49ers-Seahawks: San Francisco Falls Flat Against Seattle in NFC West Showdown
The long-awaited opening weekend to the NFL season came and went for fans of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
For fans of the 49ers that have recovered from their shock, it is looking like it will be a long season.
The 49ers, riding high on past NFC West supremacy and expectations throughout pundit-ville, were coming to Seattle to start the inauguration of their first playoff season since 2004.
The Seahawks are coming off an offseason that included a coaching change and several question marks at skill positions. Even hardened 'Hawk fans were challenged to come up with reasons to be optimistic about their team this year.
Most observers came up with the logical conclusion that the 49ers were on their way to an opening day victory. By the end of the second quarter, it looked as though the teams switched roles and the Seahawks were the dominating team, poised to bully the rest of the NFC West.
Let's look at some key elements that might tell us what to expect going forward.
Offense: What Is That Smell?
Alex Smith looked in control, poised, and confident...for about one quarter.
One quarter later he turned to Jell-O like that pilot in the movie Airplane!
Three times the 49ers marched down the field into the red zone. This is where they could have choked the life out of the Seahawks the way division winners do when presented with the opportunity. Fourteen to 17 points early in the game would have let the air out of the 'Hawks balloon.
Instead, Smith overthrew Josh Morgan on a fade, causing him to land out of bounds in the end zone. The next moment to shine, he overthrew a wide-open Moran Norris on fourth down to kill another red zone drive.
I drank the Kool-Aid the 49ers were serving all during camp about how Smith was returning as a better version of himself. Instead, he is the same inaccurate non-leader we saw in previous years. At this point, all of the hope and positive feeling about this team coming out of a undefeated preseason has dried up and blown away.
Instead, the 49ers failed to execute and looked totally incompetent in doing so. Wasting valuable timeouts because they couldn't figure out how to communicate from the OC to the HC to the QB. Missing receivers on short routes and overthrowing wide open receivers. Missing blocks and dropping passes were frequent as well.
Let's not forget that part of the failure belongs to the staff, as they seemed unorganized and flustered on several occasions. This lead to wasting timeouts and delay of game penalties.
The majority of this mess belonged to Smith and his inability to be accurate. Even on the "successful" completions, receivers were constantly reaching up, behind, below, and sometimes having to play DB because Smith can not deliver a ball in stride.
On a franchise that provided Hall of Fame quality for almost 15 years at the QB spot, it is very hard to watch the the QB position struggle as badly as it did Sunday.
On a lesser note, I wonder how many preseason games Michael Crabtree will miss next season after looking like a scrub on Sunday. It seems he was not ready after missing the entire preseason with an injury some suspected was stretched out to avoid having to participate in workouts.
Defense: Nice Start—Too Bad the First Quarter Isn't the Whole Game
The 49er defense, like the offense, was stellar in the first quarter.
Nate Clements picked off a Matt Hasselbeck pass to kill the Seahawks' opening drive. The 49ers looked stout against the run and were confident up and down the field.
Again like the offense, though, they crumbled after the first quarter. The early game hero, Clements, was burned twice for scores on hitch routes. Clements, ever aggressive, bit hard on fakes by 'Hawk WRs and was left in the dust both times.
The ability to generate a pass rush was in doubt before the game, and to nobody's surprise, it proved to be the case in the game. Other than a Travis LaBoy outside blitz, the 49ers looked like they were stuck in the mud when rushing the QB.
Outstanding play from MLB Patrick Willis was not enough to overcome the 49ers' inability to get to the QB or cover receivers in space. This issue will not go away this year unless the 49ers change their defensive philosophy or personnel.
One bright spot was Ted Ginn Jr. in the return game. He looked fast and decisive—ironic considering the return game was a big question mark for the 49ers coming out of camp.
Future: 49ers Are Doomed Vs. This Is Only Week 1, Calm Down
So what should we take away from the 49ers' first week?
The Seahawks are better than most thought.
The 49ers are not as good as most thought.
Alex Smith will not be the starter much longer with another similar performance.
The defense needs at least two new CBs.
The rookies need to develop fast, or this season will not be as good as we hoped.
Delanie Walker is ruining Vernon Davis' fantasy value.
Patrick Willis will play in his fourth Pro Bowl this year.
Michael Crabtree was not a factor; how much of this is due to his layoff in preseason?
Josh Morgan looked like the team's No. 1 receiver.
The other, perhaps more distressing thing is that Mike Singletary is known for his motivation and inspiration more than his Xs and Os. The 49ers looked unorganized, undisciplined, and unmotivated to compete. Worse, it looked as if the players were giving up. If Singletary's strength is in motivating and inspiring, then the 49ers look to be very bad this year.
Then again, it is only Week 1...maybe the 49ers were reading too many of their own press clippings and were overconfident. Wouldn't be the first time that has happened to a team. If Singletary and his staff are able to iron out their game-day issues with communication, I still think this team has a shot at the playoffs.