Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers were officially eliminated from the playoffs with their 17-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. This game looked like so many from throughout the season, especially over the last eight games. There was Colin Kaepernick missing wide open receivers including taking a sack instead of hitting a wide open running back, an inability to get into third and manageable situations, a defense that played well for a half, and injuries.
Let's go through four things that led to the 49ers loss.
1) Injuries -
Losing Frank Gore late in the first half was a killer. Gore was having an ok day running with a couple of big plays including a touchdown run to give the 49ers the lead, and when they lost Carlos Hyde the 49ers were left with a running back that they cut at the end of training camp. The loss of Garrett Celek also complicated things offensively. The 49ers like to use a lot of two tight end personnel against Seattle, and this loss force them to turn to an undrafted rookie free agent in Asante Cleveland.
The injury with the biggest impact occurred on the final play of the first half when Chris Borland injured his ankle trying to block for Eric Reid on an interception return. Once Borland was off the field the Seahawks were able to get the running game going and only an illegal motion penalty stopped them in the second half.
2) Colin Kaepernick -
Kaepernick's stats look good, but his missed throws to Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, along with taking an unnecessary sack to kill the momentum of a drive late in the second quarter really hurt the offense.
It was disconcerting to see Kaepernick running the ball so much early in the game. That may sound strange, but when Kaepernick starts running his play in the passing game is severely diminished. When was the last time Kaepernick ran wild and the 49ers won the game?
3) Negative plays on 1st down -
The 49ers offensive line gave up five sacks yesterday. Four of those five came in situations when facing 3rd and 9 or longer. Each of these sacks was set up by a negative play on first down, and another example of how things snowball.
4) Penalties -
The penalty bug struck on the 49ers opening series when a blocking in the back penalty on a big Carlos Hyde run moved the ball from the Seattle 40 back to the San Francisco 40. On top of that, the Seahawks first points came as a result of the 49ers defense giving up 30 yards on two unnecessary roughness penalties, and later a holding call on Asante Cleveland wiped out a 10 yard Hyde run.
Dontae Johnson -
The rookie fourth round pick bounced back from a tough performance against Oakland with another solid effort. Johnson has given up the fourth lowest quarterback ranking among all rookie cornerbacks who have played at least 25% of snaps this season.
Tank Carradine -
Played only 19 snaps but registered two solo tackles and two sacks. It's taken the coaching staff a while to get him on the field, but Carradine is showing flashes whenever given the opportunity.
Quinton Dial -
Another young defender that held up well at the point of attack and finished with the highest PFF grade on defense.
Alex Boone -
Had another good game yesterday. After a poor start to the season he has put together a string of good games. From week six on he has a PFF grade of 11.6.
Carlos Hyde -
The rookie running back put up 55 yards on six carries, and could have had more if not for a couple of penalties. Hyde has been up and down this season, but yesterday was a definite up.
Bruce Ellington -
The rookie averaged just under 25 yards per kick return, and needs a look on offense. So far he has been limited to mostly running fly sweep fakes this season. At this point in the season, instead of wasting time with guys like Brandon Lloyd it would be a good idea to give Ellington some meaningful snaps to prepare for next year.
Date: December 18, 2014 at 9:34 AM
Comment: I love esco's comment about making Fangio the HC. Otherwise we will lose him... Make Tomsula the DC, a solid promotion. Make Rathman the OC, and get back to a timing West Coast offense that will use Miller as a receiver, Hyde a the featured RB... Just need a tight end. Vernon has turned into a philosopher that doesn't want to hit anyone, let alone go all out for a ball. God forbid he has to dive for one! I'd take the Vernon that Singletary sent to the locker room any day, over who he is now. Draft a speed burner receiver ant we're right back in it!
Date: December 16, 2014 at 10:14 AM
Comment: Matt Barrows had pointed out the Niners have 11 offensive coaches and assistants. Isn't that just just too many cooks in a small kitchen? Compare that to only 6 defensive coaches and assistants. The defense also had its fair share of injuries, yet perform pretty good overall this season. That offense is a joke. I'm glad it's the end, and can't wait to see the front office clean up that offensive side of the coaching staff.
Date: December 15, 2014 at 3:14 PM
Comment: I'd really like to see JH and TB patch up their differences. If that can't happen, then, as someone else recommended, promote from within. Fangio as HC, Rathman as OC and Tomsula as DC. The offense loves our former FB #44, and the defense would run through a wall for Tomsula.
