NFC West: Seahawks-49ers 092009


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The NFL has levied a $5,000 fine against 49ers cornerback Nate Clements for unnecessary roughness against the Seahawks in Week 2.

Clements' spectacular hit on Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu during a punt return late in the first quarter drew a 15-yard penalty, which was declined. A penalty for an illegal block in the back against Glen Coffee nullified what otherwise would have been a 75-yard return for the 49ers' Allen Rossum.

Obomanu was running full speed when Clements hit him high from the side, sending Obomanu into the air and onto his back.

For Seattle, two tight ends were too many

September, 24, 2009
9/24/09
7:15
PM ET

Seattle Personnel Use in Week 2, minus QB sacks/scrambles
Carries Yards Per Carry
Pass Attempts
Yards Per Attempt
0 TE
1 8.0 1 0.0
1 TE
11 3.9 33 6.6
2 TE
5 1.0 7 0.9
Totals 17 3.3 41 5.5

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Those watching the 49ers defeat the Seahawks in Week 2 might have noticed Seattle tight end John Owens dropping passes on first-half drives that later stalled. I counted four drops on the Seahawks' first 12 pass plays, including two by Owens.

Why would the Seahawks be targeting Owens, a blocker by reputation, when they have so many other superior options? The 49ers' defense forced some of the decision making, but I also think the Seahawks could have better options at receiver once Deion Branch returns from injury in Week 3.

The chart shows what I noticed when analyzing the Seahawks' production across personnel groups. The team was less productive rushing and passing when Owens joined John Carlson as part of the team's packages with two tight ends. That's not solely a reflection of Owens or the personnel grouping -- down and distances matter, too -- but the Seahawks might be better off working Branch into the offense at the expense of the second tight end.

Seattle used two tight ends about a third of the time on its first 25 snaps and about half the time on its first dozen plays of the second half. The team was in hurry-up mode with one back, three wide receivers and one tight end the rest of the time.
  • For download: This file shows the Seahawks' offensive production across personnel groups in Week 2, with a play-by-play notes on a separate sheet. I do not count aborted plays. Quarterback scrambles do not count in my rushing stats.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The Wall of Fame is nearly quadrupling in size after 14 people picked NFC West scores and outcomes exactly for Week 2.

This is our second season running the contest and the first time we've added more than two people in a week.

Great, great work.

Eleven people predicted the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars. That is a common final score, but as a coach might say if this were a game, "I'm not taking anything away from RiWeagley, noahhasabs, RedRumRBS, kstaub869, Primeau1203, ballsthompson, alvaden, Seahawks Ya Dig, SeahawkBell, Jeremy-Clark and brobbb91. They picked the score correctly and we'll add their names to the Wall."

Three others predicted the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks: John510asb, RVAninersFAN, ttmoney.

The updated and significantly expanded Wall of Fame now features:
  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12 (2008).
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12 (2008).
  • habitat730. Forecast the Cardinals' 34-10 victory over the Rams in Week 14 (2008).
  • IamJonasJones. Forecast the Cardinals' 30-24 victory over the Falcons in a wild-card playoff game (2008 postseason).
  • JohnnyBloodletter. Forecast the 49ers' 20-16 victory over the Cardinals in Week 1 (2009).
  • RiWeagley. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • noahhasabs. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • RedRumRBS. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • kstaub869. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • Primeau1203. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • ballsthompson. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • alvaden. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • Seahawks Ya Dig. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • SeahawkBell. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • Jeremy-Clark. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • brobbb91. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • John510asb. Forecast the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2 (2009).
  • RVAninersFAN. Forecast the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2 (2009).
  • ttmoney. Forecast the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2 (2009).
The fine print: Those submitting predictions for "You called it" must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

We'll begin taking predictions for Week 3 later in the week.

49ers' Gore wins weekly NFC honor

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
6:33
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The NFL has chosen 49ers running back Frank Gore as offensive player of the week for the NFC.

Kurt Warner also would have made a strong candidate after setting an NFL single-game record for completion percentage. But Gore's 79- and 80-yard touchdown runs to beat a division opponent helped make him the choice.

Gore finished with 16 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns.

Earlier: a closer look at Gore's 80-yard touchdown run to open the second half.

