BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Surprising Seahawks’ weak points exposed in season-ending loss

Jan 14, 2023, 6:02 PM
Seahawks 49ers...
Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card playoff game on January 14, 2023. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The first half of Saturday’s Wild Card game against the San Francisco 49ers went about as well as it could have gone for the Seahawks.

49ers 41, Seahawks 23: Instant Reaction | Recap | Box score

Yes, the Hawks were shutout in the first quarter and started the game with back-to-back three-and-outs, but Seattle put up 17 points in the second quarter to actually head into halftime with the lead over the heavy favorites.

It was basically all downhill from that point onward.

The 49ers drove down the field to start the second half, running on 10 of 13 plays and taking roughly 8 minutes off the clock, eventually scoring a touchdown on a Brock Purdy QB sneak.

It looked like the Seahawks were set to answer with at least a field goal, but quarterback Geno Smith was sacked in the red zone and lost a fumble, and Seattle wouldn’t sniff the end zone until the game was well out of reach.

It was all 49ers after that fumble, and San Francisco thumped the Seahawks 41-23ย to complete a rare three-game season sweep of their division rival and to advance to the Divisional Round. For Seattle, it ends a surprise playoff season that few saw coming.

Is there some solace in the Seahawks just getting to this point? Sure. Many expected them to have one of the top three to five picks in April’s draft. They’ll still be doing that, but it will be because the Broncos stunk, not the Seahawks.

This one will still sting for a Seahawks team that was, for at least 30 minutes (and closer to 45), right there with a team some think has the best top-to-bottom roster in the NFL.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this loss further highlighted the biggest warts from Seattle’s 2022 season, which mainly had to do with the defensive side of the ball.

The Seahawks finished the year 26th out of the NFL’s 32 teams in total yards allowed. They were 30th against the run and 25th in scoring defense.

The 49ers put up roughly 500 yards of total offense Saturday and 170 yards on the ground.

There were far too many instances of broken tackles, seemingly poor angles by Seahawks defenders on ball carriers and also wide-open players, which was the case on two of San Francisco’s touchdowns.

Star 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel’s day in many ways shows what went wrong for Seattle this year as he put up 165 yards of total offense thanks to running through, over and by would-be tacklers all over the field.

It’s understandable to have some frustration with Smith and the Seahawks’ offense, which did next to nothing outside of the second quarter and turned the ball over twice. It’s also easy to point out that the 49ers won the turnover battle at plus-2 and scored 10 points off those giveaways.

But the biggest takeaway from this one, in my opinion, is San Francisco had 10 possessions and scored on eight of them. Yup, 80%. And really it’s more like 89% because one of those possessions saw Purdy taking a knee to run out the clock and end the game. Even if Smith had been essentially perfect from start to finish against the NFL’s top defense, it still would have been difficult for the Seahawks to come away with a win given their defense couldn’t get any stops.

But there’s still plenty to be excited about with the Seahawks going forward, even with this loss.

They appear to have found a franchise quarterback in Smith when most had written him off. The Hawks had two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,000-yard rusher, two ballhawks on defense and arguably the best 2022 draft class in the league. That’s a lot to build off of right there.

And the Seahawks are set up beautifully to have back-to-back franchise-changing drafts. Seattle will pick fifth overall, has two picks in the first round, four in the first two rounds and five in the first 85 selections. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have plenty of ammo to shore up the defense long-term and get the Seahawks deeper into the playoffs.

Those five picks can โ€“ and probably should โ€“ all be used on the defensive and offensive lines as well as inside linebacker.

Seattle’s new-look defense was too often gashed by the run, including on Saturday, and could probably use younger pieces that are better fits.

The offensive line has two bookend tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, but at least two of the three interior spots could stand to be upgraded.

And don’t sleep on how important linebacker will be for this team to address. Cody Barton is a pending free agent after an up-and-down season and Jordyn Brooks may not be ready come Week 1 in September because of a torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 of this season. Seattle’s depth behind those two isn’t all too promising, either, and many of those missed tackles and poor angles against the 49ers came in the middle of the field.

It’s obviously difficult so soon after a loss to look at the bright side and long-term future of the team, but it’s still important to note and hopefully it can take the sting out of this overall lopsided playoff loss.

The future does appear to be bright for the Seahawks, but how bright that is will be determined by their ability โ€“ or lack thereof โ€“ to fix glaring needs this offseason that were especially exposed on Sunday.

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