Robbie Gould’s 20-yard field goal attempt is blocked, and Mike Jackson scoops it up and takes it 86 yards for a Seahawks touchdown. (0:29)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With Russell Wilson gone and Geno Smith replacing him, the Seattle Seahawks are trying to get back to what Pete Carroll believes is the ideal winning formula: relying on a stout defense and a strong rushing attack while asking their quarterback to manage games more than win them on his own.
In that sense, they got an up-close look at the kind of team they want to be on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in their NFC West opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
And in falling to 1-1 with a 27-7 loss to their division rivals, the Seahawks also got a reality check about how, with their limitations at quarterback and a defense that already lost one of its best players in safety Jamal Adams, that will be easier said than done in 2022.
Six days after their season-opening win against Wilson and the Denver Broncos sparked hope that maybe this season won’t be the slog that most observers predicted, they came crashing back down to Earth with a blowout loss that served as a troubling reminder that it very well could be.
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“What a distance from one week to the next,” Carroll said postgame. “The league just reminds you of how you get humbled.”
Entering Sunday, the Seahawks had beaten the 49ers in 16 of their last 19 meetings dating to their Super Bowl season in 2013, including the NFC Championship Game that year. They had won eight of 10 meetings since Kyle Shanahan became the 49ers’ head coach in 2017. But all of that dominance came with Wilson, and much of it came with the Legion of Boom backing him. As promising as their young core appears to be, the Seahawks no longer have an elite quarterback or an all-time great defense, a reality that was on full display Sunday.
In a continuation of their struggles to stop the run last week against Denver, the Seahawks allowed 189 rushing yards to San Francisco. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 113 of them came after first contact, the 49ers’ most such yards in a game since ESPN began video tracking in 2009. Deebo Samuel had 52 of those rushing yards after first contact when he slipped a would-be tackle for loss by outside linebacker Darrell Taylor in the backfield and broke free for a 51-yard run that helped San Francisco take an early 6-0 lead.
“We laid an egg today as far as stopping the run,” inside linebacker Jordyn Brooks said. “Didn’t tackle well. Didn’t get off blocks well.”
They didn’t communicate well, either, on the busted coverage that resulted in the 38-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Ross Dwelley from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who took over when Trey Lance injured his right ankle in the first quarter. When the Seahawks muffed a second-quarter punt, the 49ers took over with a short field and scored another touchdown to make it 20-0, a large deficit that Seattle’s offense is not built to overcome.
Smith wasn’t the offense’s main problem Sunday, completing 24 of 30 attempts for 197 yards. But he threw an interception on a dangerous throw over the middle into double coverage and put the ball in harm’s way other times. Seattle got a nice 8-yard run from rookie Kenneth Walker III on his first NFL carry but not much else on the ground. Their 36 rushing yards (on 14 attempts) were their sixth fewest in a regular-season game under Carroll, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“We didn’t do anything like we wanted to today off the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball,” Carroll said. “We had 10 penalties, they had one. We had three turnovers, they had none. It was just really hard to win this football game today, the way we did it.”
With the Seahawks’ only points coming via Tariq Woolen‘s blocked field goal that fellow cornerback Michael Jackson returned for a touchdown in the third quarter, their offense has now gone six straight quarters without scoring.
“It’s early in the season and I feel like we’re eventually going to get going,” running back Rashaad Penny said. “Definitely a humbling loss, though, for sure.”
As Carroll admitted postgame, they also had one regrettable coaching decision on the list of things that didn’t go right. The Seahawks were in position to cut into the 49ers’ 13-0 lead in the second quarter when a trick play ended in disaster, with running back DeeJay Dallas throwing an interception into the end zone after a direct handoff from Walker, who was the quarterback on a play in which four running backs were in the backfield.
After taking the handoff, Dallas had a run-pass option on a play the Seahawks call SportsCenter and thought the 49ers defender covering DK Metcalf was going to commit to him, so he raised up to throw. But the defender dropped off, and Dallas couldn’t pull the ball back in time.
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Carroll wished he had called timeout when he saw an unfavorable pre-snap look.
“It was a really cool play to call and give a shot to, but it’s asking a lot,” he said. “In that situation, I just wish I would have got us out of it.”
It’s fair to wonder whether the Seahawks were experiencing an emotional hangover given all the hype leading up to their opener against Wilson and the Broncos, the thrilling finish to that win and having one fewer day to flush it from their system.
“I’m not sure,” said safety Quandre Diggs, Seattle’s defensive captain. “If it was, this league will humble you quick. We were humbled today. It’s just part of it. I don’t see why we would be riding high. Everybody was doubting us anyways. We shouldn’t be feeding into all the hype anyways. Obviously, we’re not that good.”