The NFL commandment that thou shalt focus only on thy next game has one exception: Monday. It's the one day for diagnosis, a time for one...
RENTON — The NFL commandment that thou shalt focus only on thy next game has one exception: Monday.
It’s the one day for diagnosis, a time for one final look at the week that was.
Credit gets distributed, blame assigned as everyone from coaches to players to fans tries to put a finger not only on what happened, but why, in an attempt to discern the most critical factors in the game as well as the level of importance:
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“We all came in,” linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “Came in and brought the hard hat and the big-boy pads.”
San Francisco believed it could bully Seattle up front, administer a healthy dose of Frank Gore between the tackles, mix in a few underneath passes from quarterback Alex Smith and call it good.
Except it wasn’t that simple. Seattle’s defense was stouter than expected with defensive tackles Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane holding their ground, linebacker Lofa Tatupu cleaning up the mess or cornerback Kelly Jennings getting a critical open-field stop of Gore, who outweighs him by nearly 40 pounds.
Gore gained only 38 yards on 17 carries as Seattle’s defense held its ground and kept the Seahawks in Sunday’s game as the Seattle offense sputtered away its first three possessions.
“They were just taking gambles,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “I give Jeremy Bates a lot of credit and our receivers a lot of credit for taking advantage of it. Really, I think that was the difference in the game.”
A year ago, opponents completely disregarded the Seahawks’ ability to beat them deep and with good reason. Seattle’s wide receivers had only two receptions gain more than 40 yards.
San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements was working off that scouting report, aggressively looking to jump routes. It paid off on Seattle’s first possession when Clements totally disregarded Deion Branch — the player Clements was supposed to be covering — to jump in front of tight end John Carlson for an interception.
That aggressiveness cost the 49ers in the second quarter, though, first on Mike Williams’ 35-yard reception to set up Seattle’s first touchdown and later on Deon Butler’s 13-yard touchdown reception that put the Seahawks ahead 14-6 at halftime. In each instance, Seattle caught Clements creeping forward on a double move and then made San Francisco pay over the top.
“We can’t be misled by the fact we had 70-something yards rushing,” coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s not any great number at all, but half of it was on one run.”
Seattle certainly didn’t run its way to the lead Sunday. The Seahawks didn’t run on the third-quarter drive that culminated in Branch’s 3-yard touchdown catch five minutes into the second half. At that point, Seattle led 28-6 and had 10 yards rushing on seven carries.
The only sign of progress on the ground was the fourth-quarter field-goal drive in which Seattle ran the ball eight times, using three backs, gained 48 yards and two first downs and put Seattle in position for the final score.
“The rush was pretty obvious all day long,” Carroll said. “We didn’t have to call blitzes to get that done. I can’t pinpoint it, but we had a good push inside.”
Raise your hand if you thought Seattle would have more sacks (two) than the 49ers (one) and more quarterback hurries (11) than San Francisco (five). Everyone with a hand in the air, stop lying.
Defensive end Red Bryant had his first NFL sack in the first half, and DE Chris Clemons consistently pressured Smith in the second half. The Seahawks were a little overeager with three penalties for neutral-zone infractions, but Seattle’s ability to pressure the passer — a problem last season — showed signs of improvement.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org