Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 4:59pm
By Danny O'Neil
RENTON – "Scare Tactics" is a show on the SyFy network, but score tactics was a conversation that followed Seattle's 19-17 loss to San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.
Specifically, should the Seahawks have allowed the 49ers to score a touchdown on one of the three plays leading up to the game-winning field-goal attempt?
"That's a serious decision you can make," coach Pete Carroll said Monday afternoon.
Only 26 seconds remained when the Seahawks took over after the 49ers kicked the go-ahead field goal. (AP)
Had Seattle let the 49ers score a touchdown right after Kaepernick gained the first down, Seattle could have gotten the ball back with more than 2 minutes remaining. Instead, the Seahawks stopped three straight runs before the 49ers kicked a 22-yard field goal.
But let's get hypothetical and reconstruct the situation had the Seahawks given up a touchdown on the next play after Kaepernick's first down. In that situation, the Seahawks would have trailed by either five points or seven points, depending on whether the 49ers converted the ensuing two-point try.
The upside is obvious. The Seahawks would have then had the ball back with more than 2 minutes on the clock, which was certainly enticing for Carroll given Russell Wilson's success in end-of-half drives this season.
"We know that our offense can go down the field in 2 minutes on anybody," he said. "You give us four plays to get a first down, we really believe we can get that done. Russell's great at it."
The downside? Not only are you asking your defense to stand down, but there's no guarantee the 49ers would take the touchdown. In fact, Frank Gore went down at the end of his 51-yard run so he could stay in bounds, showing an understanding of the clock situation. He didn't want it to stop. Had the 49ers not taken a gimme touchdown, they could have bled the clock inside of 30 seconds regardless of what Seattle did.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks get an important reminder||• 'The Pete Carroll Show': Wright to have surgery||• Henderson: Late-game lapse dooms Seahawks||• Henderson: Seahawks' penalties loom large|
It's a significant difference, but one that doesn't include the possibility that Seattle could have either forced a fumble or blocked the field-goal attempt in between.
And ultimately, Carroll decided it was better off to let his defense play tough, hope for an improbable turnover and then try to block the kick, knowing he would get the ball back with less than a minute remaining.
"There's a lot of gut in that decision," he said Monday morning during "The Pete Carroll Show" on 710 ESPN Seattle. "We had the talk, and it's just not in our mentality to let anybody have anything."
• LB K.J. Wright is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair the broken bone in his foot on Tuesday. There's no specific timetable for recovery, but Carroll estimated it would be at least four and probably more like six weeks.
• C Max Unger will be limited in practice this week, according to Carroll, but has not been ruled out to return in time for this weekend's game.
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 1:44pm
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.
|• 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|
"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.
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 1:16pm
By Danny O'Neil
RENTON – Center Max Unger left Sunday's game after the third quarter with an injury to his pectoral muscle. When Unger will be able to return is very much up in the air, and probably will stay that way all the way through this week, according to coach Pete Carroll.
"We've just got to see how he responds during the week," Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" on Monday. "It's something that one of our guys has had before and played with it. So we'll find out how it is particularly for him."
That's very likely a reference to quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who played the second half of the 2011 season after suffering a severe strain to the pectoral muscle in his throwing arm.
Now, there are clear differences, the first being Jackson is a quarterback whose job is to throw a football while Unger is a lineman expected to block opponents who are the approximate size of a refrigerator.
It's a situation that bears watching, though. A completely torn pectoral muscle is generally a season-ending injury that requires surgery, and that's the injury that ended Russell Okung's 2011 season.
Unger missed three games earlier this season, two because of a triceps injury and then sat out the Nov. 10 game at Atlanta because of a concussion.
Lemuel Jeanpierre is Seattle's backup center.
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 12:56pm
Seahawks fan Keri Salemme was stunned to be given a card Sunday at Candlestick Park as Seattle squared off against the Niners, telling her essentially to sit down.
