San Francisco 49ers 33, Seattle Seahawks 30 (OT
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Play Of The Day: Already up 7-0, Seahawks defensive tackle Howard Green tossed aside 49ers center Eric Heitmann and stripped the football away from Frank Gore. Marcus Trufant initially scooped the ball up, but he would fumble it. The ball would eventually pop into the air and into the hands of Craig Terrill, who would rumble 10 yards into the end zone to give the Seahawks a 14-0 lead.
Handouts to the Standouts: On a day when Seattle lost two more pass-catchers, rookie tight end John Carlson led the team with 6 receptions for 78 yards, with 5 of his receptions producing first downs.
Julius Jones became the first Seahawks running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing in nearly a full calendar year (356 days). Jones ran for 127 yards on 26 carries and started off the scoring on Sunday with a 27-yard touchdown run. Jones added 3 receptions for 14 yards and performed well in pass protection.
Olindo Mare was 3-for-3 on field goals, drilling a 51-yard attempt with plenty of room to spare in the first half. Mare also sailed two kicks into the end zone for touchbacks.
Seattle’s starting front four (Patrick Kerney, Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane and Lawrence Jackson) combined for 18 tackles and 6 quarterback sacks.
Seahawks backup defensive tackle Howard Green was a disruptive force today. He clogged the middle, notched his first sack of the 2008 season, and forced the fumble that Terrill returned for a touchdown.
Things That Made Me Go “Blech”: Turnovers proved costly, as Matt Hasselbeck’s pair of 3rd quarter interceptions resulted in 49ers touchdowns. Newly signed wide receiver Billy McMullen’s fumble on the 49ers’ 11-yard line likely wiped at least three points off Seattle’s total. A 17-point swing like that is something few teams can overcome.
Seattle’s third-down defense in the games’ final 12 minutes and 21 seconds. After holding the 49ers to 1-of-8 on third downs up to that point, the Seahawks allowed the 49ers to convert four of their next six attempts, with two passes going to Isaac Bruce for 63 yards, including the 33-yard play that setup the game-winning field goal.
The pass interference call on Kelly Jennings that negated a Deon Grant interception in the end zone didn’t need to be called. The contact was minimal and the only player who had a chance at catching that ball was Grant. The 49ers would score a touchdown on the next play.
The last thing Seattle needed today was more injuries to the wide receivers, and they lost two within the first 3 minutes. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace was expected to line up at wide receiver more than he ever had in the last 5 years, but he suffered a left calf injury during pregame warmups. Logan Payne was elevated to the starting lineup, but his day was over on the game’s fifth play when 49ers safety Dashon Goldson (UW alum) took Payne out at the knees.
Sure, the Seahawks got to J.T. O’Sullivan eight times and a few of those sacks were coverage sacks. However, the numbers for the secondary are grim. Zero passes defended. A journeyman quarterback making his second NFL start posted a 106.4 passer rating in Qwest Field. A 36-year old Isaac Bruce averaged 38.2 yards per catch against this unit, which also committed three costly penalties. This group can't cite injuries as an excuse.
Offense: The Seahawks showed some signs of life offensively on Sunday. The offensive line was dominant at times, as Seattle had 33 designed running plays for 157 yards, a 4.8 yards per carry average. Jones became the first Seahawks running back to go over 100 yards since Shaun Alexander ran for exactly 100 yards against Cincinnati in Week 3 last season.
Seattle’s passing offense would struggle, though. Matt Hasselbeck was 18-for-36 (50%) for 189 yards, and he’s charged with a pair of interceptions, both of which came on tipped passes. Hasselbeck's passer rating on Sunday was a dismal 42.5.
With the Seahawks driving on San Francisco early in the 3rd quarter, 49ers cornerback Walt Harris deflected a pass intended for McMullen high into the air and Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis alertly caught the ball and returned it 86 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Three plays later, 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald tipped a Hasselbeck pass at the line, and Harris made a diving catch, setting the 49ers up with excellent field position. They’d score a go-ahead touchdown four plays later.
Tight end John Carlson was Hasselbeck’s primary target all day long. They’d connect on six passes for 78 yards. Newly signed wide receiver Billy McMullen had three receptions for 48 yards, while starter Courtney Taylor was absent for much of the day, totaling just two receptions for 20 yards and failed to make an adjustment on a well-thrown pass by Hasselbeck that bounced off his facemask. Rookie Michael Bumpus added two receptions for 9 yards on Bobby Engram-type plays out of the slot.
Defense: Seattle did a decent job of bottling up 49ers running back Frank Gore, holding him to 19 carries for 61 yards (3.2 average) with a touchdown on the ground, and 5 receptions for 38 yards in the passing game. Seattle’s pass rush got to J.T. O’Sullivan eight times and had the opportunity to extend that figure into double-digits.
