The Seattle Seahawks may have had worse losses this year, but this was certainly the most disappointing. With three tough games remaining to finish the season and the Rams playing in New Orleans this weekend, Seattle needed a win for a chance to take the lead and make it a two-team race for the NFC West.
For the first two plays of the game, Seattle got off to a good start with Alex Smith’s two passes falling incomplete. 49ers fans were clearly not impressed with the decision to put Smith back into the starting lineup as they were all over him with boos early. But Smith completed his next two passes to tight end Vernon Davis, the second for a 42-yard touchdown, and San Francisco was up quickly on the Seahawks, 7-0.
Wide receivers Ben Obomanu and Mike Williams sat out with injuries this week, leaving Matt Hasselbeck with a severely depleted receiving corps. That didn’t stop Seattle from going to the air early. Eight of the first 12 plays of the game were passes, including an 11-yard touchdown to Ruvell Martin on the Hawks’ second possession.
After that score by Seattle it was all San Francisco’s game. Hasselbeck turned the ball over on three of the Hawks’ next four drives with two interceptions and a fumble. Each turnover resulted in points for the 49ers and they went into halftime with a 30-7 lead.
Even while leading the Seahawks, Smith was booed throughout much of the first half. I was a little disappointed with the San Francisco fans who were taking plays off. Why not boo the guy if he hands the ball off. If you hate him that much, why not boo him when he completes a pass? It may have come to that if things had gone differently, but leading by more than three touchdowns must have given fans enough reason to get off his back.
Last week, getting the ball back first after halftime and driving for a score was exactly what Seattle needed to get the momentum back, and it led to a victory over the Panthers. This week, after a 3-yard run by Marshawn Lynch, Hasselbeck threw a third interception to free safety Dashon Goldson. If the game wasn’t already out of reach, Goldson definitely put it there as he ran back a 39-yard interception for the score.
Although it came a little late for much hope to spark a comeback, there was one moment of excitement for the Seahawks in the second half. After a 49ers field goal to go up 40-7, Leon Washington scored on a 92-yard kickoff return. Washington wasn’t slowing down toward the goal line this week, and he needed that extra speed just to get past the last couple defenders. The offense, however, failed to score until late in the fourth quarter.
That score came with a price as Seattle’s final touchdown brought another casualty to the ailing wide receiver corps. Deon Butler broke his leg on a 2-yard touchdown catch and is expected to be out for the rest of the season.
After the game coach Pete Carroll commented on Butler’s toughness after the injury, and Aaron Curry noted on Twitter that Deon acted like nothing was wrong. But reports after the game suggested the injury is very serious. Hopefully Butler will recover quickly and be back with the team ready to go for next season.
The question needs to be asked: Does any team really want to win the NFC West? Because if anyone had to pick after today, it’s clear the 49ers believe they can get back into this playoff race and may even have the best shot. Yes, the same San Francisco team that started 0-5 and is the only team to lose to the Carolina Panthers this year. Their final three games are at San Diego (7-6), at St. Louis (6-7) and back home for the final game against Arizona (4-9).
Fortunately, St. Louis fell to New Orleans this week, 31-13, to remain in a tie for first with Seattle. Next week, the Rams play Kansas City (8-5) before hosting San Francisco (5-8) and coming to Seattle for week 17. Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassell was out this week after an emergency appendectomy and the team was shut out by the Chargers 31-0. Seattle’s playoff hopes may have to rely on a fast and full recovery by Cassell.
Seattle has the most difficult three-game stretch of those contending for the NFC West with the conference-leading Falcons (11-2) coming to Seattle on Sunday before going on the road to face Tampa Bay (8-5).
Since I was feeling a little frustrated after this loss, I went back and looked at the Seahawks schedule from last year. I realized there is good news and something I forgot to mention after last week’s win over Carolina. Coach Carroll already has more wins with the Seahawks than last year’s coach Jim Mora Jr. So even if things go horribly over the next three games, at least we have that. Progress. One sign of progress, season ticket holders received an invoice for playoff tickets this week. That’s something Seattle fans haven’t seen in a couple years.
But, it’s still a little early to go looking for reasons to be optimistic for next year. Even though fans may be hesitant to pay their playoff ticket invoice, the Seahawks aren’t out of this race yet.