By Sam McPherson
The final score made the game look a lot closer than it was, as the San Francisco 49ers dropped to 1-10 this season with a 24-13 loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw a touchdown pass on the final play of the game to make that score seem respectable, but the Seahawks dominated most of this game with relative ease as they improved to 7-4 on the year.
Starting QB C.J. Beathard was mediocre again leading the offense, which couldn’t find the end zone until that final play of the game, while the defense played well enough at times to hold the Seattle offense mostly in check. However, as in many games this season, the longer the 49ers defense is on the field, the harder it is for the unit to stop the other team from scoring.
Beathard needed 38 passing attempts to gain just 201 yards, and he also threw an interception. His inability to move the ball consistently downfield through the air enables defenses to stack the box and stop the run. Running back Carlos Hyde gained just 47 yards in 16 carries, and overall, the 49ers running game earned just 3.5 yards per carry. With Beathard at the helm, the offense converted just four of 15 third-down opportunities.
Garoppolo’s team debut came late, but it will spark a controversy. He threw two passes, completed them both and got the 49ers into the end zone finally at the end, running the offense for a few plays both efficiently and effectively—although the Seahawks defense certainly was on cruise control at that point with an 18-point lead. Stay tuned on this one, but there will be a lot of calls for Garoppolo to start next week in Chicago.
Safety Eric Reid intercepted Seattle QB Russell Wilson on the first play of the game, and then it was mostly downhill from there. The 49ers defense did a great job on the Seahawks running attack, holding it to 90 yards on 30 carries, but Wilson ended up making too many big plays while the S.F. offense put its defense in tough positions too regularly as well.
Seattle’s first score came on a 16-yard TD drive after Beathard’s interception, and a fourth-quarter field goal for the Seahawks came on a short drive, too. In between, though, the 49ers defense allowed two long TD drives to Seattle, and those were back-breaking moments which put the game way out of reach by the fourth quarter. Overall, the Seahawks gained just 318 yards, but they averaged 5.0 yards per play in the process.
Special Teams: B+
This was the kind of a game where a big kick return or a kick coverage turnover would have really helped. It didn’t happen. Punter Bradley Pinion punted nine times, placing four kicks inside the Seattle 20-yard line. Placekicker Robbie Gould made both his FG attempts and the one extra point at the end of the game. Trent Taylor’s 18-yard punt return was a nice moment, but there needed to be more moments like it.
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan clearly has faith in Beathard, even though the rookie QB isn’t rewarding that faith on the field. Even though it was a garbage-time score for San Francisco, Garoppolo looked like a season professional in comparison to Beathard. This begs the question as to why Garoppolo didn’t start the game, because he might be a better option for the 49ers offense in terms of opening up the playbook and giving the running game some room to operate. For what it’s worth, the last-play TD was the only touchdown San Francisco scored this season against the Seahawks in two games. The San Francisco organization gave up a near-premiuim draft pick for Garoppolo, so the team needs to start using him on the field to see what it has in preparation for 2018.
Up Next: Chicago Bears
With a 3-8 record and their own rookie QB—Mitchell Trubisky—at the helm, the Bears are rebuilding. Chicago lost to Philadelphia on Sunday, 31-3, and the Bears have lost four in a row now. Somehow, though, Chicago’s three wins have come against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Carolina. Those three teams can make the postseason this year, so the Bears have been able to surprise opponents here and there. The 49ers aren’t making the playoffs this year, of course, so perhaps the wins don’t matter anywhere but in the locker room; yet, this is a game that S.F. can win, and Garoppolo might be the QB to get it done for the 49ers next Sunday.