So if they stopped the 49ers top weapon on offense, and sacked the quarterback eight times, how did the 49ers put up 365 yards and 26 of their 33 points on the Seahawks’ defense? When Seattle couldn’t get to O’Sullivan, he made them pay. Either with his legs (O’Sullivan had 32 yards rushing) or by taking advantage of poorly-timed lapses in Seattle’s secondary.
Marcus Trufant and Deon Grant were beaten for a 63-yard pass play to Bruce just before the two-minute warning. Bruce also found a hole in Seattle’s zone for 30 yards on a 3rd-and-8 play in the 4th quarter and would beat Josh Wilson for 33 yards on a critical 3rd-and 7 play in overtime. The 49ers also took advantage of Kelly Jennings’ lack of size by throwing to Bryant Johnson, who has 4 inches and nearly 40 pounds on Jennings.
Seattle’s secondary also committed an inordinate amount of penalties on Sunday, with none more costly than the pass interference call on Jennings that negated Grant’s interception in the end zone. Wilson (pass interference) and Grant (holding) committed penalties on third down plays that extended 49er drives.
Special Teams: Seahawks president Tim Ruskell’s search for a punter likely isn’t over. In reaction to Ryan Plackemeier’s poor performance in Buffalo, Seattle signed free agent Jon Ryan last Monday. Green Bay had released Ryan at the end of training camp because he’s a three-step punter and the player they signed, Derrick Frost, is a two-step punter, therefore he gets the ball off more quickly.
Ryan’s second punt today was blocked, and while there was certainly a leak along the line, the amount of time it takes for him to get his punts off may be problematic. When Ryan did get his punts off, he was consistent. His punts went for 39, 40 and 38 yards, with a net average of 24.3 yards per punt.
A 44-yard kick return by Allen Rossum in the first quarter aside, the Seahawks coverage units were better than they were a week ago. There’s still room for improvement, though. Backup cornerback Kevin Hobbs led the team with two special teams tackles.
After making a rookie mistake by allowing a punt to land inside his own 10-yard line, Michael Bumpus was solid in his role as the Seahawks’ punt returner. His 30-yard return in the 4th quarter setup the Seahawks with excellent field position on a drive that would end with a Mare field goal.
For the second week in a row, Josh Wilson was a mixed bag on kick returns. Wilson electrified the crowd with a 54-yard return in the 2nd quarter, but the rest of his returns went for 20,16 and 17 yards, and concluded with a 13-yard return that set Seattle up with horrendous field position which handcuffed Mike Holmgren’s play-calling on what could have been a game-winning drive.
The Golden Microphone Award: FOX’s “B” team, Kenny Albert, Darryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa, were excellent on Sunday. Aside from the occasional butchering of names (Kevin Hobbs was “Michael Hobbs”; Kelly Jennings was “Kelly Jenkins”), “Moose” provided solid analysis, while “Goose” offered his thoughts from the field level.
The highlights/lowlights of the broadcast were Albert and Johnston jinxing Joe Nedney, who hadn't missed a field goal under 50 yards in 25 attempts, at the end of regulation and Siragusa showing off his sack dance moves, much to the delight/horror of the fans in the south end zone.
Random Notes: Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren indicated in his post-game press conference that wide receiver Logan Payne has a torn ligament in his knee, which would likely end his 2008 season…Seahawks backup quarterback Seneca Wallace has a pulled calf muscle. His status for next week is unknown…Seahawks defensive tackle Craig Terrill scored his first NFL touchdown…Seahawks rookies Michael Bumpus and Owen Schmitt made their first NFL receptions on Sunday…Seattle is 0-2 for the first time since 2002, which is the last season the Seahawks failed to make the post-season…Seattle has lost 5 of their last 6 overtime games. Their last overtime win was against the New York Giants on November 27, 2005…Seattle hadn’t had a punt blocked since January 2, 2005 (Demorrio Williams, Atlanta Falcons) …Seattle hadn’t allowed an interception return for a touchdown since September 24, 2006 (R.W. McQuarters, New York Giants)
Summary: The Seahawks were at home, led 14-0 in the 1st quarter, ran the ball well all day, sacked J.T. O’Sullivan eight times, for the most part kept San Francisco’s top offensive weapon under wraps, yet still managed to lose the game.
Games like this have a way of haunting teams, so how Seattle responds this week may very well determine their entire season. At 0-2, and two full games behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West, these Seahawks find themselves in unfamiliar territory.
Digging out of this hole won’t be easy, but Seattle’s coaching staff has the experience, and Seattle’s locker room has the veteran leadership, to get it done. Now, if they can only find a few receivers.
Next Week: The 0-2 St. Louis Rams visit Qwest Field, in what is definitely a must-win game for the Seahawks.
Brian McIntyre writes about the Seahawks and blogs about the NFL. You can reach him here.