Posted: 12:27 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, 2013
By David Fucillo
It was an ugly night in Seattle Sunday evening, as the Seahawks dominated the 49ers in the second half en route to a 29-3 victory. There was not a lot of good to take from the game, but I figured I would try a new day-after feature we'll call "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly". This will come before any All-22 viewing, but after having a chance to cool down from the game.
There was plenty of ugly on Sunday, but as with most any game there will almost always be some silver lining. And just the same, in most wins, there will be areas for improvement.
First half defense: The 49ers defense ran out of gas, and discipline, in the second half, but the first half saw the 49ers defense taking care of business. When you trail 5-0 and Russell Wilson was 0 for his first 6 with an interception and a sack, that's a pretty solid start. The 49ers got pressure on Wilson early, even before Russell Okung departed the game.
The defense showed serious holes in the second half, but we'll get into that a little later.
Donte Whitner: I wanted to point out Whitner for his play much of the game. He could not keep up with Doug Baldwin on a 51-yard completion, but other than that, he actually had a fairly solid day in coverage. Whitner was a liability in coverage last year, but I would dare to say he has improved this year. He still struggles at times, but he has improved since last year. Part of that could be due to Eric Reid's presence, but all in all, Donte Whitner has done more good than bad. That is not exactly an inspiring vote of confidence, but given what we saw last year, it is worth a note.
Aldon Smith...sort of: He had one of the knucklehead plays of the game with his personal foul, but his performance otherwise was very strong. He did generally solid work against the run, and his pass rushing netted him two sacks and four hurries. But don't worry, we'll discuss him in The Ugly as well.
Phil Dawson: He made his field goal. HUZZAH!
Run defense: Well, hello there "a little later." The 49ers actually held Marshawn Lynch under 100 yards, as Lynch averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. That being said, Lynch gashed the defense in the second half, and part of it seemed to be due to game planning as much as anything. There seemed to be too many situations where the defense dropped a pair of safeties back, even when the Seahawks were getting close to the 49ers end zone. That might have something to do with the occasional struggles in play action (more to come!)
Offensive line: It was not a good day. Colin Kaepernick struggled at times to recognize his internal clock, but the offensive line did not help. Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati struggled in particular. It felt like the pocket was frequently collapsing quickly on Kap.
Colin Kaepernick: He had some positives, but overall, this was an ugly performance. The team went to the read option much more than last week, and Kap was able to pick up some big yards. The problems came in the passing game. While the offensive line struggled in pass protection, Kap's second quarter fumble seemed to be on him more than the line. The more disconcerting display was his accuracy. Kap was low or high on quite a few throws, lacking the touch we saw last week and in the preseason.
Play action/coverage: Although it wasn't an ideal performance, the 49ers could have done a lot worse against the run. The bigger problem came on play action. The 49ers had numerous situations where a receiver got into a huge hole in coverage. The 49ers would close in on forcing a punt, and then proceed to give up a 20+ yard play as a receiver or Lynch found a wide open spot. Few things frustrate me more...
Penalties: ...except this. The penalties were insane. The 49ers were handed 12 penalties in a game that saw the officials whistling like crazy, and still managing to miss a lot of penalties on both sides of the ball. The most frustrating instances of penalties though came when Ahmad Brooks grabbed Russell Wilson's facemask, Aldon Smith pushed one of the Seahawks, and Vance McDonald got in his own personal foul.
The Brooks and Smith fouls were particularly galling. In both instances the 49ers were close to holding the Seahawks to field goals. Instead, the Seahawks got a fresh set of downs in each situation, and scored a touchdown each time. The 49ers offense might have been able to do anything with eight fewer points on the board, but you just cannot shoot yourself in the foot over and over again. It's bad enough at home, but when this happens on the road, particularly in Seattle, you might as well be playing with one hand tied behind your back.
Wide receivers: We'll need All-22 to get a better idea of this, but from what we saw, the Seahawks secondary locked down the receivers. There were some instances on replay where it was clear a receiver had gotten open and Kap simply missed them. But there were too many instances where the 49ers receivers could not disengage from the Seahawks receivers. The coaching staff could have made some adjustments in how they grouped their wide receivers, and how they moved them around, but we simply did not see that.
Running backs: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon combined for 13 yards on 11 carries. Gore gets credit for some great blocking, but was unable to make anything happen. I think part of the blame rests with the coaching staff, but Gore is not making things happen like we've seen in the past. I don't think it's time to stick a fork in him, but through two games, it is concerning. User CK had a very interesting comment in our snap count thread:
It looks to me like we are caught in between schemes in the run game
The run game with Alex under center relied on different blocking schemes and different plays than when Kaep was under center. With Kaep we now are heavily relying on pistol sets and read option looks and we are not seeing the same amount of traps, whams, counters, etc that we used to see. Our O-line was really good at those, and that's where they made their reputation.
Our O-Line did very well in the R/O game last year too, but now teams are defending it differently. So we need to figure out some other misdirection running plays that take advantage of the way teams are playing our R/O looks, or else get Kaep under center more and go back to our original bread and butter. Probably a combination of both.
Coaching Staff: Did they actually watch the Panthers-Seahawks film? I'm sure they did, but it seemed like they ignored the value of running on the edges. The offense gets its share of blame for not executing, but the 49ers did not seem to have any idea how to counter what the Seahawks defense threw at them. This was most prominent with the 49ers wide receivers.
Injuries: Been there, done that.