The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are clearly the two best teams in the NFC West. In fact, they are probably the two best teams in the NFL. On Sunday night, the 49ers saw that the Seahawks are the better of the two and it is not even close -- especially at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
The Seahawks are younger, stronger and faster than the 49ers. It is now clear that they won the offseason arms race. If they end up with the best record in the NFC, it will be tough for any team to knock them out at CenturyLink Field. That environment changes a visiting team's entire game plan because now they have to deal with not only the Seahawks, but the noise from their fans. Like the 49ers on Sunday night, teams need to resort to using hand signals at the line of scrimmage because the offense cannot hear each other. The home field advantage in Seattle is a huge part of any matchup with the Seahawks.
The noise caused all kinds of mental issues with the 49ers in the form of careless turnovers and stupid penalties. The 49ers had 12 penalties for 121 yards. It was the most yards under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Several of those were personal fouls that resulted from frustration and errors in judgement. In an interview with the Mercury News, tight end Vernon Davis had this to say regarding the penalties: "It can cost you the season if you do it every game. We won't allow that to happen." Even Anquan Boldin was called offsides. You know something is wrong when a wide receiver jumps the snap.
Making matters worse is the fact that this Seahawks team will get better. They were without their top wide receiver, Percy Harvin, who will return later in the year. They were without cornerback Brandon Browner, who typically plays opposite Richard Sherman. He has been dealing with a hamstring injury and will be back. They were without Chris Clemons, who may be their top pass rusher. He is still rehabbing from ACL surgery. For part of the game, they were without left tackle Russell Okung, who sustained a foot injury. The Seahawks could be a much improved team when they next face the 49ers on December 8 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
The 49ers did not escape with their health intact. Rookie safety Eric Reid left the game after showing concussion symptoms. The injury occurred right after the two-minute warning in the second quarter. Reid tackled Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice and then stayed on the ground before eventually being able to walk off of the field on his own. Reid was replaced by Chris Dahl. Nose tackle Ian Williams could be lost for the season after breaking his ankle on a very controversial play. While the cut block that Seahawks right guard J.R. Sweezy performed was ruled as legal, Mike Pereira, the former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL, was not so sure about that according to a Monday morning interview on KNBR. Glenn Dorsey replaced Williams. Tight end Vernon Davis exited the game with a hamstring injury. The injury occurred on the play where cornerback Richard Sherman intercepted a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Davis. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald also suffered an ankle injury. Although, it is not thought to be too serious.
The 49ers managed a pitiful 207 yards of total offense and that should really worry fans, who saw their team pile up almost 500 yards of offense a week earlier against the Packers. The Seattle defense proved Sunday night that they are at the top of the NFL food chain.
The Seahawks pass rush was phenomenal. The Seahawks defense got to quarterback Colin Kaepernick three times on Sunday with sacks by linebacker K.J. Wright, defensive end Michael Bennett and defensive end Cliff Avril. They were also able to consistently put pressure on Kaepernick throughout the night. Avril was also responsible for a forced fumble by the 49ers quarterback.
After facing two elite NFC teams, 49ers running back Frank Gore has had only 60 rushing yards, and 44 of those came against the Green Bay Packers during week 1. On Sunday night, Gore was held to 16 yards on 9 carries and some are starting to wonder how much more he has in the tank.
The Seahawks pass defense locked down the 49ers receivers. Against the Packers, wide receiver Anquan Boldin had 208 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions. Against the Seahawks' defensive backfield, he had just one catch for 7 yards. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who shadowed Boldin for much of the game, was quick to point out afterwards that Boldin's one reception did not come against him. The 49ers wide receivers as a group only had 6 receptions with 4 of those being hauled in by Kyle Williams.
Every game becomes a must win for the 49ers because if they have to head back to Seattle to face the Seahawks in the postseason, they will be done.
After the game, Harbaugh said, "I don't think any of us are proud of our performance tonight." I would hope not. That performance was embarrassing for both the team and its fans.
The 49ers will now get ready for the Indianapolis Colts who travel to San Francisco for their September 22 matchup.