NFC West: Seahawks-49ers

Seahawks' defense without top tackle

September, 20, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane's calf injury will prevent him from playing against the 49ers, a significant loss for the Seahawks.

Seattle has good depth on its defensive line. Tackle Red Bryant, a good player, wasn't even active for Week 1. Bryant is active for this game at Candlestick Park.

Inactive for Seattle: Travis Fisher, Leroy Hill, Chris Spencer, Walter Jones, Deion Branch, Mebane and Michael Bennett. There was an extremely slim chance Jones was going to return for this game. I would have been quite surprised, however. Mike Teel is the third quarterback for the Seahawks.

Inactive for the 49ers: Marcus Hudson, Cody Wallace, Brandon Jones, Ricky Jean-Francois, Jason Hill, Ahmad Brooks and Curtis Taylor.

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- A couple of NFC West-related thoughts while the 49ers and Seahawks warm up at Candlestick Park:
  • Calais Campbell steps up. The second-year defensive end is making the Cardinals look smart for letting Antonio Smith leave in free agency. He's been solid on defense and his blocked field goal set up Antrel Rolle's long touchdown return. The Cardinals' offense is still finding its way, but the defense is playing at a high level and Campbell is making an impact wherever the Cardinals use him.
  • Beanie dropping the ball. Beanie Wells' two fumbles have prevented the Cardinals from putting away the Jaguars. Wells looks very good as a runner. He's not going to look as good standing on the sideline. That's where he'll be in crucial situations if he doesn't do a better job holding onto the football.
  • Jackson breaks out. Steven Jackson's 58-yard run against the Redskins marks the first signs of life on offense for the Rams. Marc Bulger followed it with a 2-yard scoring pass to Laurent Robinson for a 7-6 Rams lead at Washington. Getting a road win -- or any kind of win -- early in the season would be huge for the Rams after what happened in Week 1. The Rams were competitive at Seattle and the score was close into the third quarter. Can they finish what they've started at Washington?
If the Rams and Cardinals win on the East Coast, does this make the NFC West a little more respectable? I think so.

On the air: Seahawks in Week 2

September, 15, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick get the call for Fox when the Seahawks visit the 49ers in Week 2. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT.
Week Team Opp. Network Crew Crew Rank
1 SEA STL Fox Ron Pitts, John Lynch, Rob Desir 6 of 7
2 SEA SF Fox Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick
4 of 7

CBS has eight crews. Fox has seven. The networks rank their crews, with higher-ranked ones drawing more attractive assignments such as Super Bowls, playoff games and marquee matchups.

Earlier: Seahawks in 2008.

On the air: 49ers in Week 2

September, 15, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick get the call for Fox when the 49ers play their home opener Sunday against Seattle. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT.
Week Team Opp. Network Crew Crew Rank
1 SF ARI Fox Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Nischelle Turner
5 of 7
2 SF SEA Fox Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick
4 of 7

CBS has eight crews. Fox has seven. The networks rank their crews, with higher-ranked ones drawing more attractive assignments such as Super Bowls, playoff games and marquee matchups.

Also: 49ers in 2008.

Personnel reports: NFC West revisited

November, 1, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Generally I'll break down personnel use for one or two NFC West offenses in a given week. I managed to get to all four in Week 8. Those are available for download:

It's a lot to digest, but the download numbers suggest Seahawks and 49ers fans are pretty excited about this stuff. Cardinals and Rams fans have been a little hit-and-miss, but we'll keep working on them. The ones we've found are passionate.

NFL fines 49ers' Davis, Gore and more

October, 31, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

The league has handed down numerous fines for players' actions in Week 8 games. Here are a few pertaining to games involving NFC West teams:

The fines against Smith and Green-Ellis did not draw penalties during the games. In other fine-related news, the league docked Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber for a horse-collar tackle. That one cost $7,500. I confirmed these fines with NFL officials.

Personnel report: 49ers in Week 8

October, 30, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Moving right along, let's dive into the long-promised personnel evaluation from the 49ers' game against the Seahawks in Week 8.

We'll be watching closely to see how the offense changes now that Mike Singletary has taken over as head coach and shown no hesitation in asserting power over the offense, starting with the quarterback change to Shaun Hill.

Singletary wants a more conservative approach on offense. We started to see this, perhaps, in the third quarter of the game against Seattle. I'll isolate second-down plays as an example:

  • Through the first half Sunday, the 49ers had thrown the ball 68.5 percent of the time (50 of 73) on second down when they needed between 6 and 10 yards for a first down.
  • In the third quarter, the 49ers ran the ball three times on their first four second-down plays when they needed 6 to 10 yards for a first down.

The change doesn't represent anything earth-shattering given the small sample size, but I would expect the 49ers' offense to reflect Singletary's priorities as the season progresses.

The 49ers' offensive personnel changed along predictable lines as the Seattle game progressed. San Francisco tried to establish its one-back, two-tight end offense on first down early in the game. It didn't work.

