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<  Brock and Salk

What we learned from the Seahawks' loss to the 49ers

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Nine assessed penalties hurt Seattle Sunday, though Richard Sherman and others disputed some of them. (AP)

By Danny O'Neil

Three things we learned:

1. The importance of home field for Seattle.

The Seahawks had won two in a row against San Francisco by a combined total of 71-16, but both of those games were played at CenturyLink Field. At Candlestick Park, however, the two teams have played low-scoring slugfests with neither team surpassing 20 points. The Seahawks lost 13-7 in Week 7 last season before Sunday's 19-17 loss.

The good news for Seattle? If the Seahawks win two of their final three regular-season games, they won't have to come back to Candlestick Park ever again as Seattle would be assured of hosting any postseason game it plays up to the Super Bowl and the 49ers are moving to a new stadium next season.

2. Penalties are a potential Achilles heel for this team.

You can say a lot of things about the nine times Seattle was penalized for 85 yards. Unfortunate. Costly. Unnecessary.

Here's one thing you can't say, though: surprising. This is par for the course for this Seahawks team that has now been called for eight or more penalties in eight of the 13 games it has played. Seattle had been penalized 95 times entering the game, second-most in the league. The Seahawks were penalized 110 times last season, sixth-most in the league.

It's wishful thinking to believe all those flags are going to stop overnight.

3. Seattle's biggest lost on Sunday may not have been on the scoreboard.

The defeat in San Francisco won't matter a bit if Seattle wins two of its final three games. The injury to linebacker K.J. Wright, however, could be a tough one. He suffered a broken bone in his foot, something coach Pete Carroll characterized as a six-week injury.

We'll see if that means he winds up on injured reserve or if Seattle holds out hope he might be back late in the playoffs. Either way, Seattle is going to be missing a linebacker who is coming off one of the best games of his career in that Monday night victory over New Orleans.

Three things we're still trying to figure out:

1. Do the 49ers' coaches deserve an award for lobbying?

After playing the Seahawks in Week 7 last year, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he would seek clarification from the league on the amount of contact defensive backs are allowed to have with receivers. Last week, offensive coordinator Greg Roman talked about getting mugged by Seattle's defenders during a Week 2 meeting.

More coverage of the Seahawks' Week-14 loss to San Francisco at Candlestick Park.
Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews
O'Neil: Seahawks get an important reminder
O'Neil: Should Seahawks have let 49ers score?
'The Pete Carroll Show': Wright to have surgery
Henderson: Late-game lapse dooms Seahawks
Henderson: Seahawks' penalties loom large
On Sunday, the Seahawks' secondary was flagged for defensive holding twice in the second quarter, resulting in first downs during 49ers scoring drives. Was it a case of the squeaky oils getting the grease in terms of the flags?

"You saw the calls, you saw the game," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "If that's the way they called it, that's the way they called it. There's nothing you can do about it. It's just unfortunate it had to affect the game so much."

It was reminiscent of Seattle's loss in Indianapolis in Week 5, and it's a potential cause for concern if the Seahawks have a tightly called playoff game in which referees place a microscope over the play of their defensive backs.

2. How did the Seahawks' defense play?

They allowed only two runs of 10 or more yards all game and only two completions of more than 20 yards. Not only that, but Seattle held San Francisco to a single touchdown despite the 49ers having four different possessions that reached at least the Seahawks' 20-yard line.

Yet, the biggest play of the game sticks out not just for the total, but the timing as Frank Gore's 51-yard run with less than 5 minutes remaining put the 49ers in position for the win. The 49ers hadn't exactly been gashing Seattle on Sunday. Gore had only 54 yards rushing prior to the 51-yard gain, which was 19 yards longer than any other run Seattle had given up over the first 12 games.

3. Will Percy Harvin be able to contribute down the stretch?

Seattle's two longest passing plays came on completions to Luke Willson, Seattle's backup tight end. That's a compliment for Willson, who has made more progress since training camp opened than any player on the team.

It also makes you wonder about the big-play potential for the rest of the offense. Harvin missed his second consecutive game since debuting for the Seahawks, and Carroll indicated this is going to be a big week for Harvin. We'll see if he can make it through the week of practice and get back in a game.

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