By Chris Cluff
Frank Gore gashed the Seahawks for 131 yards on just 16 carries, and Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing game was shut down by the San Francisco 49ers, who pulled out a 13-6 victory Thursday night in a battle for first place in the NFC West.
It was a game the Seahawks were expected to lose but had every chance to win, and the rookie quarterback and his receivers failed.
The 49ers took the lead in the NFC West at 5-2, and the Seahawks took a step back at 4-3 while realizing just how far their passing game is from being playoff caliber.
Wilson found out what a difference it is to face the league’s top-ranked defense as opposed to one of the league’s worst pass defenses.
A week after carving up the Patriots’ weak pass defense, Wilson could do hardly a thing against the 49ers. He completed just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards. In the second half, he was just 3 of 10 for nine yards.
It was quite a change from Sunday, when Wilson averaged 10.8 yards per pass, hit six passes of at least 20 yards and three over 45.
Wilson didn’t get much help from his receivers, who dropped four passes. Robert Turbin dropped a beautiful pump-and-go on the first drive that would have set up Seattle around the 49ers’ 10-yard line. Instead, the Hawks ended up settling for a field goal.
Evan Moore dropped a pretty pass down the right sideline early in the second quarter, putting the Seahawks into a third-and-3, but Wilson made up for that the next play by hitting little-used Ben Obomanu on a flair down the sideline.
Seahawks also once again failed on third downs, going 4 for 13 four days after converting just 4 of 12 against the 49ers.
James Carpenter and the Seahawks had a tough time against defensive end Justin Smith, who led the 49ers with nine tackles — seven solo.
Wilson once again missed open receivers at times, either choosing to run or try to force the ball. His worst decision was to throw to a triple-covered Braylon Edwards late in the third quarter. That ball was intercepted.
The one thing the Hawks did well is get Marshawn Lynch back on track. After two subpar games, Lynch gained 103 yards on 19 carries.
But that just wasn’t enough. Grade: D
Gore gutted the Seattle defense yet again, running for 131 yards on 16 carries (8.2 per carry). He seemingly has made a career out of running all over the Seahawks. In 12 previous games, he had averaged 90 yards.
San Francisco’s guards got out on Seattle’s linebackers all game, knocking them clean out of the play most of the time.
The Seahawks, perhaps not as sharp because of the four-day flip between games, did not tackle as surely as usual. They gave up a lot of extra yards they usually do not.
The only bright spots for Seattle were Brandon Browner’s end-zone interception and the fact that the Hawks held the 49ers to 3 of 11 on third downs and just one touchdown.
The 49ers’ first three drives in the second half consumed 16:31 and led to 10 points. The only stop the Seahawks made on those drives was Browner’s interception.
Bottom line: The Hawks were great in the first half, but they got run over in the second. Grade: C
The 49ers won the special-teams battle.
In a battle of two of the NFC’s best punters, Andy Lee was slightly better than Jon Ryan. Lee averaged 48.5 yards per kick, while Ryan averaged 45.6.
The big difference was in the return games. Ted Ginn Jr., who returned a kick and punt for touchdowns against Seattle in the season opener last year, averaged 23.3 yards on three returns.
This was the second straight game the Hawks have lost the field-position battle. They started beyond their 20 just once (33) in 10 drives and were stuck inside the 15 five times.
Steven Hauschka’s lack of consistent range was evident as he went 1 for 2 on field goals from beyond 50 yards. He hit a 52-yarder but missed a 51-yarder. Grade: C-
Darrell Bevell is not using his personnel properly. He failed to get tight end Zach Miller involved. Miller had caught passes of 30, 23 and 22 yards in the last two games, but he had no catches against the 49ers. That’s ridiculous, and it’s a big reason the passing game failed.
Meanwhile, why is Ben Obomanu playing over Charlie Martin? Martin was inactive for the third straight week, which doesn’t make any sense considering he is a good route runner with sure hands. This game proved the Hawks need more dependable receivers on the field, and the coaches need to make Martin active and get him involved on third downs.
On defense, coordinator Gus Bradley failed to figure out how to stop the 49ers from knocking his linebackers out of the play. The 49ers dominated the middle of the line, and that was as much why the Hawks lost as the failed passing game was. Grade: C-
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.