Date: December 15, 2014 at 2:56 PM
Comment: Jack, I wasn't making an argument about the Niner's WRs. I was asking you IF you think they have a problem IDing WR talent. IF they have a problem developing WR talent. and if you do think they have a problem with WRs...WHY? I'm obviously aware of Crab's status, that they missed with Jenkins and that they've spent most of their WR draft picks on 3rd rounders and lower.
Date: December 15, 2014 at 2:06 PM
Comment: Good analysis. I think its totally unprofessional for the media to be proclaiming Harbaugh as "good as gone" with ZERO evidence to support this claim (other than a generic tweet from Jed York and media heresay). Like him or not, Harbaugh has done nothing but win since he got here. Yes. I think the NFL caught up Roman's offense. As far as weapons this was arguably the best offense we've had during HB's tenure. Roman should have been removed midway through the season and HB's blind loyalty prevented him from making a change. He could have taken over play calling or promoted Tom Rathman (which would have generated a spark). This was a serious lack of leadership by him IMO, and it cost us a few wins at least. But we can't forget Balke has a strong hand in this mess too. It think it would be hilarious to see Harbaugh sign an extension...just to slap all these pundits in the face.
Date: December 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM
Comment: so what do you think the deal is with the Niners' inability to draft and/or develop WRs? Sure they drafted Crabtree and he's been relatively productive at times. But he was by far considered the best WR in the 09 draft (unless you're Al Davis) so his pick was a no brainer. The coaching philosophies over the past 9 years have been mostly a run first type of offense that have tended to not feature the passing game as much (save maybe for the Mike Martz year which featured Isaac Bruce being more productive with walker than Niner WRs in most years). So it seems to be a confluence of factors that effect the WR postition...but it really does seem that the Niners just can't get that position right and have to keep looking for veterans to fill in until they do.
Date: December 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM
Comment: As BigandGold said, it sure is nice to be able to come here and see some more reasoned analysis of events. Thanks for your efforts all season Jack, much appreciated. As for yesterday, well, injuries will be the story. Too many injuries to overcome. Kaep played better, but was still pretty bad. In the first half they really committed to the run and the offense looked better, but again, injuries took that away in the second half. But its been great to see the younger guys getting a go and some of them are really showing some talent.
By: Kyle Drake
Date: December 15, 2014 at 1:03 PM
Comment: Another crucial mistake by Kap was when he stepped up in the pocket to buy more time, but then hastily decided to run for a couple yard gain instead of looking upfield where Patton was free on a blown coverage. Would have been an easy 6 points. Add that to the ill advised sack in Q2 that you mentioned taking them out of FG range (albeit a long attempt), and the miss to Boldin (which would have had us way across the 50), you can see that even with bad line play, we still could have had this thing tied up, even with Hochuli's bonehead assist. There are rumors that Kap is on thin ice with the front office. You say he'll be around, but at what capacity?
Date: December 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Comment: interesting PFF grade on Dial. I would have thought that the gashing by the Seahawk's running backs were in part because of Dial (yes, I know he made some plays). But if Dial wasn't the weaklink, who was? McDonald had some big splash plays. I wonder how he was on the plays that gave up rushing yards. Where was Justin Smith? Did Brooks continue to hold up on the edge? I know Borland got out rushed to the edge a couple of times (he's great but he doesn't have Bowman and Willis's speed to be all over the field).
Date: December 15, 2014 at 12:48 PM
Comment: Jack... the best thing about wading through the comments on that "other" blog is seeing the link to this one. Thanks for the effort and sane commentary. Keep up the good work!
Date: December 15, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Comment: Another very good article, Jack. I was wondering if you would mind sharing your thoughts on the Harbaugh/Roman situation. Will Harbaugh get an extension? Will Roman be shown the door? Will CK be traded? Etc.
Date: December 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM
Comment: Great summary Jack, but you forgot to mention that Kaep also threw the ball away on fourth down. Sure it was a play during desperation time, but still.
By: John Kraske
Date: December 15, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Comment: I thought the niners dominated the 1st half. Kudos to a very talent loaded team. The Hawks are on a roll and quite frankly, I'd hate to see Jim Harbaugh go. He's got a good record.