"I just got yellow carded by the 49ers. Sorry for being a #seahawks fan? #FortyWhiners" she wrote on Instagram.
In contrast, Seahawks fans were on their feet throughout last Monday night's overwhelming win over New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
"Not only was it encouraged, it was expected," says Seahawks season ticket holder Michael Simeona.
What do you think of these cards?
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 11:42am
Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is expected to miss the rest of the regular season and a portion of the playoffs after sustaining a foot injury during Seattle's loss to the 49ers on Sunday.
That was the word from coach Pete Carroll, who told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" Monday that Wright will soon undergo surgery to place a screw in the broken bone in his right foot.
K.J. Wright was having the most productive season of his career before breaking a bone in his foot Sunday. (AP)
Wright was having the most productive season of his career and coming off one of his finest games as a pro before sustaining the injury. Carroll said he took the news hard when he was told by the team's medical staff about the severity.
"He was as emotionally as you can get, and he lost it a little bit down there when they told him what they thought it was, and they were right," Carroll said. "Anyways, we move ahead. That's how that goes. It's unfortunate. He's had a great season. He's been a huge factor to us."
Wright wrote on his Twitter account Sunday night that he hopes to be back in time for the playoffs.
His injury will be the latest test of the depth on Seattle's defense, which has played at times this season without one of its best pass rushers (Chris Clemons), its middle linebacker (Bobby Wagner) and two cornerbacks (Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond).
Malcolm Smith more than capably filled in for Wagner earlier this season and he made four tackles – including one for a loss – after replacing Wright on Sunday. O'Brien Schofield has played both "Leo" defensive end and strong-side linebacker this season, and Carroll said he will do more of the latter in light of Wright's injury.
"We have a starter in O'Brien, so that's good to have him ready to go in case we need to do something else," Carroll said.
Seahawks will wait and see on Unger
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks get an important reminder||• O'Neil: Should Seahawks have let 49ers score?||• Henderson: Late-game lapse dooms Seahawks||• Henderson: Seahawks' penalties loom large|
"We know what it is, we've just got to see how it responds during the week," Carroll said. "It's something that one of our guys has had before, played with it. So we'll find out how it is particularly for him ... That will take us all the way through the week."
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson played through a torn pectoral muscle in 2011, missing one game after the injury and then playing in the remaining 10.
Lemuel Jeanpierre, who has started three games this season in place of Unger, finished Sunday's game once Unger was injured.
• Carroll didn't have an injury update on WR Percy Harvin, other than to say the team hopes he can practice Wednesday.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 1:30am
SAN FRANCISCO – For three and a half quarters, the Seahawks did what they've so often been unable to do.
Their defense had bottled up Frank Gore – a thorn in Seattle's side for much of his career – up until when San Francisco lined up for a first-and-10 play trailing 17-16 with under 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
We just got outplayed on that play," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the 51-yard run by San Francisco's Frank Gore, which set up the 49ers' game-winning field goal. (AP)
"They had run the play a few times during the game and we stopped it," coach Pete Carroll said after Seattle lost 19-17 at Candlestick Park, "but that time it got away."
Gore certainly did, first taking the handoff and running off tackle to the left before cutting back to his right and running by the second and third levels of Seattle's defense. He wisely stayed in bounds when he was tackled, thereby limiting the time Seattle would have on the ensuing and final possession.
No one in the losing team's locker room knew exactly what happened on that play, only that is was the game's defining moment. Seattle was ahead 17-16 at the time, having just kicked a field goal that changed the game's lead and capped a shift in its momentum. One defensive stop may have iced the game for the Seahawks. Instead, one defensive miscue helped lose it for them.
"I can't tell you who was out of position or what," said safety Kam Chancellor. "All I know is we had a bust on that play."
