After a loss, everyone always wants to point the finger at one person. There has been a theme this season. The 49ers’ offense has turned the ball over five times inside their 40-yard line this season. On those five possessions, the 49ers’ defense has only allowed 13 points.
So, when I say the defense has been put into some downright awful situations, that’s what I mean. It’s also why I’m willing to forgive the scores they allow.
Let’s look at some winners and losers from Sunday’s game.
That’s the league leader in receiving yards to you. Aside from stats, and there are plenty, He doesn’t have any “empty” yards that feel meaningless. When the offense needs a play or to move the ball, they look at Deebo.
Twenty-one of his 28 receptions has gone for first downs or touchdowns. When you give Samuel the ball, he’s averaging 15 yards per touch. He’s halfway to his rookie total of six touchdowns four games into the season. Samuel’s growth as a player has been fun to watch and, based on everything we’ve seen; it seems as though this production is sustainable.
Here’s how Seattle’s first-half drives went: Punt - Punt - Punt - Punt - Punt. Each of those was three-and-outs. The defense was the definition of lights out. They were flying around, playing fast, and looked like they knew what was coming. It was nothing short of spectacular the way the pass rush was getting home, and the coverage on the backend held up. Seattle scored on their final drive of the half to tie the game, but DeMeco Ryans’ game plan was fantastic.
The defense started the second half the same way, but after the offense went three and out, then went onto the field after a special teams mistake, the wheels fell off. The score and some stats may paint the picture like the defense failed the Niners on Sunday, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sunday showed why there’s value in time of possession. You can’t expect high-level defensive play when they’re forced onto the field after minimal rest. The difference in this game was Seattle took advantage while San Francisco didn’t.
The 49ers lost 14 expected points added on special teams against the Seahawks. That’s the difference in the game. From Trenton Cannon rolling into the end zone toward the end of the second quarter — instead of going 99 yards, Seattle had to go 80 and scored because of this — to Mitch Wishnowsky missing two extra points, the special teams unit was lousy.
If you are a return man, you have one job: field the ball. The second one is to hold onto the ball. Cannon did neither. He turned the ball over on one kick return, then returned it seven yards on another. That led to Deebo being forced into return duties as that seems to be the only person Kyle Shanahan trusts.
Knowing that you don’t have a kicker, there shouldn’t have been a second extra-point attempt after Wishnowsky’s first shank. A false start shouldn’t change your mind about going for two based on the situation San Francisco was in. The mistakes were aplenty Sunday, which leads us to...
I jokingly called Shanahan “Marc Trestman with Yeezys” after the Packers’ loss. He’s frustrating. There is no other way around it. Let’s talk about the trick play. Not the result, but the process leading up to it.
The 49ers’ offense averaged seven yards per play (27 plays for 198 yards) until that point and were doing whatever they wanted to against Seattle’s defense.
Trick plays make sense after a turnover or when you cross midfield to the 40-yard line. Generally speaking, that’s when all coaches take their shots down the field. For example, Shanahan called this play on his 36-yard line on 1st and 10.
Jacques Patrick threw a ball high, forcing Garoppolo to make a pretty athletic play to catch the pass. From there, Jamal Adams sniffed the play out and tracked down Garoppolo’s throw to break up the pass to George Kittle.
Now, in most cases, throwing to Kittle is a great idea. Unfortunately, Kittle wasn’t 100% in this game as he had a calf strain that was noticeably affecting him from the start. Beyond that, a few plays prior, Kittle’s knee bent backward Gumby-style and looked as though he’d leave the game.
Using your sixth-string running back that’s only had one carry with you to throw that pass and then have thrown to your already hurt tight end is asking a lot. But, if the 49ers needed to manufacture yards, then I get it.
They didn’t. Since Shanahan called the trick play, the 49ers had 32 yards on 16 plays to finish the half. Yet, they remained in a funk and never got back into rhythm. Shanahan’s understanding of the game flow continues to be an issue, and the scary part is his decision-making isn’t improving.
As is the case with Shanahan, the team can not get out of their way when it comes to penalties. San Francisco had eight penalties for 78 yards and was fortunate they weren’t flagged for more.
A false start by Laken Tomlinson forced the 49ers to kick an extra point. Offsides on 3rd & 6 by Dee Ford all but iced the game, it felt like. A few plays later, with another chance to force a punt, Dre Kirkpatrick commits defensive pass interference — the Niners have a league-high eight on the season, all coming on third down — to gift Seattle a fresh set of downs.
When we talk about Super Bowl contenders, it takes a lot more than having the best players. If you want to beat the Rams, you have to be disciplined like Los Angeles — who has half as many penalties this season than the 49ers.
The 49ers have been flagged for the second-most penalty yardage this year, and they have 22 yards more than third. On the season, they’ve lost 87 net yards in penalties.
Youth on defense
Nick Bosa had a sack, two quarterback hits, and a stop at the line of scrimmage. He’s been borderline unblockable this season despite how quickly opposing quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball.
Emmanuel Moseley broke up two passes for the second consecutive game. He’s been targeted seven times this season and only allowed 33 yards. Equally as important, Moseley has been an active run defender. He missed one tackle on DK Metcalf, but Metcalf will do that to you.
Azeez Al-Shaair led the team in tackles, had a tackle for loss, and continues to impress alongside Fred Warner. Al-Shaair has the perfect mindset and has done enough to remain the starting linebacker when Dre Greenlaw is healthy.
Bosa talked about turnovers and how they can be lucky after the game: “Sometimes it’s luck with turnovers, and we can’t seem to get them right now. But we’ll keep going.”
It’s unfair to put this type of pressure on the defense, but they might need to generate one or two a game if a rookie QB is forced into action.