The score was a lot closer than the game. The final score was 37-27, but San Francisco scored 20 of those points in the fourth quarter. By then, it was far too little too late. The team’s playoff hopes remain alive, but that says more about the NFC’s struggles and inconsistencies. Let’s start with the good.
There’s no doubt that Brandon Aiyuk was the correct selection in the 2020 NFL Draft for the 49ers. We haven’t had a chance to see his full potential this season, but the glimpses have been fantastic. Aiyuk finished Sunday with eight receptions on 11 targets for 91 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a fade route, which isn’t something we’ve seen in a regular-season game to a wideout in some time.
Bourne finished the game with eight receptions on ten targets for 81 yards. He converted a key fourth down late in the game where he bounced off a tackler and turned the play into a gain of 20 yards. Bourne looks like a legitimate No. 3 wide receiver in the NFL. On the offense’s first interception of the game, Bourne was streaking down the seam wide open for a would-be touchdown. He wasn’t targeted on the play, so Bourne won’t be rewarded for any stats, but he was open.
Jason Verrett/K’Waun Williams
Williams and Verrett made plays as tacklers that gave the Niners defense a chance early in the game. Both players beat blockers that resulted in tackles for loss, and Williams made his presence felt once again as a blitzer. Verrett gave up a comeback to DK Metcalf but was right in phase to make a play. The result was better offense—which happens in the NFL.
OK, now let’s talk about what really happened during the game.
What are you doing?
It’s 3rd & 5, and you are in Seattle’s territory. You called a “wildcat” play in hopes to cut the yardage in half and go for it on fourth down. As you’re standing on the sideline, watching the play clock dwindle to zero—as the Seahawks have eight or nine men in the box, ignoring the “receiver” out wide—why no timeout? To put your offense in that situation is questionable. To keep them in that situation is irresponsible.
Coaches have long overvalued first-half timeouts, and this play was a prime example. Call timeout and get yourself in a better situation. Shanahan’s stubbornness has been an issue in his personnel decision-making as well as what happens on the field. It’s one of his greatest faults, and he hurt his team on Sunday because of it.
Dating back to the playoffs, it’s evident that Shanahan does not trust his quarterback. There will forever be excuses as to why, but we all know the real answer. If the 49ers are going to make a run during the second half of this season, Kyle must take the monster-sized training wheels off this offense and let his signal-caller throw it. There are too many weapons being wasted on offense. It’s on the play-caller to find ways to get them the ball.
In our “four matchups to watch” heading into this game, we said how the 49ers cornerbacks have to make plays on the ball. Moseley was often in a position to make a play, but he only broke up one pass. It’s tough to underestimate DK Metcalf, but the 49ers defense did on Sunday. Metcalf finished the game with 12 receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and Moseley was responsible for the majority of that.
On the slant in the end zone, Moseley is right there, but he didn’t affect the play’s outcome, even though he got a hand on the ball. On the 46-yard touchdown, Moseley lost his footing going to break on Metcalf’s route. In the second half, Moseley was fortunate that he wasn’t targeted on one play as Metcalf left him in the dust on a release that would have easily been a touchdown.
For the second time this season, Moseley has been isolated on a superstar receiver. For the second time this season, Moseley has been eaten alive.
The pass rush
They’ll be here every week so long as the pass rush continues to play the way they have. The 49ers hit Russell Wilson three times. Two of those came from non-defensive lineman. Kerry Hyder’s sack was more of a hustle sack. Arik Armstead is nowhere to be found. Javon Kinlaw has made a minimal impact as a rusher all season, and that continued against Seattle.
I’m not sure how you could reference “hurries” or pressures after watching a quarterback like Wilson casually avoid the rush and find an open receiver for a first down or a big play. Last season, we had tangible evidence of how hitting and bringing down the quarterback makes a difference. The Niners aren’t even getting pressure at this point. Losing your best player hurts, but San Francisco has two first-rounders up front that aren’t given them anything.
Garoppolo finished the game with a QBR of 14.5, averaged 5.3 yards per attempt on 16 throws, had a -.21 EPA per play (fourth-worst this weekend), and was only successful on 38% (second-worst this weekend) of his throws. It’s Garoppolo’s decision-making that continues to stymie the offense. Jimmy does not see the field well. It’s easy to point out open receivers who aren’t being targeted.
Rewatch the game, and you’ll see Brandon Aiyuk’s frustrations after certain plays. Listen to Trent Williams speak after the game. His head coach even took subtle jabs at Jimmy postgame. The writing appears to be on the wall, and for a good reason.
We don’t see that wildcat play if Jimmy hits George Kittle on the throw before. Should your star tight end have caught the ball? He should have. Should your $27 million quarterback have hit him anywhere else besides nine feet in the air? He should have. The momentum swing after Garoppolo’s interception was palpable. Seattle never looked back.
Seattle, like most teams, will continue to do, did not respect the Niners passing game. They loaded the box and forced Garoppolo to beat them. Instead of recognizing where the blitz was coming from, Garoppolo was indecisive. When you are uncertain and late with your decision-making, it’s going to affect your accuracy. Did Jimmy get hurt? He did. Did he play poorly before the injury? He did.
Seattle played San Francisco the same way Miami played Jared Goff on Sunday: Like defenses who do not respect the opposing quarterback. There will be excuses still. The ankle injury, Deebo Samuel being injured, the offensive line, Garoppolo’s win-loss record under Shanahan, etc. The trust isn’t there, and it hadn’t been since the Divisional playoff game last season. Confidence plays a big part in this sport. Garoppolo isn’t playing with much, and it’s hindering the offense. Because of that, everyone suffers. There’s a quarterback problem in San Francisco, and it doesn’t appear that the answer is on the roster.