The Morning After: 49ers Outplay, Outcoach Seahawks in Frustrating Loss

Seahawks fans have their worry glasses, like all fans. When something goes wrong, they pull them out and all the bad things are conveniently explained by the one, two, or ten things they have been griping about all season. Pete Carroll sucks. Russell should be traded. Schotty is a disaster. The league and the refs hate Seattle. It usually comes out in the form of, “I told you [insert simplistic reason]!” Our need to be soothed by being right about something is harmless in isolation, but becomes toxic when mixed with others overly simplistic reasons. Anger and frustration narrow our focus. Other people’s reasons threaten our single truth, and we will fight to protect our view. This is where social media and comments sections become riotous dark alleyways. Let me flip the klieg lights for a minute.

The Seahawks lost for these reasons. All of them. 

  • The 49ers played well, on offense, defense, and special teams
  • The 49ers played and coached with pride and emotion 
  • The playing surface was terrible and led to injury and mistakes by the visiting team who came out with the wrong cleats
  • Sebastian Janikowski missed an extra point
  • Special teams surrendered a 97-yard kickoff return for touchdown
  • Seahawks coaches believe it is worth kicking the ball short on kickoffs so their coverage team can tackle the returner short of the 25-yard line. That allowed the chance for the touchdown to occur.
  • D.J. Fluker was out injured. Jordan Simmons got injured. Ethan Pocic had to play.
  • Ethan Pocic played awfully. Nobody in the history of the sport may have been personally responsible for erasing that amount of gained yardage while also moving the team backwards at least 30 yards in such a short stint. He was like a trashy pickup truck driving full speed in reverse, towing the Seahawks offense with him.
  • Bradley McDougald got injured early, and the Seahawks safeties blew multiple coverages.
  • Brian Schottenheimer once again struggled mightily when the deep passing game was taken away.
  • Brian Schottenheimer gives up when the Seahawks have more than 10 yards to gain.
  • Pete Carroll did not go for it on 4th and 3 in 49ers territory early in the game.
  • The refs made bad calls on a Delano Hill and Shaquill Griffin pass interference penalties. 
  • Russell Wilson missed some open receivers, either because he did not see them or because he was a little too greedy looking for the bigger play.
  • Kyle Shanahan is a really smart play caller who has always given Pete Carroll defenses trouble. This game was no different.
  • Nick Mullens played much better than any Seahawk fan will want to give him credit for. He was decisive, and in rhythm, much of the day.
  • San Francisco did not make the mistakes they have been making all season

All those things are true, and yet, the Seahawks lost by three points in overtime. If just one of them had not been true, the Seahawks very well may have won in regulation. The extra point and kick return are the most tangible examples.

None of that makes it less frustrating. For the first time since week one, the Seahawks lost to an inferior opponent. It happened to be a team that played well. That, combined with a long list of Seahawks gaffes, to make for an infuriating outcome.

There is a lot of talk about the Seahawks penalties, and the lopsided officiating that resulted in Seattle piling up the most penalty yards in team history. While those complaints are justified, the Seahawks had plenty of opportunities to win the game anyway and a lot of those penalties were the correct call.

Complaining about penalties is almost pointless. Seattle has little control over what is called, especially terrible calls where the players did not commit a penalty. 

What has my attention are the things that could have lasting impact on the team’s fortunes. 

First, stop being cute with the kickoffs. The downside risk is greater than than upside of possibly getting five extra yards for the defense to work with. My guess is Carroll also likes the potential for turnovers on those plays. If you add up all the positives across the games this year in these situations, I’d wager they would not stack up to the single negative of the return touchdown they surrendered in this game. 

Second, Schottenheimer’s propensity to surrender when the team gets behind the sticks is a serious issue. Seattle gave up on 3rd and 14 in overtime. That is not only a massively flawed strategic decision, it sets a tone of fear-based decision making that has no place on the football field. I’m concerned nobody is in his ear about this, and it will continue unabated.

