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Clayton’s Observations: Seahawks’ D-line, secondary went opposite directions in loss to 49ers

Garrett Celek and fellow 49ers tight end George Kittle gave the Seahawks' defense issues. (AP)

Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers was a setback for the Seahawks, but all is correctable.

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The Seahawks were their own worst enemy in the 26-23 overtime loss. Too many penalties. Too many broken plays. They allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown.

And the challenge only gets tougher Sunday night because the 11-3 Kansas City Chiefs are coming to town.

Week 15 was an interesting one league-wide. Many of the top teams struggled. The Los Angeles Rams’ offense took a step back and quarterback Jared Goff has regressed in the past three weeks. A shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts was a wake up call to a Dallas Cowboys team that won five straight. And the Chiefs lost a home game to the Los Angeles Chargers.

For now, let’s both look back at the 49ers game and look ahead at the final two weeks of the Seahawks’ regular season.

• It’s pretty clear the Seahawks need to tighten up things in their secondary. They gave up too many big plays and had too many penalties. Defensive end Frank Clark didn’t hold back any words when discussing the problems. The mistakes have to be fixed.

Losing safety Bradley McDougald during the loss to the 49ers really hurt the defense. He’s been bothered by a knee all season and only lasted 12 plays in Santa Clara. McDougald has had a Pro Bowl-type season for the Seahawks both in pass coverage and stopping the run. His leadership has also been exceptional.

Delano Hill filled in after McDougald’s injury and didn’t do poorly in coverage. The problem was the secondary gave up too many big plays to tight ends. San Francisco rising star George Kittle caught three passes for 51 yards, while fellow 49ers tight end Garrett Celek had catches for 41 and 20 yards.

The Seahawks gave up 11 explosive plays in the run and the pass games. That has to stop.

• Not enough is being said of Jarran Reed’s season. He’s now up to 8 1/2 sacks. His inside pass rush reminds you of what Michael Bennett did when he would play defensive tackle in the nickel. Reed played 87 percent of the snaps Sunday against the 49ers, recording two sacks, four hurries and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

The Seahawks’ defensive line was explosive late in the fourth quarter and into overtime. Defensive tackle Poona Ford had his best game with six tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage. Pro Football Focus gave him an elite grade of 90.7. For the season, Ford has a 89.6 rating stopping the run, 12th among interior defensive tackles.

• The Seahawks finally started throwing the ball to the running backs. It made sense. The 49ers were trying to take away some of the deep passes and stop the run. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dialed up 14 pass plays to backs, resulting in 14 completions for 92 yards. Mike Davis led the way with eight catches for 63 yards, while another long completion to J.D. McKissic was nullified by a penalty.

• Chris Carson has positioned himself to be a 1,000-yard runner. He rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries against the 49ers, bringing his season total to 913 yards on 201 carries. He has two games left to get over 1,000. The Seahawks as a team have rushed for 2,168 yards this season.

• Doug Baldwin proved his worth by playing through his injuries and having a two-touchdown game against the 49ers. His ability to get open and set good targets for Russell Wilson was clearly evident Sunday. He caught four passes for 74 yards. Even if Wilson has just a 25-pass game, Baldwin usually gives him the ability to throw for more than 200 yards and, if needed, 300.

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John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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