SEATTLE -- It took a trip to their own personal house of horrors in the Pacific Northwest for the San Francisco 49ers to get a brutal reminder of how far behind they still lag in the NFC West.
In following an all-too-familiar pattern, the 49ers won in convincing fashion in Week 1, only to suffer a blowout loss that set the tone for the rest of the season. On Sunday, the 49ers lost their fifth straight game against the Seattle Seahawks -- and it wasn’t close.
Seattle dominated from the opening kickoff, when its previously struggling offense found a cure in the form of the 49ers defense on the way to a 37-18 win at CenturyLink Field. The last time the 49ers won in Seattle was in 2011. Sunday's loss was eerily reminiscent of the 47-7 beating San Francisco took from Arizona in Week 3 a year ago, and it dropped the 49ers to 1-2 on the season.
Through the first two games, the 49ers defense showed signs of life. It limited the woeful Rams to fewer than 200 yards of offense and zero points and then came up with four takeaways last week against Carolina.
Even after it surrendered more than 500 yards in that Carolina loss, it was hard to blame San Francisco’s defense because it was on the field for most of the game without much support from the offense. Well, on Sunday in Seattle, there again wasn’t much offensive support, but the Seahawks took it to the 49ers' defense right from the start, long before fatigue had a chance to set in.
The Seahawks entered Sunday’s game in search of answers after scoring just 15 points in their first two games. San Francisco offered little resistance, as running back Christine Michael ran at the right side of San Francisco’s defensive line with plenty of success, including a 41-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game.
The same 49ers defense that limited Rams running back Todd Gurley to 47 yards on 17 carries in Week 1 yielded 106 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries to Michael. It was a breakout performance from Michael against an opponent that allowed a similar big game by Seattle running back Thomas Rawls a season ago.
When the 49ers weren’t getting pushed around in the ground game, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson & Co. were doing anything they wanted in the passing game. Tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Doug Baldwin each had at least 100 yards receiving in the first half, and Wilson finished with 243 yards on 15-of-23 passing to go with a touchdown. Seattle finished with 418 total yards.
Meanwhile, the 49ers once again provided no spark when they had the ball. Seattle kept San Francisco’s dormant run game stuck in the mud, save for some garbage time production, while quarterback Blaine Gabbert was again wholly ineffective. The 49ers managed 254 yards and just 12 first downs, with much of that coming well after the game was out of hand.
When San Francisco finally converted its first third down of the day with about 11 minutes left in the game, receiver Torrey Smith limped off after the catch. For the second week in a row, the 49ers really mustered points only as a result of a takeaway. It was that kind of day.
It should come as no surprise to many outside observers that the 49ers look to again be on the way to a long, difficult season and a spot in the top 10 or even top five of the NFL draft.
The new tradition of a Week 1 win can create only so much smoke in the mirror. When that smoke dissipates, what’s left staring back is a team that still has a long way to go to return to prominence.