This was the year the San Francisco 49ers were supposed to take the NFC West by storm. Alex Smith finally had an offensive coordinator around for a consecutive season and big things were going to be coming from the offense with Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and the addition of Ted Ginn Jr. The drafting of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati were supposed to help the suspect offensive line for the 49ers.
On the opposite side of the ball, the defense was supposed to be the strongest for the 49ers, even though the secondary was suspect and so was the pass rush.
But if the first game is any indication, the 49ers have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball. First off the offense was in disarray. There were too many false starts in the first half not getting the call in fast enough, which led to the 49ers using timeouts and, at the one yard line, taking a delay of game call instead of going for the touchdown. In turn, settling for a field goal by Joe Nedney.
Besides the false starts, as the game progressed, Chris Clemons caused plenty of havoc and Aaron Curry, the Seahawks first round pick from a year ago, also was in amongst a number of plays. The offense did not do a good job of protecting Smith and it caused him to rush his throws or throw the ball away.
The big headscratcher though was the playcalling from Jimmy Raye. Specifically when calling a running play and using Gore. Coming into the game, whether it was in Seattle or San Francisco, Gore carved the Seahawks defense up.
Another questionable play call was when the 49ers were at six yard line with 4th and one, and they threw to Moran Norris. Yes, Norris was wide open, but it was strange he was in the game when he isn't normally used in those type of situations.
Gore had stayed into block and the play would have worked, but Smith threw the ball a little high for Norris. If it was caught it would have been a touchdown. In that situation the 49ers should have at least tried to run for the first down or rolled Smith out and tried to find Davis, Crabtree, or Morgan.
Yet, the running plays that were called by the 49ers were easily diagnosed and Gore didn't find much success running the football. His longest run of the day didn't come until the third quarter and it was for 10 yards.
On the day Gore carried the ball 17 times for 38 yards, good for a 2.2 yards per carry average, the 49ers only scored six points and, of course, no touchdown from Gore. On third downs the 49ers went just 1-for-15. Along those lines, penalties on both sides of the ball hurt the 49ers as well.
It gets worse for Crabtree, who had two catches for 12 yards. Morgan had three catches for 32 yards, Davis had the best day with 8 catches for 73 yards, Gore had six catches for 45 yards, Walker had three catches for 27 yards, Ginn had a catch for 19 yards, Dominique Ziegler had a catch for 10 yards, Norris had a catch for 2 yards, and Nate Byham had a catch for five yards.
Those numbers specifically by Crabtree and Morgan aren't going to cut it. A team with playoff aspirations needs more production than five catches for 44 yards between their two wide outs.
There was one penalty that shouldn't have been called on the 49ers and it was what turned the momentum of the game around for the Seahawks, and the NFL should definitely punish Mike Carey's crew for it.
Nate Clements made an outstanding play on a route that Deion Branch ran. Clements stepped in front of Branch for what should have been his second interception of the game, and most likely ran back for a touchdown, but Branch held onto the right arm of Clements denying him the opportunity of intercepting the pass.
The yellow came out and what should have been offensive holding at the very least was instead a five yard penalty on Clements for holding. That call makes you wonder exactly what was the official looking at? Clements had the right to the football, he jumped the route and he never made any contact with the receiver. The only contact that was created was by Branch who did his job of not allowing Clements to intercept the pass.
Although, that drive changed the complexion of the game, giving the Seahawks a new set of downs, it also led to the first score of the game. Which meant the 49ers went from up 6-0 to 7-6.
Even though Smith had a bad day being chased out of the pocket by the Seahawks defense, it was Crabtree who had an even worse day. The two interceptions that were thrown by Smith were both passes attended for Crabtree.
The first interception, which was returned by Jonathan Babineaux for 20 yards, led to the second score of the game, a touchdown pass to Deon Butler. Smith rolled to his right and made the throw to Crabtree, who had worked to free himself from his defender, but the ball hit him right in the chest bouncing up into Babineaux's arms.
Smith's second interception came when Smith thought that Crabtree was going to come back in and threw to a spot instead of realizing that Crabtree had run an out. This led to Marcus Trufant picking off the pass and returning the pass for a touchdown.
After Trufant's return it meant the 49ers were trailing 21-6. The offense couldn't get in gear from that point on settling on punting the ball even though they were trailing at the time. The Seahawks had two more scoring drives.
One ended up in a touchdown by Deion Branch on a three yard score and the other was a field goal in the fourth quarter to make the final score 31-6.
Defensively the 49ers, typical of a Greg Manusky defense, stopped the run. Seahawks running back trio of Justin Forsett, Julius Jones, and Washington ended with 21 carries for 73 yards.
It was against the pass that the 49ers struggled. Matt Hasselebeck had all day to throw and it showed with his 18-23 performance for 170 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. The 49ers defensive pressure produced only one sack, and it came when the game was already out of hand.
Clemens got burned by Mike Williams, after buying a fake by Hasselbeck, which led to the Seahawks first touchdown, the second play after the holding penalty called on Clements. Shawntae Spencer got left out to dry on the pass to Branch. Dashon Goldson had a unncessary roughness penalty called on him for hitting a defenseless receiver even though the receiver John Carlson wasn't going to catch the pass to begin with, since it was overthrown.
The next game for the 49ers is against the New Orleans Saints. What looked like an intriguing matchup in the second game of the season will be a game where the 49ers are going to be searching for their identity on both sides of the ball.
If the 49ers want to beat the Saints and win the NFC West division Crabtree has to play better, Morgan needs to be involved more, the offensive line needs to block better, running plays can't be so predictable, the secondary has to step it up, and the 49ers need to find a pass rusher or two otherwise teams are going to burn the 49ers secondary for huge chunks of yards.