San Francisco 49ers: Blowout Loss is Worrisome and Raises Some Questions

124747136_crop_650x440A road loss against the Seattle Seahawks in September isn’t exactly the end of the world for the defending conference champions. Remember when the Baltimore Ravens fell to a Philadelphia Eagles team that would finish 4-12 in Week 2 of the 2012 season? No one in their right mind would have believed that Baltimore would end up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy just a few short months later.

After all, it’s just one game.

It’s the way that the San Francisco 49ers lost that has to be worrisome. They practically laid down and let the home-standing Seahawks beat all over them from the time that the weather delay ended to when the final whistle blew.

From Colin Kaepernick‘s four-turnover performance to numerous injuries on both sides of the ball, Sunday night was filled with what have to be considered forgettable moments for the defending NFC Champions. When Seattle punched them in the face with closed fists, the 49ers would then respond with a soft back-handed slap to the shoulder. Kinda like when your cat puts his/her paw up at you to be petted. Seattle then came back with a roaring bark that San Francisco simply couldn’t respond to.

Right tackle Anthony Davis was beaten early and often in this one. Whether it was Michael Bennett going after him or a sub-package of blitzes, the young offensive tackle struggled in nearly every possible way. San Francisco’s overall inability to protect Kaepernick in the pocket led to the young quarterback possessing a dear-in-the-headlights look that we have yet to see from him. While Kaepernick did account for 95 percent of San Francisco’s yards, his first quarter interception in the end zone set in motion what would ultimately be a mistake-filled performance from the 49ers on national television.

San Francisco turned the ball over a total of five times and scored three points in its lopsided 29-3 defeat to Seattle. In the process, Jim Harbaugh’s squad committed 12 penalties for 121 yards. Evidence of their futility remains embedded in the following statement. The 49ers tallied 86 more total yards than penalties yards in this one.

That won’t get it done against any team in the NFL, even the Jacksonville Jaguars, let alone a Seahawks team that is among the very best in the league in an environment that is the toughest to play in the entire professional sports world.

Adding injury to insult, quite literally, San Francisco suffered a few major injuries in this one.

Nose tackle Ian Williams was the first to go down with what is now being reported to be a season-ending broken ankle. Williams, a first-year starter, had been stout against the run throughout training camp and the preseason. In fact, he is seen as a major upgrade over what the 49ers had there last season.

It isn’t a coincidence that Marshawn Lynch found more success between the hashes once Williams went down to the devastating injury. He’s now going to be replaced by free-agent acquisition Glenn Dorsey, who needs to step up big time.

Tight end Vernon Davis pulled up lame on Kaepernick’s second interception of the game. With Richard Sherman running stride for stride, Davis failed to complete his route and didn’t see the field again. He was seen on the sideline with ice around his hamstring. It remains to be seen what the extent of the injury is at this point. While it was a slight limp, hamstring injuries are always a tricky proposition.

San Francisco did receive some much-needed good news. Rookie safety Eric Reid collided with Sidney Rice in the middle of the field in what was a scary play in the second quarter. At first glance, the injury looked like it was to his neck. The 49ers later reported that Reid suffered a concussion. It remains to be seen how bad the concussion was and whether Reid will be ready to go next week against the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, he will have to pass a battery of tests in order to be cleared. Defensive end/tackle Ray McDonald seemed to be beat up throughout the game and was seen on the turf in the fourth quarter. It has since been reported that x-rays on his ankle came out negative. Again, it’s a wait-and-see approach for him.

Overall, San Francisco proved without a doubt that it is not the clear-cut favorites to capture a second consecutive conference championship. Heck, it may not be the legitimate favorites in the NFC West. A total of 23 penalties for over 200 yards in two games just won’t get it done. In addition, the simple fact that Harbaugh may have been outcoached by Pete Carroll on Sunday night should be cause for alarm.

It is, however, important not to overreact here.

San Francisco is 1-1 through a brutal slate of September games that continues with the Colts next week at Candlestick Park. A win in that game will put the 49ers pretty much where we all anticipated they’d be, 2-1 through a tough first three outings.

As it relates to Kaepernick, this type of game was going to happen at one point or another. His struggles were magnified by lackluster protection upfront and an inability of Frank Gore to get anything going. As a run-based offensive attack, San Francisco simply cannot succeed with Gore tallying an average of two yards per rush. No. 21 needs to get it going in the not-so-distant future for this offense to rebound from its dreadful performance on Sunday.

There are some major concerns here. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha struggled a great deal for the second consecutive game and may find himself riding the pine relatively soon. No one, and I mean no one, has stepped up behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis in the passing game. If San Francisco is looking to right the ship until Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham return, it might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Whether it is Quinton Patton, Kyle Williams or Vance McDonald, someone needs to give Kaepernick another target to throw to.

Overall, this was a humbling loss for the 49ers. They played right into the hands of the home crowd by committing dumb penalties and turnovers. They failed to match the intensity of the home team and were outcoached at every turn. In the end, they sat down and died as Seattle rode home an impressive victory on national television. In the process, the NFL may have found a blue-print of how to defend their offense that looked anything but dynamic Sunday night.

No one in their right mind should be surprised that San Francisco lost by 26 points after committing 12 penalties and turning the ball over five times. While this was questionably their worst performance under Harbaugh, you better believe that the 49ers will be prepared to take on the Colts next week.

There is too much pride on this roster.

There is too much talent on this roster.

It’s now up to Harbaugh and Co. to actually cut down on penalties and find a way to overcome what had to be an emotional letdown in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday.

Remember, 1-1 isn’t the end of the world.

 

Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director here at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle every Friday. He’s also a former league-wide featured columnist at Bleacher Report.