Straight out of the Rabbit’s Hole - Recapping yesterday’s win over the Seahawks.

Diego Del Barco
Sep 12, 2011 at 11:01 AM

It's the morning after the San Francisco 49ers opening week victory over the division rival Seattle Seahawks and I'm still perplexed by what I saw on the field yesterday. The 49ers 33-16 win over the Seahawks feels kind of bittersweet because, although the team is 1-0, the performance on the field (more specifically by the offensive unit) flat out disappointed.

The Offense: let's make one thing clear: Alex Smith had a really good day. It all started for him on his very first snap, which to the surprise of the majority of the fan base wasn't a run play (not by design anyways). Smith lined up with a TE and WR on each side of the formation and Frank Gore behind him and dropped back looking to deliver his first pass, once he realized nobody was open he displayed good pocket awareness, ran out of the pocket and forward for a four yard gain. Not flashy, but productive.

Unfortunately the offensive unit as a whole once again showed its inconsistency. The pass blocking, which had been one of the biggest issues during preseason, actually held up well yesterday, and Smith's improved pocket awareness made them look even better. But the run blocking, which is one of the strengths of this unit, kept getting pushed back and stuffed by a Seahawks' defensive line that was fully determined to not make Frank Gore look like a Hall of Fame running back the way they have in the past. Make no mistake about it, Gore and the run game are still an integral part of this offense and a key for it to be successful, and because of this you have to applaud Greg Roman and Harbaugh for continuing to call run plays throughout the game even though they weren't getting the results they wanted. As a result, regardless of the low running numbers, the play action calls were being bit on by the Seahawks, and Smith had plenty of time on these plays to decide where to go to with the football. Whether he had open receivers down the field goes beyond my knowledge, but you have to appreciate the fact that he took care of the ball and didn't turn it over.

Yes, 5 out of his 15 completions gained 2 yards or less, and his passing numbers (15/20, 124 yards, 0 touchdowns) are not going to win him Player of the Week, but here's what else he had on his stat sheet: 7 rushes, 22 yards, 1 touchdown, and ZERO turnovers. Add that to the before mentioned pocket awareness and smart decision making and you can say he definitely played a big role in this win. Again: not flashy, but productive.

The Defense: Ray McDonald has arrived. I usually wait for back to back solid performances from a player before I say this about him, but in this case McDonald backed up a really solid preseason with a disruptive game yesterday. Whether as a DE in the 3-4, or as a DT in nickel packages McDonald lived in the Seahawks backfield yesterday, especially early on: on Seattle's very first possession he stopped Marshawn Lynch on 2nd&9 for a one yard gain, then on the very next play he hurried Tavaris Jackson into a throw that was completed for only a five yard gain, forcing Seattle to punt. After a roughing the kicker call put the 49ers' defense back on the field, McDonald went at it again, stopping Lynch for no gain on a 2nd&8 run play, then getting a sack on Jackson the very next play as the Seahawks' quarterback stepped up in the pocket perhaps looking to scramble forward for the first down. McDonald's stat line for the game: 6 tackles (all solo, 3 for a loss), 1 sack, 3 hits on the QB. I would take that every week.

The rest of the defensive unit wasn't too shabby either. You know it was a good defensive performance when Patrick Willis and/or Justin Smith are outperformed by a teammate, and Willis and Smith had good stat lines themselves. However, this unit too showed some inconsistencies, allowing Seattle to score 17 points in the second half after holding them to 0 in the first half. I'm still not sold on this secondary, even if often times in the first half Jackson seemingly had nowhere to go with the football. This unit will get tested a lot more in the next few games.

The Special Teams: Lets give them an A for Awesome. First of all, David Akers: don't take field goals for granted, regardless of whether they're 18-yard FG's. He got his job done each and every time he was needed to help us take and maintain the lead, and that shouldn't go unnoticed.

