Guess what the beautiful thing about in-division football is? The 49ers get to play each opponent twice a season — so there’s always another to avenge their first loss against a divisional foe.
This past week, the 49ers headed to their house of horrors, Century Link Field, to take on a surging Seahawks’ team, who are looking to make a playoff run this season. San Francisco couldn’t get anything on offense going in the first half, only managing to put up three points, while Seattle was able to hit on a few home-run plays and have a 17-point lead heading into the half.
It was slightly better in the last two quarter for Kyle Shanahan’s squad, as quarterback Nick Mullens was able to lead two touchdown drives and was a goal-line interception away from a third touchdown.
While the final score of 43-16 may not sit well with 49ers’ coaches and players, there’s a chance to return the favor to the Seahawks, as they visit Santa Clara in two weeks. What are some of the positive aspects of this blowout loss that the 49ers can build on?
1. Keep feeding wideout Dante Pettis the football
After trading up to draft the former Washington receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft, many had high hopes for the second-round playmaker. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his development in the early part of the season, but Pettis has come on as of late, developing good chemistry with Mullens.
Pettis tied his season high for targets (7) once again this past Sunday, hauling in five catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Pettis was able to break free for a 75-yard play, in which his quick burst off the line, separation skills and finishing speed were all on display.
The rookie has had the two best games of his young career in the last two games and the 49ers should continue to develop him the rest of this season. The sole focus of the remaining games this year should be towards the development of the youth on this roster — no better place to start than with Pettis.
I’m sure the Seahawks’ secondary is going to be cognizant of Pettis in two weeks, but with the Legion of Boom gone, I don’t think they can slow down the ex-Husky.
2. Seahawks’ running back Chris Carson who?
All season long, the buzz surrounding the Seahawks is that they have used a time machine and reverted back to their 2012 selves, playing their patented ‘ground and pound’ style. The poster child for this scheme has been the Seahawks’ late-round pick, running back Chris Carson.
Take out the first two games of the season and this was Carson’s lowest number of carries this season. Remove his 23-yard run and the other 12 rushes only went for an average of 3.8 yards, which would have been the third-worst on his season.
San Francisco did a solid job slowing down Carson in the run game, limiting his overall yards on the ground. That being said, as a team, the Seahawks still rushed for 168 yards, well over their season average of 148 yards per game. Pete Carroll’s team continues to be the No. 1 rushing attack in football, reminiscent of his Super Bowl days.
49ers seem to have a game plan to slow Carson down and should continue to employ what they did against the Seahawks’ leading rusher in two weeks.
3. Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. — diamond in the rough?
With running back Matt Breida hurting his ankle in pre-game warmups, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. was tasked with the load. He carried the ball 15 times for 61 yards, including a tough run where he decided to play bully ball and bowl over anyone in his path. But that wasn’t just it, Wilson Jr. also made plays out of the backfield, hauling in eight catches for 73 yards.
The 49ers have been desperately trying to find another running back to balance the workload with Breida. Originally, it was supposed to be running back Jerick McKinnon and Breida, but McKinnon is out for the season. Then, it was going to be preseason star Alfred Morris, but he’s dropped off since. There were flashes of running back Raheem Mostert, but he was lost for the season with an injury. Now it’s Wilson Jr.’s turn to shine.
While the Seahawks’ defense may appear to be a tough nut to crack, the easiest way to take them down is to rush the ball against them. They’re dead last in the NFL in yards per attempt, giving up 5.1 yards every time an opponent decides to rush the ball against them.
With the 49ers playing from behind, they couldn’t afford to run the ball as much, but I’m sure Shanahan’s thinking of ways to exploit the leaky Seattle run defense in their next matchup.
Seattle continues to present demons to the 49ers that they’ll have to unlock eventually if San Francisco wants to be at the top of this division. It becomes that much more difficult without your two best starters on offense, but San Francisco gets another crack at the Seahawks in two weeks.