cardinals Sunday, who are coming off impressive wins over the Seahawks and Bengals in their last two games. San Francisco last played Arizona in Week 3, when Kaepernick's two early pick-sixes led to the team's worst defeat of the season, 47-7.
Stopping the run effectively and tackling were the 49ers' biggest issues in Seattle, which they must address with running backs Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington and David Johnson coming to Levi's Stadium.
Tomsula said his defense in Seattle was playing too reactionary and did not attack aggressively.
"Watching the tape, I use the term, ‘don’t play not to make a mistake. Don’t tackle being afraid to miss the tackle. Be more attacking.’ Felt like that’s what our problems were," Tomsula said.
According to CSN Bay Area, former reserve quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson will work out in Santa Clara, and may get signed to the practice squad.
Bethel-Thompson is familiar with offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, who was his position coach when he was last with the 49ers in 2013.
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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