MMQB: 49ers 23, Seahawks 10

Brian McIntyre of NorthwestFootball.net reviews the Seattle Seahawks' 23-10 loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.

49ers 23, Seahawks 10
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Candlestick Park
San Francisco, CA

Play of the Day: Facing 2nd-and-Goal from the 49ers' 4-yard line, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck rolled to his right, sensed an opening, and dove towards the goal line. He came up short, but at the same time, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis delivered a hard shot right into Hasselbeck's lower back. Wincing in pain, Hasselbeck immediately called for a replacement. Staggering to the sidelines, a woozy Hasselbeck fell into the arms of the training staff and laid down on the ground for several minutes.

Hasselbeck eventually walked off on his own power, but he was taken to a San Francisco hospital. He was discharged in time to travel home with the team and preliminary tests showed no internal damage or bleeding. His status for next week is presently unknown, but this play has the potential to haunt the ‘Hawks for the rest of the season.

Handouts to the Standouts: This will be a very short list:

Lawrence Jackson, once again, had an outstanding game, finishing with 4 tackles, including a pair of sacks. Jackson also forced a fumble, which likely would've resulted in points had teammate Patrick Kerney just fallen on the football or if Aaron Curry was paying attention when the ball bounced back into his vicinity. Jackson also tipped a Shaun Hill pass at the line of scrimmage. Jackson's strong play this year, and Corey Redding's relative anonymity, makes one wonder if Jackson should be the starting left end.

Justin Forsett is making the case for him to more than just a third-down back. Forsett led the ‘Hawks with 35 yards rushing on 5 carries, and added six receptions for 57 yards as a receiver. The second-year back from Cal also had 37 return yards.

Tight end John Carlson had another solid game, catching six passes for 46 yards.

Hard to acknowledge a run-stuffing defensive tackle after the ‘Hawks gave up 256 on the ground, but Red Bryant made some plays in the 49ers' backfield, stuffing Gore for no gain and a three-yard loss.

Jon Ryan had another strong outing, finishing the game with a net average of 47.1 yards, and while the Seahawks definitely need to improve their punt coverage unit, third-round wide receiver Deon Butler made a great play to down a Ryan punt inside the 49ers' own 1-yard line.

Things That Made Me Go "Blech!": For obvious reasons, Hasselbeck's injury was the worst development from this loss. Seneca Wallace is a good backup, but if Hasselbeck's injury is as serious as it was scary, Seattle's playoff chances would take a major hit.

The "Is it 2008 already?" feeling continued, as Deion Branch was inactive, as were Brandon Mebane, Walter Jones and Chris Spencer, while Lofa Tatupu, Sean Locklear, and Josh Wilson left the game in the first half with injuries and did not return. Tatupu was playing one-legged midway through the 49ers' first offensive series, so clearly his hamstring is not game-ready. Locklear and Wilson both suffered ankle injuries.

If the injuries rolled back the clock to last season, the dropped passes took it back to 2003-04. John Owens dropped a pair of catchable balls early, while Nate Burleson had a dropped pass early and arguably should've come down with a pass from Wallace that found its way into the hands of 49ers safety Dashon Goldson.

Perhaps this is a by-product of having watched one of the finest play-callers over the last ten years, but when a 14-yard run sets you up at the opponents' 4-yard line with 57 seconds left in the half and one timeout still in your pocket, why not run the ball again to at least set up play-action on the subsequent downs? Who knows, maybe you score a rushing touchdown and don't have to expose your quarterback to the likes of Patrick Willis.

Offense: Whether it was the dropped passes, second-round guard Max Unger getting mauled for a sack, or Seattle needing to burn a timeout so T.J. Houshmandzadeh could tie his shoe, the Seahawks were their own worst enemy early and often against the intense 49ers defense.

In NorthwestFootball.net's game preview, I wrote that the Seahawks should run some screen passes early to slow down the 49ers' pass rush, but none were called until the ‘Hawks were already down 10-0 and all the momentum was in the 49ers' favor.

Fittingly, the first running back screen lost five yards.

Seattle's offensive line had an August feel, with Brandon Frye, who's been with the team for two weeks, playing left tackle after Locklear's injury. Frye and Willis committed false start penalties, Unger was flagged for his 1st NFL holding call, and Steve Vallos made the blooper reel when he air-mailed a snap that Manute Bol would've had trouble corralling.

The line struggled to clear holes for Julius Jones and Edgerrin James, as Seattle averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Jones really struggled, gaining just 11 yards on 8 carries, and it's never good when the 33-year old quarterback who was sent to the hospital in the first half, was the team's second-leading rusher (12 yards on 3 carries) of the day.

