The Seahawks’ game against the 49ers turned out to be the defensive battle many expected. But the reaction by Seattle’s coach following the 13-6 loss was not.
In a game where the Seattle offense struggled against a stiff San Francisco defense, and Seahawks receivers dropped a number of key passes, Pete Carroll wasn’t as frustrated with the offense following the game as he was the team’s defense.
Even after giving up only 13 points to a team that fell one game shy of going to the Super Bowl last year, Carroll’s strongest comments during the postgame press conference were focused on the defense. A defensive performance that held Alex Smith and his offense to only 140 yards passing and 3-of-11 on third-down conversion opportunities.
“I’m not pleased with what we did on defense. Because we allowed them to run the football and some stuff that shouldn’t happen,” said Carroll. “We need to do better.”
San Francisco running back Frank Gore was the primary contributor toward that frustration, rushing for 131 yards and catching five passes for 51 yards.
Carroll said there were a few plays that the defense could have made that would’ve helped keep the game a lot closer. After voicing his frustration, he did relent and recognize how well the defense played overall.
“We played a really good defensive game tonight overall,” said Carroll. “That’s just the standards we set.”
Three dropped passes stood out which turned the game for the Seahawks. The first came on the opening drive by Seattle on a deep pass to Robert Turbin. Quarterback Russell Wilson hit Turbin in stride and a potential touchdown pass bounced off the hands of the rookie running back. The Seahawks settled for a field goal and took a 3-0 lead.
The second pass was one to tight end Evan Moore, which was a more difficult catch to make. It’s tough to know if it would have led to more than the field goal the Seahawks came away with, but getting a touchdown on that drive would’ve helped put the team up by seven going into the half.
Later in the second quarter, Seattle opted to run on 3rd-and-10, and the mere two-yard gain led to a missed 51-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka. Looking back, the missed field goal along with converting on one of the first two drives have made up the seven-point difference at the end of the game.
The third drop led to a huge swing in momentum for Seattle. Up 6-3, the Seahawks got the ball to start the second half. Marshawn Lynch led the charge on that first drive after halftime with four rushes for 29 yards. Lynch finished the game with 103 yards on 19 carries.
After a penalty on the 49ers’ defense allowed the Seahawks drive to continue and crossed the team over midfield, Seattle needed to convert on 3rd-and-2. On the play, Wilson hit Golden Tate between the numbers that would have given them a first down and nearly put them in field-goal range.
Instead of having a fresh set of downs in scoring range, the Seahawks punted the ball away and the 49ers went on an 86-yard touchdown drive. It was the first touchdown the Seahawks’ defense had allowed in the third quarter this season, and it was all San Francisco needed to pick up the win.
“The drops really did make a difference in this game,” said Carroll. “When it’s that close, one play here and there makes a huge difference, and it did tonight.”
The Seattle offense struggled against a much more physical defense than they faced on Sunday against New England. The Seahawks came up with some big catches against the Patriots, but they couldn’t seem to make the plays necessary against the 49ers Thursday night and the physicality of the 49ers’ defense was a big part of it.
“That’s the most physical 30 minutes I’ve ever seen you guys play right there,” said Harbaugh during his locker-room speech following the game.
It was that physical play by San Francisco in the second half that led to the Seahawks’ third loss on the road and the team’s third loss against a division rival this season.
If Seattle hopes to keep their playoff hopes alive in the NFC West, they’ll have to improve their performance against their division rivals in December. Fortunately, the Seahawks will be at home where they are undefeated this year, and the next few weeks will show just how the team will respond in a loss to a playoff team like San Francisco.
Despite some of the missed opportunities, I think this is one of the least difficult losses to take as a Seahawks fan. It’s definitely not the outcome anyone hoped to see, but I think the Hawks would have won this game had they played in Seattle. The Hawks went on the road to face a team that might just be a Super Bowl caliber team, a team that has the number one defense and kept it close enough that they could have pulled off the win.
The Seahawks offense has shown it will continue to improve throughout the season with Wilson working to get better every week. This is a game Seattle will be able to win come December, especially if they can continue to play at this level defensively.