Seattle – Will certainly decide the fate of the 49ers near “Hawk’s Nest,” near the North End area.
It was here that his 2019 team took the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a goal-line tackle. It was here that NaVorro Bowman suffered a catastrophic injury in the NFC Championship Game loss of the 2013 season.
And it was here, with 22 seconds remaining on the fourth and goal, that Jimmy Garoppolo wanted to throw his last pass. Instead, he took his final snap from the 3-yard line and blocked his throw from Carlos Dunlop’s left hand.
He lost 30-23.
“We shouldn’t have let it get to that point,” Shanahan said of the final, failed drive.
Horrible turnovers, scary injuries, silly penalties, familiar pass coverage woes and too many special teams ended the 49ers’ winning streak at three. Shanahan referred to those gaffes as “self-inflicted stuff.” These were the hallmarks of his early season, not the formula for a December playoff run.
It was Seattle, however, and it’s a haunting place where the 49ers (6-6) have now lost 10 of their last 11 trips.
“It’s as electric as it gets,” Garopolo said of the Seahawks Stadium. “Finally, you couldn’t hear much in the huddle and people were lip-reading. It’s been like this (games) for years. It starts with Russ (Wilson) and Coach (Pete) Carroll. It’s just like us And why is it always this kind of dogfight.”
This disaster doesn’t cripple playoff aspirations. It certainly serves as a reminder that the 49ers are not the NFC threat as envisioned last month. With the defeat, they fell to the No. 7 seed in the playoff picture.
“We definitely blew it but we knew whenever we played them it was going to be this type of game,” Nick Bossa said. “We have to do a better job of not taking the game away. But we are still in the mix and we are confident in our game.”
About three hours into the latest episode of this still intense rivalry, the 49ers caught a break. His goal-line defense produced a takeaway, with Aziz Al-Shair forced a fumble and Deontay Johnson corrected it with 2:03 on 2.
Big gains were made from the offensive by George Kittel, Eliza Mitchell and Brandon Ayuk. The 49ers had reached the 7-yard line by the last minute. Then came two Mitchell runs and back-to-back imperfections from Trent Sherfield instead of Kittel.
Shanahan said final pass plays were called to target Kittel (9 catches, 181 yards, 2 TD), but he was double covered by the Seahawks, forcing Garoppolo to look to Sherfield, Joe was third in the end zone (no penalty called) and opened on a fourth-down pass breakup.
“If you don’t do anything in the second half, it’s hard to win in Seattle,” Kittel said. “Is there a way to end a (cat) game.”
Would Tom Compton have done anything to stop Dunlop’s heroism? Left tackle Trent Williams said it’s a tough job when the long-armed 6-foot-6 defensive end looks at the quarterback and can see when he’s throwing. “There’s no way to put a man’s hands down, not with the rules we’re governed by,” Williams said. “People with such long arms are sought out because they can do these kinds of things.”
Garoppolo finished 20 for 299 yards with those two touchdowns to Kittel, but also two interceptions in which Shanahan said “he has to get better with the ball.”
The play-filled game opened in gloomy fashion when the 49ers’ Trenton Cannon suffered a head injury while covering the opening kickoff. His injury resulted in him leaving the field by ambulance and staying overnight at a local hospital, where his condition is stable.
Compounding the 49ers’ slow start: The Seahawks threw a punt on their first possession, resulting in a 73-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead only 1:49 in the game.
The 49ers were clearly missing the chemistry that could be traced without wide receiver Dibo Samuel (groin) and linebacker Fred Warner (hamstring) playing their first game this season.
The 23-21 halftime lead will lead to no builds. There will be no second-half points allowed by the Seahawks (4-8). The 49ers are back on the road next weekend for a Sunday date at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here are the other major takeaways:
Kittle Steps Up
Kittel spoke earlier this week about how the 49ers needed to turn history around and beat a Seahawks franchise that had won 16 of the last 19 meetings between the teams. He did his part in trying to make it a 16 out of 20.
Kittel scored two touchdowns in the first half: a game-tying 24-yard reception and a 48-yard catch and run to the left. He had a season-high 121 yards (five receptions) by halftime. Also, credit to John Jennings Block for helping Spring Kittle into the final 25 yards on that second touchdown.
He remained Garoppolo’s well-known man – until the last one passed. Kittel caught 9 of 12 goals for 181 yards.
Interceptions, dropped passes and penalties doomed the 49ers’ offense, not to mention an end-zone sack that resulted in a game-tying safety.
Tied on 23, Garoppolo converted a third-down pass to Ayuk for a 21-yard advantage, then Garoppolo overshot a double-cover kittle in the middle for the Seahawks’ second interception of the game. “I got greedy and I should have been smarter and got the checkdown,” Garopolo said.
The two interceptions were as many as he had received in the last five games combined.
After Garoppolo’s second interception, the 49er rookie Eliza Mitchell and her run wanted to power the game like their most recent win. Mitchell broke free of a potential injury and remained behind him, but his 22 carry covered only 69 yards.
bad pass defense
The 49ers’ pass defense started strong, or so it was spotted with sacks by Nick Bossa and Eric Armstead. Emmanuel Moseley was also humming along with a fumble and forcing a third-down stop.
But then Moseley walked away with an ankle injury, and rookie Diomodre Lenore struggled in his replacement. Lenoir allowed a 33-yard pass to 4, inflicted a pass-interference penalty in the end zone (to set up Adrian Peterson scoring run), then received a touchdown catch on the ensuing series.
Lenoir was benched, safety Zaczyski Tarte was left with a hamstring injury, further trouble. Seattle took a 30-23 lead when Josh Norman dropped a touchdown catch from Tyler Lockett. Deontay Johnson, who replaced Lenoir, committed a personal foul at the third-down stop with nine minutes left.
special teams gaffes
The 49ers’ special teams ended a miserable day, starting with Cannon’s injury on the opening kickoff. The second half also opened with more misery on a kickoff, as Travis Benjamin pulled it away and the Seahawks recovered at the 26-yard line. Another special-team miscue: Robbie Gould missed the try after a point for the first time this season. Special teams mistakes doomed the 49ers in their home loss to Seattle in October, including a pair of kickoff returns botched by Cannon.