Colin Kaepernick, who seemed to have bounced back from his early-season slide in recent weeks, was smacked down by a Seattle defense that’s been doing exactly that to him for three seasons now.
The 49ers quarterback was sacked six times and completed only four passes to wide receivers, and the 49ers fell 20-3 to their division opponents Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium.
“We didn’t match their intensity today,” Kaepernick said afterward.
Jim Tomsula, whose team fell to 2-5, called the effort “unacceptable,” a word repeated several times following the loss.
“Offensively, very disappointed with the rhythm,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “Not acceptable all the way around.”
Like many NFL quarterbacks, Kaepernick routinely has been roughed up by Seattle’s fast, aggressive defense in recent years. He was 1-5 in his starts against them entering Thursday’s game with nine interceptions, three touchdowns and a middling 53.3 completion percentage. He also had been sacked 18 times.
4 Completions to 49ers wide receivers against Seattle
The pressure didn’t let up Thursday as Kaepenick finished with just 124 passing yards. The 49ers converted just one third-down opportunity and had more punts (nine) than first downs (eight) on the evening. In a nice flow against the Giants’ and Ravens’ undermanned and poorly rated defenses in recent weeks, Kaepernick found a far more formidable opponent in Seattle and seemed to revert at times into his early-season self.
He avoided throwing an interception but, as was the case during a lopsided loss to Green Bay in Week 4, throws to the sideline sailed so far out of bounds that they were not catchable for anyone. One first-quarter attempt, for example, was so off target that it struck a 49ers staffer in the head 10 yards out of bounds. The man had to be checked by the team’s medical staff, including their concussion expert.
“A couple of those were throwaways,” Kaepernick said. “I’m not going to force the ball into a window and turn it over, especially when we’re in a backed-up situation.”
Tight end Vernon Davis, who was held without a catch in Sunday’s win over the Ravens, led the 49ers with four catches for 61 yards. Wideout Torrey Smith, who had 96 yards against Baltimore four days earlier, didn’t have a catch on Thursday. He was shadowed throughout the contest by Seattle’s top cornerback, Richard Sherman.
Opponents have been carving up the 49ers’ defense through the air this year. It was ranked 32nd against the pass entering the game. Seattle, however, began and ended the game with a ground offensive.
The Seahawks’ opening series went 61 yards and included nine runs – six of them inside the San Francisco 3-yard line – before Marshawn Lynch hopped over the pile for a one-yard touchdown. Lynch carried all nine times for 38 yards on the possession.
The 49ers followed that drive with a three-and-out series.
The only thing that seemed to prevent another barrage of runs by Lynch on Seattle’s ensuing drive was a stomach issue. The Seahawks running back was on the Seattle sideline throwing up into a trash bin, which sent his backup, rookie Thomas Rawls into the game. Afterward, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Lynch was merely gassed after his busy opening drive, which caused him to be sick.
Lynch later returned to the contest and finished with 122 rushing yards, his first 100-yard effort of the season. He’s had at least 98 yards in the last five meetings against the 49ers.
In the second quarter, the Seahawks fell into the same pattern as the 49ers’ previous opponents – attacking through the air.
122 Rushing yards by Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch
Quarterback Russell Wilson completed three long passes on one drive, the last a deep throw in the corner of the end zone to speedy rookie wideout Tyler Lockett.
Another Wilson throw to the end zone at the end of the half was intercepted by cornerback Tramaine Brock. Wilson also threw an interception in the third quarter and was sacked five times, which kept the final score somewhat respectable.
With a makeshift offensive line in front of him, Wilson has gone down 31 times this season, more than any quarterback.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, has been sacked 25 times and is on pace to be sacked more this season than any other 49ers quarterback before him. The team’s playoff prospects appear to be falling along with their quarterback.
“We have to win football games,” Staley said of the team’s motivation over the next nine contests. “As a professional, you have to keep that mindset regardless if you’re 7-0 or 2-5.”