Seattle is a good, solid and tough team, but is not unbeatable by any means. And the 49ers seem to have all the cards needed to beat them.
The running game, a Niner speciality, was abandoned after a few half-hearted tries. Usually, this part of the strategy pays off heaviest during the second half of the game, peaking in the fourth quarter when the opposition is slowed by fatigue and weakened by repetition and bruises.
But the running game, some 20 rushes for 100 yards for the Niners versus 47 rushes for 172 yards for the Seahawks, was not a major part of the play-calling. I missed it.
The passing game of the 49ers has for a generation been based on high percentage passes in the short to intermediate range, advancing the ball as much by short passes as by rushes.
But this game the ball was targeted long range way too often, and receivers famous for YAC, like Williams and Patton, were pretty much ignored. A total of 107 passing yards is not a prescription for a win against a tough team. Along with a high of three interceptions, the passing game could only be rated a failure.
Also, Kaepernick did not look confident and crisp behind the offensive line, like he was being asked to do things at the edge of his knowledge, skill and talent.
So the 49ers fell behind, and no significant changes to tactics and play calling were made during the halftime break. It looked to all the world like a major breakdown of the coaching staff and their vaunted brilliance and creativity. They seemed to be uncharacteristically locked into an unsuccessful plan.
Knowing the brilliance of the coaching staff, one cannot escape the niggling paranoia that someone was laying in the bushes, pulling the wool over someone else’s eyes, playing snake in the grass.
In other words, a game lost this early in the season is less important by orders of magnitude from a game won later in the season against the same opponent, to be played in a friendly environment at home.
If the opposing team is convinced they have the 49ers' number and come unprepared thinking the second game will also be a romp; imagine their chagrin when the play-calling is tight, the run game is persistent, and the passes are short with intermediate throws resulting in a high percentage of completions? Also, there will be a noticeable difference when receivers like Patton, Williams, Moore and Vance McDonald are featured while Boldin and V. Davis play decoys catching only a few, really tough and important ones.
It is, in short, difficult to believe Harbaugh and Company went bonkers over a game in Seattle, when they have been so proficient in games against even tougher foes.
As a follower since 1979, I do not like thinking this way, but it seems like a possible explanation for the whipping the 49ers took Sunday night on National TV.