The Niners are officially in the teeth of their schedule, which means two things: Their defense is going to be facing much better offenses every week, and their offense needs to be able to consistently put points on the board to keep up.
On Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers found out the hard way what life is like outside the northeast corridor, as Seattle dominated the Niners 37-27 at CenturyLink Field. The loss dropped the Niners to 4-4 and 1-2 in the NFC West.
Absent their trademark pass rush, the Niners have been able to mask many of their warts in part because they've played against inferior opponents. No more.
After a slow start, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver DK Metcalf found their stride and began moving the ball up and down the field against a 49ers defense that has been held together by chewing gum for much of the season.
The Niners had to have known such an onslaught was coming, which meant it was time for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense to meet the challenge and engage in a shootout. That's how the Arizona Cardinals took down the Seahawks last week, and it seemed like a reasonable ask, given that Seattle's defense entered Sunday's game riding a historically awful start in terms of yards allowed.
Instead of firing on all cylinders and trading offensive punches with the Seahawks, the Niners' offense fell flat. With Seattle daring him to push the ball down the field, Garoppolo was inaccurate and indecisive. The pass protection was spotty at best, and a run game without the services of Raheem Mostert or Jeff Wilson Jr. offered little. It wasn't until they were too far behind and backup Nick Mullens was in that the Niners moved the ball consistently.
Yes, the 49ers are missing key guys such as Mostert and receiver Deebo Samuel because of injuries. Yes, Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle departed in the fourth quarter with ankle and foot injuries, respectively. With a quick turnaround to play the Green Bay Packers on Thursday and a trip to New Orleans to play the Saints the following week, the Niners' season is teetering on the brink, and it's going to take something special to get it back on track.
Describe the game in two words: No juice. Aside from a couple of defensive series early and a small offensive spark late, the 49ers looked like a team that just played all the way across the country, offering little resistance in a game that usually offers much more drama.
QB breakdown: Garoppolo's latest ankle injury was his second of the season. Last time, it was a high ankle sprain that cost him two games and part of a third. The severity of this one remains to be seen, but whoever plays quarterback next week is going to have to provide a whole lot more to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Before giving way to Mullens, Garoppolo was 11-of-16 for 84 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, for a passer rating of 55.2. It was another rough outing against a Seattle defense that had been allowing 479.2 yards per game.