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks get an important reminder||• O'Neil: Should Seahawks have let 49ers score?||• 'The Pete Carroll Show': Wright to have surgery||• Henderson: Seahawks' penalties loom large|
Gore burning the Seahawks is nothing new, however. After all, he has more rushing yards against Seattle in his nine-year career than any other team. And a year ago, the lasting image of the Seahawks' loss to the 49ers in San Francisco was Gore breaking off long runs against a defense that didn't seem to have a clue how to stop him.
This was different, though. Gore had all of 54 yards Sunday before that big run, and San Francisco hadn't gained more than 9 yards on a running play up until that point.
"We did a good job of holding them, limiting them for the most part," said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, "but they got that big run at a crucial time, and that hurt us."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Sunday, December 8, 2013 @ 9:02pm
By Danny O'Neil
SAN FRANCISCO – Seattle's second loss of the season wasn't decided by a field goal.
The 49ers' 22-yard chip shot of a kick may have accounted for the final margin of the Seahawks' 19-17 loss, but it wasn't the difference in this game.
That would be the 85 yards of penalties against Seattle, including 45 in the third quarter alone, and the punt the Seahawks had blocked in the first half. And more than anything, this game came down the fact that Seattle's offense couldn't turn impossibly good field position into anything more than a field goal in the fourth quarter while its defense picked the worst possible moment to allow its longest run of the year.
This game wasn't a heartbreaker nearly so much as a reminder of both how thin the margin between victory and defeat so often is in the NFL and the type of games Seattle can expect going forward.
"They're a really good football team," coach Pete Carroll said. "They called for you to play great to beat them."
And Seattle didn't play great. Not on Sunday at Candlestick Park. They had their moments, Russell Wilson efficiently guiding the offense on a pair of first-half touchdown drives and posting a passer rating of higher than 140 in the first half. The defense was resilient, forcing San Francisco to settle for three field goals in the first half and then cornerback Byron Maxwell intercepting a pass near the goal line to unplug a 49ers scoring threat in the third quarter.
But that wasn't enough on an afternoon when the 49ers dug in their heels and made the kind of home-field stand you'd expect from a team that had won the division the past two seasons and played for the Super Bowl a year ago.
"It was kind of just a slugfest," Carroll said. "That's what it felt like."
And for the first time this season, the Seahawks were the ones trying to shake out the cob webs after the game. After three straight blowout victories – including a Monday-night showcase against New Orleans – this was a reality check.
"You win some, you learn some," receiver Doug Baldwin said afterward.
Consider this a lesson on the importance of penalties, which has been a problem for this team for three years running. So as much as you might want to complain, you can't say it came out of nowhere.
Same for the punt Seattle had blocked. The 49ers blocked one against Seattle in the Week 2 meeting.
And for the scoring chance Seattle wasted when Tate's punt return set up Seattle inside the San Francisco 30 in the fourth quarter and the Seahawks couldn't more than a single first down before kicking the go-ahead field goal.
All of that added up to leave the Seahawks vulnerable to a single defensive lapse, because for more than 50 minutes on Sunday, Seattle had kept the 49ers' power running game in check.
The Seahawks didn't allow a run longer than 9 yards in the first half, and Frank Gore had only 50 yards rushing entering what turned out to be the 49ers' game-winning drive. In fact, Seattle was one play from getting off the field only to let San Francisco convert a third-and-short with a run to Bruce Miller and then on the next play hand it to Gore, who ran 51 yards. It was the longest run Seattle had given up this season and it set up San Francisco for the game-winning field goal.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• 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|
"We're not worried about anything," Sherman said. "Obviously, we'd love to get the win, but it doesn't really change anything for us."
That's one way of looking at it, and it's not necessarily wrong. If Seattle wins two of its final three games, the Seahawks will clinch both the division title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and this loss in San Francisco won't mean anything.
But on the other hand, it was a reminder that the gap between Seattle and the rest of the conference might not be the 20-plus-point victories the Seahawks had grown accustomed to as they reeled off wins against Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans.