Gore's 80-yard run in 10 quick steps

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
4:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Ten things I noticed upon watching Frank Gore's 80-yard touchdown run to open the second half against Seattle in Week 2:
  • Seattle had nine defenders crowding the line of scrimmage: Kelly Jennings, Lawrence Jackson, Craig Terrill, Colin Cole, Patrick Kerney, Aaron Curry, Deon Grant, Will Herring and David Hawthorne.
  • Receiver Josh Morgan motioned to his right from the left slot, moving across the formation before reversing course and setting up behind left tackle Joe Staley. Morgan's movement drew Curry toward the formation. At the snap, Morgan sealed Curry and then held him. Curry wasn't going to catch Gore anyway.
  • Staley's block on Hawthorne made a loud pop audible on the broadcast.
  • Kerney ran himself right out of the play. He was 2 yards deep in the backfield and past Gore by the time he realized what was happening.
  • Fullback Moran Norris led to the offensive right side, blasting Grant near the line of scrimmage. The defense flowed that way and the 49ers' linemen pushed them that way, but Gore cut left immediately after taking the handoff.
  • With nose tackle Colin Cole already moving to his left, away from Gore, left guard David Baas appeared happy to shove him further out of the play.
  • Linebacker Will Herring rushed toward right guard Chilo Rachal. Center Eric Heitmann plowed Herring out of the way.
  • Safety Jordan Babineaux took an impossible angle and Gore was into the secondary too fast for Babineaux to recover. Being the last line of defense against Gore isn't a good position for anyone.
  • With receiver Isaac Bruce sealing cornerback Ken Lucas on the outside, Gore was in the clear quickly.
  • Vernon Davis, a 250-pound tight end, kept pace with Jennings, a 180-pound cornerback, in a footrace toward the goal line. Davis indeed has sensational speed.

There didn't appear to be anything fancy about the play. The 49ers ran from an offset-I formation out of their base offense. Once Gore builds up momentum through the secondary, good luck to the safety trying to stop him one-on-one.

Silver linings: Seahawks at 49ers

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
10:56
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The facts: The Seahawks fell to 1-1 with a 23-10 defeat to the 49ers at Candlestick Park in Week 2.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Justin Forsett again appeared comfortable as the lone back in the three-receiver offense, finishing with five carries for 35 yards and six receptions for 57 yards. He remains a situational player, but not a bit player.
  • The Seahawks held the 49ers to 7.6 yards per reception and a long pass of 17 yards.
  • Seattle's pass protection held up better than expected under the circumstances, even when third-stringer Brandon Frye took over at left tackle. The Seahawks have become more effective functioning on the offensive line without starters.
  • Lawrence Jackson had two more sacks and nearly had more, giving him three this season. He is improving.
  • Rookie Deon Butler showed more signs he could become a good player with a 15-yard reception.
  • Seneca Wallace generally played well after replacing Matt Hasselbeck.
  • Initial medical reports suggest Hasselbeck escaped serious injury.
  • It's a long season and Seattle isn't the only team searching for answers after a tough loss. The Patriots, Packers, Titans and others can relate.
Looking ahead: The Seahawks return home to face the Bears in Week 3.

Around the NFC West: Gore dominates

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
8:42
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' offensive line responded to Mike Singletary's criticism. Frank Gore: "I've got to give props to my offensive line. They did a great job. I'm proud of those guys. Coach Singletary really put pressure on them all week."

Also from Crumpacker: Singletary isn't going to let the 49ers get carried away after two victories.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' defense has "eviscerated" what should be the two best offenses in the NFC West. Ratto: "As of this moment, the 49ers' defense has allowed two touchdowns and four field goals in two games and 26 possessions, and though there are mitigating circumstances in both examples (neither Arizona nor Seattle can run the ball worth a damn, and Seattle was missing 10 starters by game's end Sunday), this is still a scoreboard league. You win, you talk."

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle provides examples of Gore's conscientiousness. Knapp: "Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye heard a very different running back on the phone a week ago, waking him at 2 a.m. Gore couldn't get over the feeling of repeatedly being driven backward by the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener, of slamming his body into a wall of futility, gaining 30 yards on 22 carries." Raye: "He just wanted someone to hug, rub and lie to him."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com provides an overview of the 49ers' victory against Seattle. Shaun Hill on Gore: "I don’t think I've ever seen anything like that. Frank was running away from people. That guy ... he’s impressive."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat provides a player-by-player look at the 49ers in Week 2. On cornerback Shawntae Spencer: "Was all over fade route to [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh on third-down pass in end zone to force a Seattle FG; did another good job on Housh on another deep route later in game."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are not satisfied.

More from Maiocco: Patrick Willis defends his hit on Matt Hasselbeck.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Gore looked like he did in 2006. Barrows: "The two linemen who struggled the most in that game were left guard David Baas and right tackle Adam Snyder. In fact, Snyder platooned with newly signed Tony Pashos at right tackle throughout Sunday's game. It was Snyder, however, who was on the field for Gore's long runs. On the first, he sealed off the edge while Baas pulled on the play and delivered the block that sprang Gore. That play was a favorite in 2006 when Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator."

Also from Barrows: Jerry Rice offers says Michael Crabtree is hurting himself.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News puts Gore's performance in perspective: "He joined Barry Sanders as the only NFL running back with two touchdown runs of at least 75 yards in the same game. (Sanders went 80 and 82 yards for Detroit against Tampa Bay in 1997."