Overall, the 49ers averaged 3.7 yards per play on first down through the first three quarters. They averaged 11.5 yards per play on first down in the fourth quarter. This included a couple of cheap completions totaling 44 yards on the final two plays.

The pass protection and pass-protection tactics seemed confounding. We saw the 49ers putting two tight ends on the left side, leaving third-string right tackle Adam Snyder to block Pro Bowl pass rusher Patrick Kerney without help. The results were predictable.

For that and much more, download a copy of my personnel breakdown for the 49ers in this game. I color-coded personnel groups on the play-by-play sheet for easier identification. I'm determined to take a hard look at the Rams before the week is out.

Personnel report: Seahawks improve

October, 29, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Seahawks are a different team now that Mike Holmgren has decided to open up the offense after shutting it down in previous games.

We're still seeing a lack of efficiency in the passing game, but I also saw signs of life after taking a hard look at the offense against San Francisco in Week 8. The 49ers aren't the best defense, obviously, but we did see progress from Seattle.

First I'll pass along the familiar Excel file showing Seattle's production across personnel groups, preceded by a play-by-play sheet sortable by quarter, drive, down, distance, yard line, personnel grouping, play type, ball carrier, yards gained and more.

(Read full post)

Conflicting priorities defining 49ers

October, 29, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

The 49ers lack a coherent identity on either side of the ball and the reasons are obvious, particularly on offense. That was the overriding feeling I had breaking down 127 plays from the Seahawks' victory over San Francisco in Week 8.

The 49ers built their offense with a power running game in mind. That's why the hiring of Mike Martz as coordinator came as a surprise. The move made sense on one level; the 49ers needed a strong offensive leader to provide credibility on that side of the ball after a disastrous 2007 season. The move raised questions for the longer term because the 49ers lacked personnel suited for a Martz offense. This is now the longer term.

We have interim coach Mike Singletary benching Martz's preferred quarterback, J.T. O'Sullivan, while scaling back what Martz wants to do in the passing game. Against Seattle, we still saw Martz running his offense in the face of obvious personnel deficiencies, more than once leaving third-string right tackle Adam Snyder to block Seattle's Patrick Kerney without help.

The 49ers' offensive line is simply not suited to protect the passer for extended periods of times. Snyder and right guard Tony Wragge both tried to hold Seattle's Rocky Bernard after Bernard beat Wragge off the line on a third-and-2 play in the fourth quarter. Bernard beat them anyway, sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble.

I'll have full personnel breakdowns for both offenses from this game as the day progresses. First I need to write a column as part of a package we have planned for the near future.

Around the NFC West: Seahawks revival

October, 27, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seattle fullback Leonard Weaver's two long touchdown receptions surprised everyone, even Weaver. The Seahawks, second in the NFC West despite a 2-5 record, play three of their next four games at home.

Also from Farnsworth: Seattle lost middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to another injury. Patrick Kerney is also hurting.

Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson will hear about getting caught from behind by 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, even though Wilson managed to score on his interception return. Wilson talked about Davis having the right angle, but the video showed Davis reeling in Wilson at an astounding rate.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks made their quarterback sacks count more this time than during a home loss to the 49ers earlier this season.

Also from Hughes: The Seahawks made the 49ers pay for aggressive tactics before halftime, with Wilson's long return changing the game.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at Weaver's big day. Teammate Justin Forsett even predicted the resulting headlines.

Also from Boling: The Seahawks' victory allows fans to at least dream about a possible resurgence in the NFC West if a few things go Seattle's way.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times quotes Mike Holmgren as saying the Seahawks' defense played much better against the 49ers this time.

Also from Romero: Weaver was dressed for success, down to his shiny white dress shoes.

More from Romero: A 2-minute drill identifying Leroy Hill as the Seahawks' leading tackler after adding 12 more against the 49ers.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks saw a "Church Van" -- their nickname for the religious Weaver -- on the loose at Candlestick Park. Also, the offense responded to a show of confidence from Holmgren.

Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks went from last place to controlling their own destiny in the division.

Also from Johnson: Weaver says he nearly cried after hearing fans chant his name at Candlestick Park.

Chris Sullivan of Seahawks Addicts admits he's being optimistic when he envisions a potential 8-8 finish and division title for the Seahawks. One potential sticking point: The team would need to sweep Arizona.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat describes Mike Singletary's postgame rant as "blistering" after the interim coach called out Vernon Davis, questioned the quarterback and apologized for the team's performance.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are destined for another sub-.500 season.

More from Maiocco: Singletary benched J.T. O'Sullivan only days after offensive coordinator Mike Martz showed "unwavering" support for the quarterback.