There were six lead changes Sunday in a game that didn't make you question everything Seattle has accomplished so far this season, but did serve as a pretty powerful reminder that the Seahawks' success so far doesn't guarantee them anything but the opportunity to play in more bare-knuckle bouts against playoff-caliber opponents like Sunday.
"Being able to face this adversity is only going to be able to help us further down the line when we get into the playoffs," Baldwin said," because we're probably going to have a game like this coming up here shortly. So it's going to build character. We haven't had a tough one in recent weeks ... and I think the only positive we can take out of this is it's going to make stronger for later down the line."
Sunday, December 8, 2013 @ 6:47pm
SAN FRANCISCO – Penalties have been the norm for the Seahawks, a tradeoff of the unrelenting physicality with which Seattle plays.
They were something else on Sunday.
"The penalties, they killed us today," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said from the visitors' locker room after the Seahawks lost 19-17 to the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
There were nine of them assessed in all against the Seahawks, which is actually one fewer than their season-high mark. The 85 yards they lost because of them wasn't a season-high, either, in fact marking the seventh time Seattle's penalties have added up to at least 80 yards.
"They got the benefit of a few calls tonight throughout the game and that helps you," cornerback Richard Sherman said after the Seahawks were flagged nine times Sunday. (AP)
"We expected to blow them out, but they got the benefit of a few calls tonight throughout the game and that helps you, especially on third down," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We will see them again and it will be a different result."
Sherman was issued two holding penalties, including one that was declined and another that gave San Francisco a fresh set of downs on third-and-11 in the second quarter. The 49ers ended that drive with a go-ahead field goal.
Cornerback Byron Maxwell was also called for defensive holding.
"I'm sure there was a lot of complaining about the pass defense from their end of it, and I think some calls went that way," Carroll said.
Seattle's offense was responsible for four on the team's nine penalties, among them an offensive pass interference on what would have been a 16-yard catch by Golden Tate as well as a facemask called against Michael Robinson that negated a 20-yard Marshawn Lynch run. The latter was especially costly, a 35-yard swing that resulted in the Seahawks facing a first-and-25 from their own 23.
"The penalties really hurt us offensively," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "They really got us off schedule."
Wright breaks foot
Before they lost the game, the Seahawks lost a starting linebacker for what will likely be the remainder of the regular season. K.J. Wright broke a bone in his foot, an injury that Carroll said should keep him out for roughly six weeks.
"We're really disappointed in that. He was really upset about that," Carroll said. "That looks like a six-week type of injury. They've already diagnosed it. So we'll have to live with that one."
Linebacker is one area where Seattle could seemingly absorb the loss of a starter. Malcolm Smith has started five games this season, including two straight when Bobby Wagner was out with an ankle injury. He played well enough in those games to merit consideration to remain in the starting lineup even when Wagner returned.
Smith had four tackles – including one for a loss – after replacing Wright.
Willson comes up big
The Seahawks entered April's draft determined to come away with Luke Willson, a tight end out of Rice who was a backup and had all of nine catches during an injury-plagued senior season.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• 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|
"Luke has shown us this ability to catch and run. He's fast," Carroll said. "It was a huge play for him, but he did some nice stuff in general."
The Seahawks were trailing 9-7 late in the second quarter when they ran a play-action pass that left Willson wide open over the middle. He made one defender miss en route to the end zone and his first career touchdown.
He had earlier given Seattle's struggling offense a spark, picking up 29 yards on third down to extend a drive that would end with the Seahawks' first touchdown. Willson finished with three catches for 70 yards.
"That was cool to come out of my shell a little bit as a rookie," he said, "but it would have been a lot nicer if we got the 'W', too."
• C Max Unger sustained a strained pectoral muscle and was replaced for the remainder of the game by Lemuel Jeanpierre.
• S Jeron Johnson pulled a hamstring. Carroll said the injury was to the hamstring opposite the one that has given him problems throughout the season.
• Seattle had a punt blocked for the second straight game against San Francisco.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.