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News lists similarities -- and big differences -- between these 2-0 49ers and the successful teams of the past.

Cam Inman of the Contra Costa Times says the 49ers have moved on without Crabtree. Inman: "Crabtree is missing the start of something special. Pity the poor fool? Nope. He could be here. He could be a rich fool. He's not. He's Ferris Bueller, cavorting elsewhere while school is in session."

49ers make statement against Seahawks

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
9:03
PM ET
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left the game after a hit from the 49ers' Patrick Willis.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


SAN FRANCISCO -- The progress coach Mike Singletary and the San Francisco 49ers have made since their previous home game against the Seattle Seahawks shined through in so many ways Sunday.

Nowhere did it shine through brighter than on the scoreboard, but the significance of this 23-10 mauling went beyond the NFC West standings.

"I'm very thankful for coming out of the game and doing a decent job," Singletary said.

Decent?

In less than 11 months the 49ers have gone from borderline indecent, with Singletary pulling down his pants in the locker room midway through a 34-13 loss to the Seahawks, to whipping the britches off Seattle and finding fault in the execution.

"We have to do a better job than we did today," Singletary said. "They hung in there and they believed, but we just left too much on the table. We just have to finish."

X-rays and MRIs could determine whether the 49ers effectively finished the Seahawks.
Week 2 Coverage
" Seifert: Favre managing the game
" Kuharsky: Dissecting Houston's win
" Mosley: Giants ruin Cowboys' party
" Graham: Jets follow through on talk
" Walker: Bengals take 'leap' forward
" Yasinskas: Carolina's D the problem
" Pasquarelli: Falcons' Ryan proving worth
" Williamson: Magic runs out for Chargers
" Sando: 49ers make statement
" Wojciechowski: Cutler redeems himself
" Chadiha: Saints still working out bugs

Seattle has complained about bad luck with injuries recently, but it's not luck when the other team causes some of those injuries. That was certainly what happened when 49ers enforcer Patrick Willis blasted Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the ribs during a gutsy and fateful scramble right before halftime.

Hasselbeck got up, walked back toward the sideline, motioned for backup Seneca Wallace, then staggered and swayed as trainers rushed to his side. He did not return. X-rays on his injured ribs were negative, the team said, and a CT scan was inconclusive, although coach Jim Mora said he was optimistic.

For Willis, it was just another example of his physical dominance.

"At the end of the day, you want to do what is right for your team to win and [Hasselbeck] took a chance," Willis said. "He laid it out there for his team."

The Seahawks also lost left tackle Sean Locklear, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and cornerback Josh Wilson to injuries Sunday. Locklear was limping through the locker room after the game with a boot on his right lower leg, his prognosis uncertain.

Seattle was already without left tackle Walter Jones, receiver Deion Branch, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, center Chris Spencer, linebacker Leroy Hill and cornerback Marcus Trufant. An injury also forced projected starting left guard Mike Wahle into retirement last month.

That's as many as 11 starters gone barely two weeks into the season. Games against the Bears, Colts, Jaguars and Cardinals separate Seattle from its Week 7 bye.

"It's a little overwhelming to try to overcome 10 starters out and we weren't able to get that done," Mora said. "I certainly don't want that to sound as an excuse. … We'll come back with resolve and play better next week."

The 49ers and Cardinals must like their chances within the division. Injured ribs can take weeks or months to heal. Hasselbeck will be playing through pain when he does return. If he cannot move well or put in the work needed to maintain his core muscles, might he become more vulnerable to aggravating old back injuries?

"He's doing much better," Mora said. "He's feeling much more comfortable. … We'll keep our fingers crossed."

With Hasselbeck and the Seahawks ailing, the 49ers almost perfectly followed the blueprint Singletary laid out for them from the beginning. I singled out six benchmarks:
  • Power running game. Frank Gore popped through repeated eight-man fronts and into the clear, setting career highs with 79- and 80-yard touchdown runs on his way to 207 yards rushing. Gore has two career 200-yard games, both against the Seahawks. The 49ers have built their offense around him and this was precisely what they wanted to see.
  • Efficient, mistake-free quarterbacking. Shaun Hill improved to 9-3 as the 49ers' starter. He finished with an 86.1 rating and no turnovers.
  • Physical play at linebacker. Willis set the tone on defense with his crushing hit on Hasselbeck.
  • Big plays at safety. The 49ers replaced Mark Roman with Dashon Goldson because they thought Goldson could provide needed playmaking. Goldson made an excellent play to pick off a pass. He appears to have the potential to become a very good player.
  • Downfield plays from the tight end. Vernon Davis was not perfect, but he caught passes for 15 and 17 yards. He kept his composure, again, which was important.
  • Aggressive play at corner. Nate Clements and Dre Bly in particular seemed to relish batting away passes. The 49ers' cornerbacks won at the ball repeatedly and let the Seahawks know about it. Hasselbeck was right when he called Bly perfectly suited for the nickel role.

