Sunday, September 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: 49ers 33, Seahawks 17
By Mike Sando
SAN FRANCISCO -- Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 33-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in their Week 1 matchup Sunday at Candlestick Park:
What it means: Jim Harbaugh opened his tenure as 49ers coach with a victory. That was not a big surprise. The 49ers did in this game what they've usually done in recent seasons, beating a division opponent at Candlestick Park. This was their eighth consecutive NFC West victory at home. It wasn't pretty and the 49ers' offense had problems, but San Francisco controlled the game and seldom appeared in real danger of losing its grip.
What I liked: Ted Ginn Jr.'s 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 55-yard punt return for a touchdown, both in the fourth quarter, showed the return game can still swing outcomes despite rules changes on kickoffs. This was a phenomenal turnabout for Ginn, who left the 2010 opener with an injury that sidelined him for weeks. Both defenses played well most of the way, particularly against the run. Neither offensive line struggled as much in pass protection as the preseason games suggested they might, although there were some issues. Seahawks rookie Doug Baldwin was sensational, keeping one drive alive with a third-down grab when little was working offensively, then breaking free for a 55-yard touchdown grab to scare the 49ers in the late going.
What I didn't like: This quickly turned into a game of field position, turning when the Andy Lee's punt stopped almost miraculously at the 1, pinning the Seahawks deep. The 49ers played for field goals because it was the smart thing to do under the circumstances, but the NFL is fortunate all its games do not look like this one. The league would be unmarketable. San Francisco did not succeed on a third-down conversion until the second half. The Seahawks were not much better. Unlike Ginn, who made the difference for San Francisco, Seattle's Leon Washington had a rough game. That was one of the reasons Seattle struggled with field position. The teams combined for 30 first downs and 20 assessed penalties.
Youth served: The Seahawks' starting offensive linemen opened this game with 27 combined starts, the lowest total for a starting NFL offensive line since Carolina's line had 23 in Week 2 of the 1995 season. Second-year left tackle Russell Okung made it through the game without another ankle injury, it appeared, but he appeared less powerful in his first game back.
Quarterback comparison: The third-down numbers say neither Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson nor San Francisco's Alex Smith played particularly well. Jackson did connect with Baldwin for that 55-yarder, and he made some other strong throws as well. His lone pick came on a Hail Mary to end the first half. That shouldn't count against him. Jackson completed 21 of 37 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Smith scrambled for a touchdown and absorbed a big hit in the process. He slid a couple yards short of the marker on a third-and-9 play, though. It was the smart move, but a conversion there would have helped. Smith wound up completing 15 of 20 passes, a high percentage, and he threw no picks. That was enough on a day when not much offense was needed.
Injurie(s) of note: Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu left the game after taking a big hit over the middle. Sidney Rice, Robert Gallery and David Hawthorne were inactive for Seattle because of injuries. The Seahawks lost fullback Michael Robinson early in the game. His departure forced tight end Zach Miller into more of a blocking role.
What's next: The Seahawks visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 49ers are home against the Dallas Cowboys.