Third, the right guard position is in trouble. I admit to thinking Pocic was a capable, and maybe even a good third-string guard. He was not. There is no guarantee Fluker will be back this week or that Simmons will be back either. That is a problem. I would like to see the Seahawks consider putting George Fant at right tackle and Germain Ifedi at right guard. 

Fourth, I had this feeling after the Vikings game that it reminded me of the Chargers game back in 2014 when a team found a way to attack our defense, except this time, it was a team finding a way to limit our offense. Minnesota took away the deep routes, and Seattle struggled to adjust and attack underneath.

Schottenheimer showed some adjustment in this game with more screens, but intermediate passing appears to be a problem. It is not only the play-calling. Wilson has always been wired to look for the big play, and often has his eyes downfield missing some open options underneath. The combination of Schottenheimer’s limited creativity and Wilson’s downfield preference could be a long-term problem.

Fifth, the safety position is tenuous when McDougald is in there. It becomes a serious hole in the defense when he is not. Tedric Thompson remains a limited athlete who struggles to move quickly enough to close on players in the open field and bring them down if he happens to reach them. Delano Hill had some nice plays in coverage. He may need to step up if McDougald is out for a while.

This was a game the Seahawks should have won. It had me screaming unkind things at unreasonable decibel levels. What a waste. Seattle now has a much tougher task ahead against the Chiefs. The problems that plagued Seattle in this game may, or may not, show up in that contest. Those worry glasses have been unpacked and are resting conveniently on our heads, ready to be dropped down at any hint of poor play.

Blame has momentum on its side right now. The truth is this game did not prove any Seahawks fan right. No single game can do that. Seattle has penned an unlikely tale through this 2018 season. They hit a bump and the pen skidded off the page. Like any good story, the ending is what will be remembered.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. I love the idea of Ifedi at RG ad Fant at RT until Fluker gets back, or Simmons heals up.

    This loss will prove to be a good loss IF the coaching staff can use it to re-focus the team on the fundamentals of winning. Nobody gives you anything in the NFL–it has to be earned, each and every week. I had the feeling going into this game that the Seahawks as a team were expecting SF to lose because they were beaten two weeks ago by a large margin. There is too much at stake (even if it is just professional pride and playing for a contract next year) to assume you can win.

    The D actually did a better job limiting Mullens this game than in Seattle. SF made fewer mistakes, and fewer turnovers led to a close game that still could have been easily won by Seattle. Frustrating? Yes. Will it lead to better team play the rest of the way and into the playoffs? I would bet the answer is also, YES.

  2. Good article. I think the benefit of short kickoffs could be explained by numbers, but maybe there isn’t a big enough sample size yet. I don’t know if it is a good idea or not. Regardless, probably not the best idea to make assumptions on the long term validity of a strategy based on the outcome of one play. That is the same reasoning that prevents them from going for it on 4th down and 3 at the opponents 40 yard line and playing it safe.

  3. It is true that if Wilson could have executed just one play better, the outcome may have been different, namely the missed TD to Baldwin on that corner route to the back left of the end zone.

    Better timing on the throw would have resulted in 6.

  4. Wow, this is probably the most balanced, insightful and incisive analysis i’ve ever seen of a Seahawks loss. Especially re Schotty’s good points / bad points. Although he does some things right, his lack of creativity and inability to exploit Russell’s passing talents are severely limiting the Hawks upside. Same with Bevell. They are both buggy whip OCs in an era when fast cars are becoming the norm.

  5. I was so disgusted after this game I couldn’t even come here to read the Morning After. Remember that Arizona game at Ocean’s 5? We won, but by the skin of our teeth against a team we should have buried. Wasn’t a very happy win. Well, Sunday felt a lot like that. As this season rolled along, that Arizona game felt like an outlier. Now it feels like this team isn’t quite ready to face the big boys in the playoffs. If they wind up with the 6th seed and go to Chicago, they’re going to get destroyed vs that Bears Defense. Chicago is my pick to win it all against a Texans team that surprises everybody.

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