NFL Nation: Seahawks-49ers 092009

AP Photo/Ben Margot
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left the game after a hit from the 49ers' Patrick Willis.

Posted by'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.


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.

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 led 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'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.

Posted by'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.

Posted by'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.

Posted by'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.