And then, well what can I say about Ted Ginn Jr. that hasn't already been said? Maybe just this: he is an aggressive player in the return game who isn't thinking about a fair catch unless it is cut-clear necessary. With the score 6-0 in the second quarter, Seattle's Jon Ryan (who was every bit as impressive as Andy Lee as a punter), booted a punt from just outside his endzone all the way to the 49ers 45 yard line. Ginn caught it and tried to move to his right and up-field before reversing to the left side and backwards looking for a seam to break through. He never found it. He was tackled at the 49ers 35 yard line.

His punt return for a touchdown was similar in that he goes sideways to his left keeping his eyes down the field for a seam, and once he found it his speed and elusiveness allowed him to score. So take this as a reminder that he won't always come up with a return for a touchdown, or even a return for positive yards, but it will not be for lack of effort. He brings something to the table, his aggressiveness, that the 49ers haven't had in the return game for quiet a while, and he's enough of a proven player in the return game that coaches will allow him to continue to be aggressive going forward.

Now if he could only learn some better dance moves ...

It sure seems like the 49ers "got away" with this one. You had to be pretty unsure about the outcome of this game just before Ginn's kickoff return for a touchdown. Harbaugh & Co. might want to try putting away the opponent while they have the chance, because more often than not there won't be momentum-changing plays like Ginn's returns to save the day for the team. Next Sunday the Cowboys come into town and they bring with them a team that is explosive on both sides of the ball as well as in special teams, especially if Dez Bryant is returning kicks and punts. So while the conservative, play-it-safe approach worked for this week, they better bring a lot more to the table next Sunday.

