The San Francisco 49ers' playoff hopes are on life support after a listless 19-3 defeat at home to the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving.
As a team, San Francisco had a dismal 164 yards of total offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will almost certainly come under heavy criticism, as he was 16-of-29 for for 121 yards and two interceptions. Kaepernick will be happy to see the backs of the Seahawks secondary, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Seattle's cornerback duo of Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman shined brightly, per Sunday Night Football:
Sherman had two interceptions in the victory. After his second, he made sure to have some fun with the Santa Clara crowd:
Following the win, Sherman added that the 49ers' sideline wasn't immune from his trash talk, via the team's Twitter account:
49ers CEO Jed York didn't take the loss lightly, tweeting out his disgust after the game:
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thought York's words may foreshadow future personnel moves for the team:
In the battle between Kaepernick and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, it wasn't even close. Wilson was an efficient 15-of-22 for 236 yards and a touchdown, while adding 35 yards on the ground. Running back Marshawn Lynch was also a steady presence, getting 104 yards on 20 carries.
One of the storylines coming into the game focused on the last time the 49ers and Seahawks met. Seattle beat San Francisco 23-17 in last season's NFC Conference Championship, with Sherman knocking away a last-minute Kaepernick pass that was subsequently intercepted by Malcolm Smith.
Reporters asked Kaepernick about that play in the days leading up to Thursday, but the San Francisco QB refused to fan the flames.
"It's in the past," he said, per CBS Sacramento. "I'm worried about what we’re doing."
Sure enough, Sherman was once again a thorn in Kaepernick's side, intercepting the 49ers QB in the first quarter on Thursday. Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe was already looking forward to Sherman's interview after the game:
The Seahawks corner now has 22 picks since 2011, which is tops in the league, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Seattle also entered the game 2-0 against San Francisco when Sherman has an interception, so the turnover was a good sign for the Seahawks' fortunes:
Seattle made the most of the pick, as Wilson found Robert Turbin for a 13-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
The 49ers nearly dug themselves into a 14-0 hole after Wilson completed a 63-yard pass to tight end Tony Moeaki, who got the ball down to the San Francisco 1-yard line. The Seahawks QB deftly avoided the 49ers pass rush, somehow scrambling around until he found a wide open Moeaki. He looked to have a clear path to the end zone only to be brought down at the goal line.
After that piece of seemingly superhuman ability, Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com wondered if Wilson might actually be a mutant:
Alas, Seattle's questionable play-calling meant that the Seahawks settled for a field goal on the drive. Head coach Pete Carroll called two pass plays, with Wilson getting sacked on the first and throwing an incomplete pass on the second.
ESPN.com's Jim Trotter wondered why Seattle didn't just run the ball when it has a powerful back like Lynch:
Still, a 10-0 lead was better than nothing, and the Seahawks tacked on another Steven Hauschka field goal as its advantage swelled to 13-0 with 5:40 to go until halftime.
That's how the score remained as the teams headed into the locker room, with the San Francisco offense struggling to move the ball against the Seahawks defense.
Last week, Seattle beat the Arizona Cardinals 19-3, giving up only 204 total yards in the process. It was a performance reminiscent of last year's Super Bowl team.
On Thursday, the Seahawks once again illustrated how devastating their defense can be. Sky Sports NFL tweeted out a photo listing the 49ers' first-half drives, and it didn't make for a pretty picture:
In total, the home team had just 71 total first-half yards:
One play in particular summed up San Francisco's night.
In the second quarter, the 49ers held Seattle to a three-and-out, forcing Seahawks punter Jon Ryan onto the field. Ryan dropped the snap but somehow maneuvered around and got his punt off. As if missing an opportunity like that wasn't bad enough, Niners return man Perrish Cox fumbled the ball and Seattle's O'Brien Schofield recovered it.
Hauschka nailed two more field goals in the second half, while Phil Dawson provided San Francisco's only score of the game on a 40-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter.
With the defeat, the Niners fall 2.5 games back of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West. In order to win the division, San Francisco would have to catch both the Cardinals and now the Seahawks. That will be hard to do over four games, so the 49ers' best chance for the postseason might be the wild-card spot.
Seattle moved to within 1.5 games of Arizona for the division lead and also jumped into the top wild-card spot in the NFC on a tiebreaker with the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. Thursday night illustrated how good the Seahawks can be at their best. The offense doesn't have to be gaudy when the defense is that dominant.
Going on the road and winning in Santa Clara is a major statement as Seattle heads into the final stretch of the regular season. Meanwhile, San Francisco doesn't have much time to pick up the pieces and save the team's playoff hopes.