Mike Silver of says veteran players seem to like the way Singletary cracked down on Davis and called out "cancers" in the locker room. I didn't see this link initially but have added it. Good stuff here. Also from Peter King, who liked Singletary's postgame tack.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the decision to bench O'Sullivan proved the 49ers had a new leader on the sideline. Cohn:

"Martz is the guy who, a few days before when asked if JTO would continue at quarterback, had declared, 'I'll just lay it out there for you real quick, and then really it's not an issue at all. J.T. is our quarterback.' On the sideline, Singletary laid it out there for Martz real quick -- O'Sullivan was not the quarterback, at least not for the rest of the game."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary lost his first game but won his first postgame news conference.

Also from Barrows: A look at Davis' benching and a matchup between two former Sacramento-area high school quarterbacks (O'Sullivan and Seneca Wallace).

More from Barrows: Shaun Hill plays things safer than O'Sullivan, settling for checkdowns instead of always going for the big play.

Paul Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee invokes the Super Bowl Shuffle video in noting that "Samurai Mike" Singletary stopped 'em cold.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' first game under Singletary was uneventful except for three things: "the quarterback controversy, an insubordinate player and a performance so ghastly that it required an apology."

Also from Brown: A report card with a "D" for coaching.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers need to bench Jed York and the ownership group.

John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News says Mike Nolan had to console York when the coach lost his job last week. Ryan: "Nobody wants to say that in the moment when he took control of the franchise, Jed York broke down and had to be bailed out by his general manager."

Monte Poole of the Oakland Tribune says Singletary showed the fury of a player during his postgame news conference.

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle calls Singletary a "bouncer" instead of a head coach.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says Davis wasn't sure what he did wrong in drawing the ejection from Singletary.

Also from FitzGerald: The 49ers allowed 30 points or more for the fifth time in eight games.

John Crumpacker and Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle break down a growing list of injuries, including the loss of right tackle Barry Sims.

Also from Knapp: Singletary prefers a game manager to a gunslinger at quarterback.

Was Singletary's rant appropriate?

October, 26, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Mike Singletary didn't sound like an NFL head coach during his rambling postgame address to reporters following the 49ers' 34-13 loss in his first game. If you haven't seen it yet, do not worry. Just turn on the TV or check out highlights on

We kept hearing before the game how Singletary had learned so much from the great Bill Walsh. When Singeltary spoke after the game, I kept flashing back to those Saturday Night Live skits with Chris Farley playing the role of motivational speaker Matt Foley. Singletary stopped short of ordering tight end Vernon Davis to live in a van down by the river, but not by much.

The 49ers have a bye this week. That's probably a good thing for Singletary. He might want to reconsider the best way to project himself following losses. Singletary is emotional. He is passionate. His motives are obviously pure. He needs to be himself, but emptying his heart at the postgame podium isn't going to work every week. Agreed?

Posted by's Mike Sando

Interim 49ers coach Mike Singletary took an important stand when he benched tight end Vernon Davis and sent the 2006 first-round draft choice to the locker room.

A lack of discipline has marked Davis throughout his career. Davis drops passes, runs incorrect routes and talks a bigger game than he plays.

Singletary built his Hall of Fame playing career on highly focused, disciplined play. When Davis drew a 15-yard penalty for slapping a Seahawks defender on the helmet following a reception, Singletary made his move.

He sent Davis to the bench and then to the locker room with a full quarter remaining.

Giving the boot to Davis isn't going to fix the 49ers' problems. But in doing so, Singletary sent a strong message to the team. Singletary now has the bye week to drive home that message. Players had better do things the right way, or else.

Update: Here is what Singletary said about the situation after the game, according to the 49ers' Web site:

"It's something I told players at the beginning of the week. I will not tolerate players who think it is about them and not the team. We can't make decisions that cost the team, and then come off the sidelines and it's nonchalant. I'd rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else. Rather than play with 11, when I know that right now, that person is not sold out to be part of the team. It's more about them, than it is the team. You can not play with them. You can not win with them. You can not coach with them, can't do it. I want winners. I want people who want to win."

Singletary also said he made the call on benching quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan.

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 34, 49ers 13

October, 26, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

The 49ers might be just getting started under interim coach Mike Singletary, but they appear finished after losing at home in embarrassing fashion.

The team is running out of options after firing coach Mike Nolan during the week and benching quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan during the game Sunday.

Perhaps quarterback Shaun Hill can deliver more fundamentally sound play to an offense that badly needs to cut down on turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks' search for viable receivers took them to an unlikely place: Their backfield. Fullback Leonard Weaver caught four passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. His big plays, plus an interception return for a touchdown from cornerback Josh Wilson, compensated for a running game that went nowhere.

The Seahawks remain only two games behind division leader Arizona, but the Cardinals are playing at another level entirely.

Niners bench struggling O'Sullivan

October, 26, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Shaun Hill is working at quarterback for the 49ers after Seahawks defensive back Josh Wilson picked off J.T. O'Sullivan and returned the ball for a touchdown.

I'll be interested in seeing how the 49ers explain the move. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz had been adamant about sticking with O'Sullivan earlier in the season. Was Martz behind the decision Sunday? Or did new interim coach Mike Singletary make the call?

Seattle is running away with this game so far, leading 20-3.