The Next Day: Seahawks still yet to close gap on 49ers

Nov 24, 2023, 11:33 AM | Updated: 11:38 am

Seattle Seahawks...

DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 23, 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

Well, that was ugly. Worst still, you could say that about a few Seattle Seahawks games this season, which is new territory for this team under Pete Carroll.

San Francisco 49ers 31, Seattle Seahawks 13: Recap | Box score | Instant Reaction

But this one especially stung because it’s not a loss to the AFC-leading Ravens or a close game to the Bengals. It’s to a team that’s trying to win your division, and one against whom you’ve been trying to close a gap.

Here’s what’s sticking with me after this one:

What’s the issue with the Seahawks’ offense?

Seattle didn’t score a single offensive touchdown against the 49ers.

In fact, they haven’t scored a single offensive touchdown since the first quarter of their loss to the Rams.

I don’t know how many fans were expecting this offense to come into the season looking like the Chiefs (who, to be fair, haven’t been scoring like the Chiefs either) but it’s fair to expect more from a group that has two top-end wide receivers, used two second-rounders on running backs, found two franchise tackles last season (one of whom has been out) and has one of the league’s deeper tight end groups. They found a promising undrafted rookie with Jake Bobo and are seeing No. 20 overall pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba come into his own (highlighted by a stellar one-handed catch against the 49ers Thursday).

They’re not built like world beaters, but their investments aren’t that of a mediocre unit, either. So why are they looking like one?

Sure, there’s the issue of finding a long-term answer at quarterback and there’s health issues to consider up front. But when you have enough talent to be better than you are, the problem is either execution, or play-calling and scheme (and more often than not, a bit of both).

The question Seattle needs to be, and certainly is, asking itself today is whether its play-calling and decision-making is making the most of the pieces it has. The answer up to today has been a resounding “no.”

Third downs have been the biggest issue all season. They’re 30th there (31%) ahead of only the Giants and Jets. On Friday, head coach Pete Carroll said it’s the key area he’d like to see changed.

How big is the gap between the Seahawks and 49ers… and how do they close it?

There was a clear gap with personnel between these two teams that was even more pronounced prior to this season.

One could argue San Francisco has had top picks over the last few years that Seattle hasn’t seen – like No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa – but you just could as easily point to fifth-rounder George Kittle, second-rounder Deebo Samuel, or the second- and third-round picks it cost to get Christian McCaffrey from the Panthers.

Either way, Seattle had the best return from a draft class in a decade last year when they found Riq Woolen, Ken Walker and Boye Mafe. This past spring brought their most expensive free agent ever under Carroll and Schneider (Dre Jones), the highest pick ever under Carroll and Schneider (Devon Witherspoon) and a midseason trade to add to the defensive line (Leonard Williams). Jamal Adams was returning. On paper, the defense is better than it was last year.

And yet it hasn’t been enough. Part of that has been comparatively less production from last year’s class, excluding Mafe, and that’s where some of the gap-closing will need to start. That, and continued development with playcalling. But still, the 49ers beat the Hawks for a fourth consecutive game. And while preseason previews may not have anticipated the AFC playoff picture (with Miami and Baltimore soaring, Kansas City underwhelming, and the Bengals crashing) the two teams projected to be the best in the NFC – the Eagles and 49ers – are sitting right at the top. Unfortunately for Seattle, the 8-3 Dallas Cowboys are also sitting at the top… and on Seattle’s schedule for a second consecutive Thursday night showdown.

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