Facing a tough division opponent on a short week, the Seattle Seahawks couldn’t afford to be sloppy, ineffective or get off to a slow start.
That’s exactly what happened for the first 30 minutes of Thursday night’s 31-13 loss to San Francisco that once again showed the gulf that remains between the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West.
“The first half of this game, we couldn’t get out of our own way enough,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
It was a humbling defeat that left Seattle (6-5) two games behind the first-place 49ers after dropping three of its last four. And it was the Seahawks’ fourth straight loss to the Niners, including the playoffs last season, with only one of those games decided by one score.
It also had some of Seattle’s leaders calling out teammates afterward to make changes and make them quickly.
“I think everybody needs to go look at themselves and have a reality check with themselves and ask themselves if they’re playing with the passion and heart that they need to play with for us to win games,” defensive lineman Jarran Reed said. “Because right now, we’ve got to pick it up.”
Seattle believed it had made the necessary moves in the offseason to close the gap on the 49ers after San Francisco swept the Seahawks in three meetings last year. The Seahawks thought they were more versatile on defense and had better counters offensively for what they’d see from San Francisco’s excellent defense.
None of that showed on Thursday. At every point, Seattle looked second-best to the 49ers.
Geno Smith played just a few days after hurting his throwing arm against the Rams. And while the veteran quarterback said the injury wasn’t a problem, it appeared to hamper him in the first half. Smith finished 18 of 27 for 180 yards and an interception, and was sacked six times.
But Seattle’s problems were not isolated to Smith struggling. The first half was a complete meltdown in every phase for the Seahawks.
The defense couldn’t get off the field and when it appeared they had made a key stop, a drive was extended by a third-down holding call on Tre Brown.
Special teams contributed to the problems when DeeJay Dallas fumbled a punt late in the first half that led to a San Francisco field goal. Seattle’s Jason Myers followed up by missing a 53-yarder on the final play of the first half. Myers missed from 55 yards on the final play last Sunday, a kick that would have given Seattle a win over the Rams.
And Seattle’s offense looked completely lost. The Seahawks finished the first half with 56 total yards and three first downs, but 41 of the yards and two of the first downs came on the final drive of the half.
“We’ve got to start faster. I don’t know exactly why it didn’t happen the way it should have,” Smith said.
Problems emerged right from the start. Smith and running back Zach Charbonnet had a miscommunication on Seattle’s first offensive play. Smith’s first two passes were nearly intercepted. Later in the first quarter, Smith tripped over Charbonnet on a drop back and was nearly tackled for a safety.
Smith started to find a rhythm in the second half. But in key moments over the final 30 minutes when Seattle appeared on the verge of a potential rally, Smith’s protection broke down or he held the ball too long. Smith was sacked four times in the second half, all of them seeming to come at big moments.
“We still felt like we had a chance to come out there in the second half and kind of turn things around. I felt like we did but it just wasn’t enough,” Smith said.
Seattle doesn’t have much time to find fixes. Instead of the extended break that normally comes with a Thursday game, the Seahawks will turn around and play next Thursday at Dallas. It’s the second stop of a four-game gauntlet that still includes another matchup with San Francisco and a home game with Philadelphia.
“We don’t have any time but to get back to work and do stuff right,” Carroll said.
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