If you believe the preseason rankings of nearly every sports writer in the world, the 49ers practically had the NFC West won before the season even started. Unfortunately for San Francisco, they actually have to play the games. After this weekend’s game, I have a feeling some of those same writers may be revising their preseason picks. The Niners certainly didn’t look like a playoff team, and I’m not sure if they looked like a team that could beat the Rams.
By simply looking at the final score of 31-6, it appears as though Seattle flat out routed the Niners. It’s true that they did, but it wasn’t the case until the last five minutes of the second quarter.
For the first 25 minutes of the game, the Seahawks had totaled about 20 yards of total offense, and Matt Hasselbeck had already notched his first interception of the season one play into the game.
Coach Pete Carroll seemed amused by it after winning comfortably, “I think Matt had a thought that he really wanted to challenge the team and make sure that we had our back against the wall from the beginning, and so he just gave them one. Because that’s what it felt like.”
Well that’s what it felt like after the game started getting out of hand, but that wasn’t what it felt like after the 49ers had success marching down the field against the Hawks defense on each of their first three drives.
If not for a great play by Marcus Trufant against San Francisco receiver Josh Morgan pushing him out of bounds before he could get both feet down in the end zone, the score would have been 7-0 after the Niners first drive. Initially called a touchdown, the play was reversed upon review.
On the 49ers second drive of the game, they drove down the field easily and looked like they were going to score on a 4th and 1 on the Hawks’ 6-yard line. But Alex Smith’s pass just sailed over the top of their fullback and Settle took over on downs. After the big stop, the Hawks gave it right back again after three downs, which even brought on a few boos throughout the crowd.
Once again the 49ers marched down the field despite the Hawks’ first sack of the game. After already converting on one fourth down of the drive, the 49ers were soon in position to punch it in end zone. Having trouble getting plays off in time throughout the first two quarters, the team was already out of timeouts and was forced to take a delay of game call. What could have been a 21-0 game in favor of San Francisco was merely a 6-0 advantage after the field goal.
On the three goal-line stands in the first half, Aaron Curry had a quote on behalf of the defense. “We don’t care where the ball is. We don’t care about field position. Just give us an inch and we’ll defend it.”
On the subsequent drive, Seattle caught a break on offense. The team’s first score was made possible by a questionable holding call on the 49ers on 3rd and 4 to keep Seattle’s drive alive. Five plays later, set up by a 35-yard pass to Mike Williams, Hasselbeck bootlegged into the end zone from one yard out. It was the first score leading to 31 unanswered points.
Considering what the 49ers had shown throughout the game until this point, it must have been extremely demoralizing to suddenly be down a point after completely dominating on both sides of the ball.
Then Seattle’s defense really turned it up. On the very next drive Smith was intercepted by Jordon Babineaux, a guy who was thought to be on his way out after the 53-man roster cuts. Instead, Babs took a pay cut to stick with the team, and he ultimately made some big plays to help lead the team to the win.
Marcus Trufant was another big playmaker on defense. His pick six on the third play of the second half really put the pressure on the 49ers to make Smith go to the air. Frank Gore was completely shut down, going for only 38 yards on 17 carries – a far cry from his past performances against the Hawks. There were a number of plays where it looked like Gore was about to bust a huge run and someone would be there to make a tackle to save them from the big play.
Colin Cole was one of the guys up on the defensive line that made a few of those big-play-saving tackles on Gore. “It was a great first statement against the team a lot of people see as the best in our division,” he said following the game. “For us to come out and shut them out of the end zone and keep them low on the rushing category is a great tribute to our defense.”
Another thing that saved Seattle in this game was the number of amazing catches. There were a couple of passes that probably would have ended up as drops on the stat sheet last year, but they were bringing them in for this game.
On the subject of Seattle’s receivers, I can’t get over how great a story Mike Williams is for the Seahawks. Drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2005 (to complete three years of going receiver in the first round) he was considered a draft bust after three seasons. Out of the league for the past two years, he got his shot to come back and play for his former coach at USC.
He had a great game this week leading the team with 65 yards. But where he stood out was during the post-game interviews. You can tell he is genuinely grateful for the opportunity and by no means is he considering this game as the culmination of a success story for him. He still feels that he has a lot to prove and is extremely humbled by the opportunity. It is in stark contrast to the receiver (whose name I gladly no longer have to spell) that he replaced in the starting lineup.
The only criticism I continue to have about Williams is his number selection. He played with Warren Moon’s old number throughout the preseason and now he’s rocking Dave Kreig’s number. He does know that he’s a wideout, right? Because based on his number choices, he looks like he wants to take over for Hasselbeck.
I don’t know about you guys, but after a big win I really enjoy reading other stories that are written about the team. Even better is reading the other team’s news. After the game yesterday, it was reported that the 49ers called an emergency team meeting once they arrived back home. Only one game into the season and it sounds like things are in disarray there. Of course there has been speculation that Singletary is a tough guy to play for, and It’s not going to help that Smith was even putting blame on the coaches after the game about getting plays in on time. Those extra pushups he’s going to have to do after those comments aren’t going to help his noodle arm get the team by New Orleans at home next week.
The strange thing was that 49ers coach Mike Singletary didn’t seem upset by the loss at all. In fact, he thanked the Hawks’ new coach for the beatdown. After the game he said, “And I do want to say thank you. I wanted very much so, to tell Pete Carroll thank you very much for kicking our tails. It was good medicine and we are going to take it and we will go from there.”
Uh, you’re welcome I guess. And if you need further motivation a little later in the season, you can just lay down when we come play you in your house a few weeks down the road. Apparently four preseason games just wasn’t enough to get your team ready to play, eh coach?
Overall, it wasn’t a good weekend for football in the Bay area. Both teams lost by 25 points. Oakland lost 38-13 to the Titans. The difference was the loss was more or less expected by the fans on the east side of the Bay. Niners fans, however, did not see this one coming (and I don’t think most Seahawks fans did either).
In the other division matchup, both Arizona and St. Louis played very sloppy giving up four turnovers each. But it was clear that Sam Bradford is going to continue to be the starter for the Rams, and he may already be the second-best quarterback in the division. The Rams certainly didn’t treat him like a rookie, allowing him to attempt 55 passes. Thirty-five of those 55 were completed, although three of those completed passes went to members of the Cardinals.
Based on week one, it looked as though Seattle may be the favorite to win the division after all. Even though Arizona won, I have a hard time believing that Derek Anderson will offer any kind of consistency at the position. But if he can, the Cardinals may not be ready to give up their throne atop of the NFC West.
Next week will be a great test for our new Seahawks. It will be their first road trip of the season to face their former AFC West rival Denver Broncos. Denver lost on the road to Jacksonville this weekend and will be ready to get into the win column for their home opener. Hopefully the new coaching staff will have what it takes to help turn around the road woes of the Seahawks teams of the last few years.