Falling back to earth after a thrilling, emotional season-opening win last Monday night, Geno Smith and the punch-less Seahawks were body slammed in a ugly, one-sided 27-7 loss to the 49ers on Sunday.
Failing to build off a strong first start to the season, Smith completed 24 of 30 passes for only 198 yards and threw a costly first half interception, which was one of three critical turnovers by the visitors. Meanwhile, Seattle didn't support him with a stagnant run game that netted just 35 yards on the ground. Defensively, San Francisco carved up a worn down unit for 189 rushing yards and 373 yards total, winning the time of possession battle by nearly 17 minutes by the end of regulation.
"Humbled,'' said coach Pete Carroll, summarizing the day.
Here are five quick takeaways from an NFC West opener the Seahawks will soon want to forget:
1. Lacking touch and precision, Smith crashed back to reality in an underwhelming performance
For much of the past week, Smith was rightfully showered with praise after a near-perfect first half against the Broncos. But Sunday simply wasn't the veteran quarterback's day. While he completed 14 out of 18 first-half pass attempts, he averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt and wasn't able to push the ball downfield successfully.
When he did try to test the secondary and connect with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the 49ers made him pay. Trailing 13-0 early in the second quarter, he tried to squeeze a pass into a tight window to Lockett on a post route, only for the pass to be deflected into the air by safety Talanoa Hufanga and intercepted off the carom by Tashaun Gipson to give San Francisco outstanding field position.
After Seattle's defense came through with a turnover on downs, Smith nearly turned it over again on the very next drive, as an interception by linebacker Fred Warner was fortunately wiped out by a defensive pass interference penalty in the secondary. With the exception of a 27-yard connection to Lockett in the second quarter - which ultimately didn't lead to any points anyway - the majority of his completions were of the dink-and-dunk variety to bloat his completion percentage and didn't help sustain drives.
2. Shane Waldron takes offensive football back to the 1920s one play too many in a disastrous sequence
Revisiting the aforementioned explosive pass play from Smith to Lockett, the Seahawks were actually in a prime position to cut into the 49ers 13-point advantage. The completion advanced them to the opposing 13-yard line, easily the closest they had been to the end zone all afternoon long. Opting to think outside the box, Waldron subbed in all four of Seattle's running backs and put them in a full house formation with rookie Ken Walker III as the "quarterback" in a wildcat-type package.
The first snap actually worked as Walker took the direct snap and wiggled his way to a five-yard gain.
But Waldron put his hand in the bizarre, archaic formation jar one too many times, something coach Pete Carroll admitted after the game he wished he would have stopped by calling a timeout. Stunningly opting to keep 40 personnel on the field and take the ball out of his actual quarterback's hands, Walker handed it off to DeeJay Dallas, who rolled out to his right ready to throw the football. Throwing the pigskin like it was a shot put while trying to hook up with Metcalf, he uncorked a dead duck right into the hands of cornerback Charvarius Ward in what may go down as the ugliest interception in franchise history. By getting far too cute, Waldron cost his team at least three points, if not seven.
3. Missed tackles and busted coverages in abundance, Seattle was on its heels defensively in the first two quarters
Ever since the first preseason game, the Seahawks have battled persistent issues wrapping and finishing up tackles. Those struggles were still evident on Monday night, but they were able to overcome missed opportunities by forcing a pair of fumbles in the red zone. Such fortune wasn't bestowed upon Clint Hurtt's unit on Sunday, however, and the physical 49ers were able to ground and pound from the opening drive against a defense leaving tackles on the field in bunches. Mixing in a long completion from Trey Lance to Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco ran for 43 yards on the opening drive before being forced to settle for a field goal. By the end of the half, they had amassed 123 rushing yards, with large chunks of that yardage coming after contact with countless missed tackling opportunities. Most notably, Darrell Taylor whiffed on a tackle attempt at the line of scrimmage on receiver-turned-running back Deebo Samuel, who then raced for a 51-yard gain.
Compounding errors defensively, receivers came wide open on several occasions due to miscommunication and missed assignments in coverage. The most glaring miscue came on Seattle's third defense drive. Already trailing by six points, backup tight end Ross Dwelley came wide open with Jordyn Brooks trailing in coverage and no cornerback in his vicinity, allowing him to snag a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo and eventually stretch the ball over the pylon for a 38-yard touchdown reception to push the lead to 13. Coupling those mistakes a plethora of defensive pass interference and illegal contact calls and it was a forgettable all-around first half performance.
4. With backs against the wall, the defense did come through with a series of stops in the second half before eventually breaking
To Seattle's credit, with the offense failing to contribute anything all afternoon long, the defense did stand tall for a large chunk of the final two quarters. Though they weren't able to make many quick stops to earn themselves a much-needed breather, the Seahawks forced two punts and blocked a field goal on their first three defensive drives of the half, keeping the team within two scores. Unfortunately, those efforts were squandered thanks to the ineptitude of Smith and his counterparts, who finished with punts on each of their first three drives and only picked up a single first down on those possessions. As a result, the 49ers finally broke the dam with a game-sealing 13-play, 39-yard touchdown drive that chewed up more than seven minutes of clock thanks to penalties and concluded with a rushing touchdown for Garoppolo from a yard out.
5. In a brief positive development, Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson came through with thrilling special teams theatrics
Exciting plays from the Seahawks were few and far between on Sunday, but the cornerback duo of Jackson and Woolen teamed up for the only real fireworks shot off by the visitors on a gloomy, rainy afternoon, providing a glimmer of hope for their team in the process. Trailing by 20, Woolen came screaming off the edge and extended his 33 1/2-inch arms, getting a piece of kicker Robbie Gould's short field goal attempt. In the perfect place at the perfect time once again after recovering both fumbles in last week's win over Denver, Jackson scooped up the loose football and raced 85 yards for Seattle's only touchdown, cutting the deficit to 13 points. The play invigorated Carroll and the rest of the sideline, albeit only momentarily, keeping the game within reach late in the third quarter.
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