The Morning After: 49ers End Seahawks, 40-21

One team entered this game on the mathematical precipice of darkness. Any loss, big or small, would eliminate any hope of a playoff berth. Their season had started with so much promise, and had been so thoroughly disappointing that their fans saw fit to boo their first two offensive plays of the game on Sunday. A quarterback that was picked to lead his team to the playoffs had become a pariah. The other team began the year with little hope, but sprinted to a surprisingly solid start. A quarterback that was assumed to be playing his final season with the team, surged to the point of contract extension murmurs amongst the fans. It had been eleven games since these two teams last met. Symmetry can be both beautiful and cruel, and eventually unavoidable. Seattle faced that reality Sunday in a game that effectively ended their season, even if the rules say otherwise. Lose this game by a few points and there would be reason to cling to hope. Doing so after the performance we witnessed yesterday is just begging for heartache.

At some point a fan has to question whether a division title with a 7-9 record is even worth winning. Is there more glory or ridicule from being the first sub-.500 division winner in NFL history? It is relatively certain whoever wins the NFC West will be 7-9. It has been easy to hope for a playoff game because there have been glimpses of greatness when key players are healthy. The Seahawks team that lost to New Orleans a few weeks ago could rightfully believe a playoff victory at home was possible, even probable. The team that has showed up the last three weeks would have almost no chance of winning a playoff game. Take a step back and see how much farther this franchise has to go to be a Super Bowl contender. Another high draft pick next season by a front office that has made so many wise selections could set the foundation for the next great Seahawks run.

Losing begets losing, though. This is shaping up to be Seattle’s third straight losing campaign. Breaking free from that tradition can be like escaping the Earth’s gravitational pull. Nobody wants to be Detroit or Buffalo, in a seemingly permanent low orbit. The Seahawks trajectory still appears skyward. Playing meaningful football in December with promising young talent could not be further from where this franchise was 12 months ago. Most people will spend this week tearing down the team, questioning the coaches, and crucifying the quarterback. Go ahead. Vent your pain. When this team returns in 2011, it will be equipped for a legitimate run at the division title and possibly modest playoff success. Some of the key pieces have been found and the philosophy has been set. The injuries and severe lack of depth have robbed this team of anything beyond superficial substance. They are a Bentley on blocks with cloth seats and a lawnmower engine. Pete Carroll and John Schneider will spend the off-season adding quality to the roster. Think of the difference-makers they have added in one off-season:

– Mike Williams
– Russell Okung
– Earl Thomas
– Leon Washington
– Red Bryant (bench player all last year)
– Lawyer Milloy (bench player all last year)
– Ben Obomanu (bench player all last year)
– Marshawn Lynch

If another 5-8 high quality players are added to this roster, it will be safe to start believing again. The Rams are more improved than the Seahawks based on where they were the last few seasons, and should challenge for the division title for years to come. The 49ers and Cardinals are a very good QB away from being fantastic, but it is not going to be easy for them to find a great QB. The opening for Seattle will remain as long as they continue to add talent.

The Seahawks are slotted somewhere between the 12th and 14th pick in the 2011 draft based on current records. That could become another player of Earl Thomas’ talent, it could be traded for a future QB star like Kevin Kolb, or it could be a bust. Make the playoffs at 7-9 and lose in the first round gets you a pick around 22-23. Very few franchise players slip that low, and few great players can be had for that price. Seems like an easy choice, if given the chance to make it.

The game yesterday was a abysmal. It may have been the worst thing I’ve watched on TV since a rerun of Showgirls was on the other night. Oh, and that’s not even counting the actual football being played. Whoever dreamed up the ridiculous music playing in the background of the game should be immediately fired. It was easily worse than the way the Seahawks played or the broadcasting of Brian Billick and his bumbling partner who managed to call an interception by a Seahawks defender while the Seahawks offense was on the field, and the ball was not intercepted. I like the sounds of a football game. The billions of dollars spent on the game by other fans would appear to indicate others do as well. Don’t mess with success.

It is not worth the effort to defend Matt Hasselbeck. People have already found their truth on that matter. Seeing Ruvell Martin announced as a starting wide receiver was an eye-opening symbol of who this team is right now.  There may not have been a worse pair of starting wide receivers in any NFL game this season. Golden Tate better see the writing on the wall because the coaches are using neon ink. Ruvell Martin? Ouch.

One bit of good news was the play of Aaron Curry and Colin Cole. Cole’s return did bottle up the 49er run game. The only successful runs by SF happened with Cole on the sideline. When he was in the game, the 49ers averaged just over two yards per carry. Curry came to play with a sack, and a near-blocked field goal. Any signs of improvement from him are welcome.

Symmetry is at the heart of many Eastern religions. I am not a Buddist, but I do believe there is a ying for every yang. It is what keeps me believing that fortune will eventually shine on the Seahawks. Today is lost, but tomorrow could be here pretty soon.

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