Slaughter in Seattle
It has gotten so bad for the 49ers that they can't even execute the most basic of football fundamentals. A simple handoff from quarterback to running back? Forget it. Alex Smith and Kevan Barlow couldn't handle that elementary transaction on San Francisco's first offensive play of the second quarter, and on the next play the Seattle Seahawks turned that turnover into a touchdown pass the other way while rolling to a 41-3 wipeout of the overmatched 49ers at Qwest Field. As the Niners proceeded to fumble and bumble throughout their sixth consecutive loss, the botched handoff actually dropped down the list of their most egregious mistakes. Not only couldn't Smith hand off the football, he couldn't even hold onto it. Twice the ball simply slipped out of his throwing hand as he attempted to pass. His arm went forward, but the ball stayed behind. The first slip became a fumble that Smith recovered, and the second should have been a fumble recovered by Seattle, but instead gratuitously (for the 49ers) was ruled an incomplete pass. No matter. As it was, the beleaguered rookie quarterback fumbled three times, losing one, and threw an interception while completing 9 of 22 passes for just 77 yards and another horrible passer rating of 31.8. But Smith hardly was the only one floundering for the 49ers against the NFC's best team. "That's just the way it's been for us," said 49ers coach Mike Nolan after his 2-11 team dropped another rung toward a possible No. 1 overall draft pick for the second consecutive year after the New York Jets got their third victory of the season Sunday by beating the Oakland Raiders. "It's hard to expect to win," Nolan continued, "when you play a good football team and you have penalties and turnovers and you miss assignments that cost you touchdowns and things like that. That's a hard thing to swallow, but that's what you expect from a team that has the issues that we've had all along. I have a difficult time going through them." So let's only go through some of Sunday's other bungles by the 49ers: --- Smith looked as bad as ever in his fourth career start, making poor decisions, sailing throws and failing to run away from defensive linemen. But his inability to get a grip on things had to stand out the worst. "You just can't have that," Nolan said. "It kind of bothers me. The reason (the football) comes out, certainly when it comes out on its own … I don't have a good answer for you right now. It's not like Alex has tiny hands, and both teams are playing with the same ball." For those counting, Smith now has thrown 96 passes as a NFL quarterback without a touchdown. His interception Sunday was his ninth of the season. He threw only eight interceptions during his entire college career at Utah. --- The 49ers were penalized seven times for 82 yards, and several of them came at consequential junctures. San Francisco had a 53-yard catch-and-run by Kevan Barlow and a 26-yard reception by Jason McAddley nullified in the first half because of ineligible linemen downfield. Holding a 7-3 lead, the Seahawks were facing third down deep in their own territory before a roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Derek Smith sparked Seattle's second touchdown drive. The 49ers also had their usual assortment of false starts, holding and delay of game penalties. "The mental errors – and that's what I call a penalty, a mental error for the most part – and they come at the worst of times," Nolan said. "I don't know what else to say. They are happening." --- The 49ers had blown assignments on defense all afternoon, some of them resulting in big plays for the Seahawks, others resulting in Seattle touchdowns. The 11-2 Seahawks – who completed a 6-0 sweep through the NFC West with their team-record ninth consecutive victory – certainly didn't need the assistance. They rolled to an astounding 31 first downs and 438 yards of total offense, punting for the first time with only 19 minutes remaining in the game. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on their first three drives, a field goal on their fourth possession and led 38-3 late in the third quarter before calling off the charges. "No matter what the situation is, we have to find ways to hold them, or create turnovers on our own, or possibly get into the end zone ourselves," said 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson, who had a game-high 12 tackles and recorded his first sack since the season opener. "And those are things we're not doing." It's the same story on offense. After converting their first two third downs of the game, the 49ers didn't convert another the rest of the way. Against one of the NFL's most generous defenses, San Francisco managed a paltry 113 yards of offense – their lowest total in a season of low totals. Only Joe Nedney's 39-yard field goal in the first quarter prevented the 49ers from being blanked in Seattle for the second consecutive season. Nedney now has scored every San Francisco point in a game six times this season. "It's tough to look at any bright spots," 49ers rookie offensive tackle Adam Snyder said. And even tougher to find them. But now the 49ers move on, trying to distance themselves from their latest weekly disaster with three games remaining in this miserable season. "It is not this Sunday we are playing for, but things down the road that are ahead of us," Smith said. "We are trying to get better – especially myself. It is something I take to heart." But this all-around performance was just another kick in the gut that could only make the 49ers and their followers feel sick in the heart.
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