The San Francisco 49ers suffered a 29-13 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and it might have been the most frustrating loss of the year. The team had some success in certain areas on offense, but that might have made it all the more frustrating. The defense failed to execute, but even that does not really account for some of the curious decision-making by the coaching staff.
We saw several examples of the coaching staff seemingly more concerned with minimizing how badly they lost, as opposed to forcing the action for a victory. By that, I mean creating the appearance of competitiveness, as opposed t actually getting moderately aggressive.
In the final 5:45 of the game, the 49ers faced a pair of 4th downs deep in their own territory, down 16 points. On 4th and 13 from their own 25 with 5:45 to go, they punted. On 4th and 8 from their own 11 with 3:09 to go, they punted. I will give the slightest benefit of the doubt for the first one, but I don't get the second one. You're down two scores (plus a pair of two-point conversions), with 3:09 to go, and you're punting. After the game, Tomsula talked about punting late in the game:
Tomsula on his punting strategy pic.twitter.com/groOWZpi3z— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) November 23, 2015
In the third quarter, the 49ers trailed 20-7, and got a couple strong drives going. Both got into the Seahawks red zone, including one setting up goal-to-go, and both resulted in field goals. In both drives, as the 49ers got deeper into Seahawks territory, rather than take some shots in the end zone, the team played it safe. Dump-offs to Shaun Draughn and Vance McDonald did not help nearly enough on the first drive. On the second field goal, they had goal-to-go, and attempted passes on all three plays. All three passes were well short of the end zone.
It is possible Gabbert tightened up and went for the safer pass. We can't say with certainty that was the case, but that is what happened. So maybe some of the blame falls on him for not being willing to push for more. That does not make up for the punting decisions, and really we're just talking about a broader issue of playing to lessen the point differential, more than actually win. It's frustrating and creates an embarrassing product.
This team seemingly had nothing to lose in this game. But I suppose Jim Tomsula and company might disagree. Jason Cole reported Jim Tomsula's job is safe so long as the team remains competitive in its remaining games. I would hope people see through the performance against Seattle, but who really knows what to make of things at this point.