San Francisco 49ers Loss To Seattle Seahawks: An Overdose Of Reality

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst ISeptember 13, 2010

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 12:  Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers is wrapped up by Red Bryant #79 and Aaron Curry #59 during the NFL season opener against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on September 12, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

It started out pretty good. The 49ers looked like the better team, and by a lot. The 3-0 score at the end of the first quarter didn't seem to reflect how far ahead San Francisco really was.

When it was all said and done, however, Seattle would kick the living crap out of the 49ers. After another 49er field goal, Seattle would  score 31 unanswered points to nuke the division favorites, 31-6.

So what the funk went wrong exactly? I mean, besides everything.

Well, here's what I saw: Quicksand.

For anybody who has ever watched the football comedy "The Replacements" with Keanu Reeves, you know what I'm talking about.

One little thing goes wrong, and it leads to another thing, and then another. Pretty soon somebody is quitting at some point on every play, and players legs just can't seem to move fast enough. The harder they struggle, the deeper they sink.

Bill Walsh often likened this to a zebra in the wilderness being hunted by lions. In the throes of death, a zebra would bow it's head and succumb to it's fate as prey. Walsh would tell his men never to bow their heads, and never to give up, regardless of the situation.

This didn't happen for Mike Singletary's squad Sunday. This is probably the worst insult an observer could give a coach, but Singletary's players seemed to quit on him in the face of a little adversity.

Where and when did it go downhill?

Things began to get ugly early near the goal line. The 49ers have an automatic short-yardage kicker in Joe Nedney, and the early call to go for it on a fourth-and-one from the goal line would be questioned for the rest of the game. Seattle not only defended their end zone, they managed to negate the 49ers entire drive.

Soon afterwards, the 49ers were again knocking ferociously at the Seahawk's door. Again, after another solid stand by the Seattle defense, the 49ers approached the goal line with their offense on a fourth down. This time, however, a delay of game penalty pushed them back, and Nedney was sent out to score what would be the 49er's final points of the afternoon, making it 6-0 49ers.

To the conservative minded fan, this penalty seemed like a blessing at this point.

See, conservative football would dictate that you take the easy three points early in a game, which would have made the score here 9-0 49ers. The implication here is that it would have been a two-score game for Seattle, and the 49ers should have kept the momentum and thus avoided the quicksand.

The liberal calls to go for it on fourth down, early in the game, after getting stuffed on three plays prior, was a bad one.

Make this call when you're desperate in the fourth quarter; make it when wrecking-ball offense is blowing guys off the line; make it against a weak opponent; but making it there Sunday just made no sense.

Staying in the first half, and before the quicksand really started, the potential 9-0 49ers lead has one more telling relevance in the land of hypotheticals.

Assuming Nate Clement still gets called for the ridiculous penalty (that Deion Branch committed) and subsequently burned by Mike Williams, and the Seahawks score a touchdown, the 49ers would still have had a 9-7 lead.

Even a 7-6 deficit for the 49ers shouldn't have been irreparable though, but what happened the rest of the way shook the foundations of many a believer's faith in Alex Smith.

In spite of the big "C" on his jersey, the San Francisco quarterback did not look very different from the shrimpy youngster that failed to impress anybody over his first five NFL season.

One theory is that Smith's shell shock is at its worst against the Seahawks. After all, it was against Seattle that Smith busted his shoulder several years ago.

So what did he deliver against his foe?

Poorly thrown passes. Scrambling predictably to his right. A squeaky little voice that couldn't be heard over crowd noise. An uninspired offense too heavy for the young man to put on his shoulders.

The words of Smith's devout doubters haunt his fans, and if there is a good day for an "I told you so" this might be it.

Time will tell if Smith can rise above it, or if he is who they thought he was.

There's only one more issue to bark about here, and that's Seattle's crowd noise. Seriously, it had an effect. The team had to go silent count after Seattle got back into the game, and this deeply hurt the 49ers' punch.

This is the Seattle fans way of throwing down the gauntlet at out 49ers Faithful, and letting us know they are rowdier, smarter, and make more of an impact at game time. This hurts terribly because it's true. Too often we hear dead silence at Candlestick, and the loud cheering happens when the 49ers have the ball on offense.

Does San Francisco also need a fireman to educate the spectators on the game?

There's only one minuscule silver lining to Sunday's game, and that's that it really can't get much worse. Wait, we play who next Monday? Son of a...

Via, Singletary said after the game "I want very much to tell Pete Carroll, 'thank you very much for kicking our tails,' " Singletary said. "It was good medicine and we're going to take it. We'll go from there."

For all the optimists, like myself, who overrated the 49ers this year, the weekend has been a nearly lethal dose of reality. Maybe what doesn't kill us will make us stronger, but it doesn't exactly light up the 'W' column.