Otherwise, expect the boo birds to be flying early and often.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • TIM
    Then I guess you didn't see the game or listen to the radio or tv broadcasters who pointed out how wide open Crabtree was in the endzone when Alex checked down way too early and missed the TD chance. There were plenty of replays of the wide open Crabtree in the endzone,just like there are plenty of time in every game Alex plays where players are wide open but he panics and dumps the ball off.
    Sep 15, 2011 at 7:16 PM
    Response: I did see the play you're referring to, when Alex went to Crabtree on his read Crabtree WASN'T open, once he moves on to his read on Gore Crabtree was open at the back of the endzone, at the same time Anthony Davis was getting beat, if Alex locks onto Crabtree he might have gotten sacked. Besides that ONE play, you're just like me, you don't know FOR SURE if there were players wide open in other plays. Let's give it a rest and move on to this game vs the Cowboys.
  • TIM
    Let's just hope Alex keeps improving so that JH actually trusts him to throw more than 5-10 yards down the field and JH doesn't go into his Mike Singletary shell again like he did against the Hawks.As was reported over and over again this week,the Hawks put 8-9 in the box to shut down Gore and that was like telling alex that we don't believe YOU can beat us with your arm.JH seemed to agree when he kept running into the 8-9 in the box with Gore instead of letting alex throw (something like 1-13 on 3rd downs ?). Alex did what he was asked to do and for the most part played an average NFL QB game against the Hawks.nothing at all special (but he did have about 3 nice plays that he would have never made before JH !).He didn't give the ball away,and that is an overall huge improvement for alex ! Now Alex needs to do what Dwight Clark said after the game,he needs to learn to finally become an accurate passer. And no matter what phoney hype JH tells us about how he feels about Alex,JH needs to start to trust Alex to throw the ball more often and on some deeper routes,if he wants to have any chance against teams like the Cowpies. The Hawks are a horrible team and if not for Ted Ginn ???
    Sep 15, 2011 at 1:23 PM
    Response: tell us how you really feel, Tim. And Alex dropped back to pass 20+ times, so JH trusted him to throw the ball period. Where Alex threw it falls on Alex, not on the coach. Like I said, whether there were players open down field goes beyond my knowledge, I've yet to read any reports from anyone at the stadium criticizing him from missing wide open players. I'm sure we've both looking forward to see how he performs vs the Cowboys.
  • jim
    Nice win and a nice score. But, the downside is, of those 33 points, only 1 TD by the offense. And of all people, by Alex Smith (where are the haters now?). Field goals are good, but they will need to turn them into TD's when they play against a good team.
    Sep 14, 2011 at 6:03 AM
    Response: It'll be interesting to see how the game goes vs the Cowboys
  • Tony
    This is a solid story. My thoughts exactly. The defense was beginning to break down due to seattles half time adjustments. The Dallas game will be a more challenging game. If the d-line can pressure romo and get a few sacks, its anybodys game, and if we cant convert on 3rd downs, its going to be a long afternoon. Lets hope Dez doesnt do what T.O did a few years back.
    Sep 13, 2011 at 6:37 AM
    Response: Thanks. The Cowboys game will be a real test for the 49ers, at least for the offense.
  • Frank
    Diego, Well was frustrating watching FG after FG, but on the flipside, what an acquisition by Baalke. Akers has been a money K for many years...can't believe Philly let him go, but their loss is our gain. Agree, they'll need to bring a more consistent offense against Dallas...but, I go back to what Joe Montana said a couple of weeks ago. And what he said was Niner fans will have to be patient while their team learns Harbaugh's WCO. So, it's expected they'll play on the conservative side early on. The disturbing facet for me was the inability to run effectively. I thought Gore would be able to light them up, then again, he got very few reps during the preseason, so was bound to be a bit rusty. Good to see Hunter in there...we'll be seeing more and more of him as the season wears on. I firmly believe he'll prove to be the steal of the draft. It was also a bit curious not to see Dixon in on their short yardage situations. But, it's a win and had to be satisfying for Harbaugh, especially against Carroll. Game 2 will be interesting to watch, for many reasons. Again, good job, Diego, keep it coming.
    Sep 13, 2011 at 4:44 AM
    Response: Thank you. I wasn't as disappointed with Gore as I was with the run blocking, they were getting dominated and pushed back. I too was surprised not to see Dixon in short yardage situation, look at what the Raiders did last night when they needed the tough yards, they ran Michael Bush even though Darren McFadden had been lighting Denver up. Again, thank you for the feedback
  • The_Real_Randy
    The only thing to be really upset about in this game is the red zone offense. If it were even halfway decent, the game would have been over by halftime. The defense plaid well, but they were going up against inferior competition and were clearly getting tired in the 2nd half. We'll find out how good they really are next week.
    Sep 12, 2011 at 8:26 PM
  • pavlosh
    So I'm not a math major, but If you take away Ginn's td's, they still win 19-17. You can't predict that the Seahawks will come back and score again. What I'm saying is it take all three units to win the game. Without Venateri (sp?), then the Patriots aren't the dynasty they think they are.
    Sep 12, 2011 at 12:32 PM
    Response: Props for taking that well. I'm not against them kicking FG's, I'm against the 3 straight runs near the goalline type of events. To be fair, the 49ers have a very physical O-line and runs near the goal line should have resulted in touchdowns.
  • pavlosh
    They didn't "get away" with anything!! They won, pure and simple. Special Teams are part of the equation and if Alex Smith hadn't scored his td, then Ginn's runs were wasted. It all adds up and the final score is all that matters. New coaches, new systems, it's no surprise how the offense looked. It's going to be an up and down season but I feel good about the direction this team is taking and look forward to the next game.
    Sep 12, 2011 at 12:08 PM
    Response: Just for the record, 49ers won by 16, you take away Alex's TD and 49ers still win.
  • emilio carmona
    coaches have there game plan for different teams , yeah they were conservative but they were still looking to get points and thats what matters they were scoring points i''ll take the fieldgoal rather than try to force 7 points and not get anything and can be a game changer look what happened to Romo .,Watch Vernon Davis have a great game against the cowboys he will be key if we get a win next week . as long as we get the wins there is room for improvement!! Go Niners!!
    Sep 12, 2011 at 11:28 AM

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