The 49ers have much room for improvement. Singletary was right about that. Their problems at right tackle are exposing Hill to punishment. Their offensive line in general still has limitations. Opponents will play far better run defense than Seattle managed in this game. On defense, the 49ers' pass rush should have been more effective against an offensive line playing its third-string left tackle.

But the big-picture view shows the 49ers with a 2-0 record overall and in the division. They have won six of their last seven regular-season games under Singletary. They are tough and physical, just as Singletary has commanded them to be. They hit the Seahawks in the mouth and a lot of other places.

All things considered, they are pretty decent right now.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


SAN FRANCISCO -- Patrick Willis defended his hit on Matt Hasselbeck as clean and within the rules.

"I just know it wasn't an illegal hit," Willis said. "I didn't take my helmet and spear him right in his back. It was shoulder pads. I knew he was hurting a little bit as well, but I don't know what is the deal. I hope he is OK."

I pass that along because some have suggested in the comments that Willis took a cheap shot at Hasselbeck. I need to see a better replay to know for sure.

Hasselbeck doubtful with rib injury

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
5:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Hasselbeck's return is doubtful, the Seahawks announced. The quarterback sustained a "rib injury" when Patrick Willis hammered him near the goal line.

On a side note, my wife is looking smart for starting Frank Gore in the NFC West Gridiron Challenge. He just broke off an 80-yard touchdown run. He has 79- and 80-yard scoring runs as the 49ers have taken a 20-10 lead. This is the second 200-yard game of his career, both against the Seahawks.

49ers' Willis puts KO shot on Hasselbeck

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
5:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


SAN FRANCISCO -- Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck is paying for his competitive nature after 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis drilled him in the back on a run toward the end zone.

Hasselbeck got up, walked toward the sideline and signaled that he would need a replacement. Hasselbeck's legs then went rubbery and he staggered before trainers caught him. He just got up and is walking after being down for a couple of minutes.

Seneca Wallace is in the game with 26 seconds left in the first half. He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Julius Jones on his first play. Wallace's mobility is an asset. His presence in the game changes strategy for both teams. Look for some bootlegs.

49ers, Seahawks digging deep at tackle

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
5:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


SAN FRANCISCO -- The Seahawks are down to their third-string left tackle after an ankle injury knocked out Sean Locklear for the rest of the game.

The 49ers won't be sending a sympathy card. San Francisco is down to its third option at right tackle after Marvel Smith retired and the team benched a struggling Adam Snyder in the first half of this game. Newcomer Tony Pashos has already allowed a sack at right tackle for the 49ers.

The Seahawks expect Walter Jones to return in Week 3. I'd be impressed if they could get through this game and win it with Brandon Frye at left tackle.

Seahawks lose Tatupu, early grip on Gore

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
4:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


SAN FRANCISCO -- Major wireless connection problems here at Candlestick Park, but nothing close to the issues Seattle is facing down on the field.

The Seahawks have changed coaches and mixed up their defensive personnel, but they still cannot stop Frank Gore. Gore's 79-yard touchdown run was a career long. His history of big games against Seattle makes me reluctant to consider the Seahawks' defensive injuries as the primary problem for Seattle (Brandon Mebane and Leroy Hill are inactive, while Lofa Tatupu left the game after aggravating a hamstring injury).

Seattle has managed to collect a couple of sacks and it looks like Tony Pashos will replace Adam Snyder at right tackle. Those are minor concerns for the 49ers if their ground game keeps up this pace.

Tension mounts amid early NFC West matchups

September, 18, 2009
9/18/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


I'm sensing a healthy tension on the blog this week heading into the Seahawks-49ers game at Candlestick Park.

This is one of those moment-of-truth weeks where months of offseason expectations -- and smack talk, in some cases -- can take a hard bounce forward or suddenly implode. Having two NFC West matchups in Week 1 set the tone. Look out for 49ers fans if San Francisco can beat the Cardinals and Seahawks in consecutive weeks.

The division race could take shape early if the Cardinals continue to struggle offensively. It's not inconceivable -- and might even be probable -- for the Cardinals to lose at Jacksonville in Week 2 and at home to the Colts in Week 3. The defending NFC champs would be 0-3 and possibly three games behind Seattle or San Francisco.

The Seahawks-49ers winner buys insurance heading into upcoming games against playoff contenders. The Seahawks face the Bears and Colts next. The 49ers visit the Vikings before returning home for the Rams and Falcons. For the 49ers, a victory over Seattle would put them in good position to take a 3-1 overall record and 3-0 division record into that home game against Atlanta.

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