While the line struggled to create holes in the running game, they did give both quarterbacks time to make plays in the passing game. As shocking as it is considering the absences of Jones and Spencer, Seattle quarterbacks have only been sacked once this season in 77 pass attempts.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a team-high 62 yards receiving on 4 receptions, but could've had more as he and Wallace failed to connect on a few attempts in the 4th quarter. Jones scored the team's lone touchdown, catching a 1-yard pass from Wallace on the play after Hasselbeck was injured.

Defense: One may be inclined to note that aside from Frank Gore's two long touchdown runs, the Seahawks' defense held the 49ers to just 3.8 yards per play.

"Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

It's true that the Seahawks were playing without Tatupu and Mebane, and of course Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant were out, while starting cornerback Wilson left the game in the first half. But as FOX analyst Michael Strahan noted at halftime, this is a business and when one guy gets hurt, the next guy has to step up. Few players stepped up on Sunday, which is why the Seahawks allowed an inexcusable 256 yards rushing and allowed the 49ers to hold the ball for 34 minutes and 31 seconds.

The 49ers had two drives of over 8 minutes, but the backbreaker was a 16-play, 9 minute and 27 second drive that ended with a field goal to make it a two-touchdown game, as opposed to a more manageable two-score deficit.

Seattle had opportunities to get off the field on that drive, but failed to do so.

On a 3rd and 4, the Seahawks couldn't pressure Hill with their front four, and Hill had the time to hit notorious Seahawk-killer Issac Bruce for five yards on a crossing route. Three plays later, on a 3rd-and-13, the Seahawks once again rushed four and Hill was able to connect with Bruce for 14 yards. On a 3rd-and-12, Seattle stopped Gore short of the first-down marker, but Aaron Curry grabbed and twisted Gore's facemask, adding 15 yards and extending the 49ers' drive. These failures and mistakes on 3rd down allowed the 49ers to hold the ball for half of the 4th quarter.

This isn't to say that there weren't a few good individual performances.

As noted above, Lawrence Jackson (4 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 pass defended) had a strong game, as did Patrick Kerney (3 tackles, 1 sack) and Colin Cole (3 tackles, 1 pass defended). Jordan Babineaux led the team with 8 tackles, not the numbers you want to see from the free safety, though Sunday's outcome might have been a lot different had he made two tackles to prevent Gore's long touchdown runs.

Curry had his "Welcome to the NFL" moment when he attempted to lay a "SportsCenter hit" on 49ers fullback Moran Norris, who hurdled the rookie and picked up the yardage necessary for a 49ers' first down.

Special Teams: Ryan and Olindo Mare were solid, with Ryan finishing with a 47.2 yard net average and Mare connecting on a 36-yard field goal and putting all of his kickoffs into the end zone, two for touchbacks.

Either Ryan is out-kicking his coverage, or Seattle needs better play from their gunners, because five of his punts were returned for 35 yards. If not for an illegal block in the back flag against the 49ers, Allen Rossum would've had a 75-yard punt return. Opposing return men routinely have 10+ yards to work with whenever Ryan punts and the ‘Hawks may not be bailed out by a flag the next time one is returned to the house. C.J. Wallace led the Seahawks with 2 special teams tackles.

Burleson and Forsett had a solid day returning Andy Lee's punts, totaling 40 yards on four returns. Before his injury, Wilson had 79 yards on 4 kick returns, while Forsett gained 17. Butler made another rookie mistake when he tried to return a kick from 4 yards deep in the end zone. He made it back to the Seahawks' 12-yard line.

Notes: Gore had his second 200-yard games of his career, both coming against Seattle…Gore joined Barry Sanders as the only two players in NFL history with two touchdown runs of 79 or more yards in the same game…Four of Lawrence Jackson's 5 career sacks have come in Week 2 meetings against the 49ers.

Summary: Despite playing rather poorly, the Seahawks still had a chance to come away with a big divisional road win that would've given them a commanding lead in the NFC West. Instead, they find themselves 1-1 and possibly without their offensive and defensive leaders (Hasselbeck, Tatupu) for a tough back-to-back stretch of games, where they'll face the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.

Head coach Jim Mora said he liked the way the team responded to adversity early on last week against St. Louis. Well, the level of adversity the Seahawks are facing just increased exponentially.

It will be interesting to see how they, Mora included, respond to it.

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog and writes for FalconInsider.com on the Scout network. If you'd like to e-mail Brian, you may do so by clicking here.

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