The Morning After: Seahawks Fall 19-17 To The 49ers

Just like fifteen weeks ago, one team dominated the first half and the other dominated the second. Just like fifteen weeks ago, special teams played a huge role in the home team’s late lead. Even the score taunted Seattle when it reached the same 19-17 mark the teams had reached the last time they played, almost daring the Seahawks to prove they had changed enough to write a different ending. The ending was different, but was no more palatable. A close game always comes down to a few plays. Six pivotal moments really stood out.

– 3rd and 1 at the goal line before half
Pete Carroll complained that there wasn’t a penalty called on his team, as the Seahawks clearly false-started. I’m complaining that his team did false start. Moving back five yards would have likely resulted in a field goal anyway. Executing the hand-off almost certainly would have resulted in a touchdown. IMPACT: -4 points

– 3rd and 5 fumble and scramble by Alex Smith on 49ers opening drive of second half
The 49ers “statement” opening drive of the second half should have never happened. A fumbled snap had Smith well behind his line of scrimmage, and the Seahawks not only did not recover the ball, but allowed him to run free for three yards. This made going for it on fourth down far more tempting. IMPACT: An eventual +7 points for 49ers

– 4th and 2 49ers conversion on broken play
The 49ers decided to go for the first down immediately after the fumble. Jim Harbaugh screamed at his line to make it look like they would run for it. He admitted the gamesmanship after the game. Way to take credit for a broken play, douche bag. The 49ers had nothing open, but the Seahawks did not get to Smith who eventually found Vernon Davis tip-toeing the sideline for 16 yards and a first down. IMPACT: An eventual +7 points for 49ers

– 3rd and 8 on 49ers 2nd drive, Smith scrambles for 12
The 49ers had just tied the game, and had a big punt return that put them near mid-field. Seattle’s defense forced a 3rd and 8. Nothing was open, but the Seahawks allowed Smith to scramble for 12 yards and a first down. It was one of only three conversions on 3rd down all afternoon for the 49ers, but a completely unacceptable one. IMPACT: An eventual +3 points for the 49ers

– 2nd and 18 pass for 41 yards
Seattle had stunned the 49ers by taking the lead, and now had them backed up in their own territory. The ghosts of Rex Grossman and Anthony Armstrong slimed Brandon Browner. The one thing that cannot happen on a play where your opponent has 18 yards to gain for a first down is to let a receiver get behind you. The one thing that cannot happen when you are up late in a tight football game is to let a receiver get behind you. Michael Crabtree got behind Browner. Some were claiming Crabtree pushed off, but it was not obvious, and does not change the fact that he was pushing off BEHIND YOU! Browner, who has played so brilliantly the past few weeks, made no play on the ball. Almost any leap would have knocked that ball away or made the catch far more difficult. Instead, another back-breaking, game-losing play. IMPACT: Game-winning field goal

– Justin Forsett stays in bounds, costs team 12 seconds and a down
This may seem like a nit to pick, but the Seahawks had 41 seconds to move down field for a chance to win the game with a field goal. Forsett took the first pass and inexplicably cut inside to pick up a whopping eight yards. It cost the team at least 12 seconds off the clock and forced them to use up a down by spiking the ball.  It probably did not cost the team the game, but we’ll never know. IMPACT: Many expletives

You could throw in the “helmet-to-helmet” penalty called on the 49ers kickoff returns where the return man fumbled the ball and was hit cleanly as he looked to be getting back up after falling untouched. San Francisco fans might point to David Akers missed 52-yard field goal. Regardless, the Seahawks played an 11-3 team without 3/5ths of their offensive line and either of their starting wide receivers, and truly should have won. That will be the difference between this year and next. Seattle will take significant steps forward again next season. It is not as clear that San Francisco will.

Injuries always seem the norm in Seattle, as the Seahawks have had their second straight season with more than a dozen players on injured reserve, but those things do tend to even themselves out. The Rams made their run last year, in part, due to a remarkably injury-free season. They were paid back, and then some this year. The 49ers are enjoying a similar injury-free year this season, and would be extremely lucky to enjoy that luck two years in a row. How different would that team look without three starters on their offensive line, like the Seahawks, or without 10 cornerbacks, like the Rams?

One thing there is no doubt about is the rivalry ignited between these two teams this year. San Francisco coaches and personnel ran through the Seahawks press box yelling, “Merry Christmas” as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Right tackle Anthony Davis tweeted, “Fuck the Seahawks..Scot McCloughan eat shit…” after the game. McCloughan, a senior personnel exec with the Seahawks and former 49ers GM, had told a reporter before the game that the Seahawks were going to “beat the Hell out of ’em.” No love lost.

Seattle exits this game knowing much of what it knew when it entered. They are a young team who is far better than it was when the year began, with some obvious improvement that will happen naturally with an off-season and more experience. They need a young quarterback who can be groomed to eclipse the ability of Tarvaris Jackson in close games, while also hoping Jackson can make some improvement there with more starts.

Happy Holidays to all of you.  Thanks for reading, and commenting, and tweeting, and facebooking