Don’t feel too bad about the Seahawks’ loss, 4-3 record

Oct 21, 2012, 1:14 AM | Updated: Oct 22, 2012, 12:58 pm
The Seahawks hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season until Frank Gore went for 131 on Thursday. (AP)

As much as it pains me, I have to give credit to the 49ers’ coaching staff for their 13-6 win over the Seahawks on Thursday night.

Yes, that includes the “Merry bleeping Christmas” guy, too. One of the 49ers’ coaches, reportedly offensive coordinator Greg Roman, shouted out a rude Christmas greeting last season after their Dec. 24 win over the Seahawks in Seattle.

The diminutive Roman isn’t much for press box decorum, but he certainly has a knack for play calling. The 49ers came out of the halftime locker room with a way to gash one of the best run-stopping defenses in the league and a plan to restore confidence in their quarterback, Alex Smith.

The 49ers’ first drive of the second half – their only touchdown-scoring drive – included five short passes by Smith that went for a total of 60 yards. The real story is that those five passes traveled just 18 yards through the air, giving receivers the chance for a total of 48 additional yards after catch.

Just like that, any bad memories that come with completing just 7 of 15 passes and compiling a 57 QB rating were eliminated for Smith.

The way they executed their running game which preserved that lead in the second half was brilliant. On at least two of the trap plays that ripped off huge yardage, the 49ers adjusted their blocking scheme in a way that took Seattle’s defensive tackles out of the play and gave their offensive guards and tackles a free shot on the linebackers.

The beauty of the trap play is that it creates space not only laterally but also depth-wise. The angles that the pulling guards and down-blocking tackles are allowed wipe defensive players to the side and down the field, creating huge running lanes.

To further complicate the scheme, the 49ers faked their double-team blocks on Seattle’s defensive linemen, which forced tackles like Jason Jones and Alan Branch to lunge forward. At the last moment, their linemen pulled off of the double team and went up to block linebackers, leaving Seahawks defenders lunging forward and out of the play.

It’s not as if the Seahawks’ defensive line was pushed around or physically out-matched. They were simply facing a scheme that they didn’t know how to adjust to at the time. It’s never one player’s fault when a defense gets gashed up the middle of the field like that. The linebackers and linemen all need to squeeze the running lanes and, as I like to say, get stingy with the space and fight for every last inch of room.

I’ve been in those situations. Things happen fast on the field and when there’s less than 40 seconds between plays it’s hard to figure out what’s going wrong. The coaches in the press box do their best to see what’s happening and it’s nearly impossible to see what’s wrong at field level. This is why Pete Carroll wisely responds in many a postgame press conference, “I have to look at the film first.”

As a player, once you get to the sidelines you’re gasping for air and water and there’s a desperate scramble by the coaches and players to figure out who is blocking whom. It’s a confusing situation and if your offense is struggling as the Seahawks did later in the game with three-and-outs and an interception, it makes it even worse.

I’d say this won’t happen again. Gus Bradley has proven to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the league and players like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Branch don’t make the same mistakes twice.

How bad should a 4-3 record feel? When you’re third loss came on the road, in a short week and against a top-five team, not that bad. Going 0-3 in the division and not beating the Cardinals or Rams on the road should feel bad.

But it should feel awfully good that you did beat the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots at home. The CenturyLink Field advantage is back and I’d say that if the Seahawks could win two more road games and only lose once at home, 10-6 looks pretty good. I’ll take my chances with that record at the end of the season. Too bad the Seahawks aren’t in the AFC, where just two of the 16 teams are above .500.

Here’s what else to not feel bad about: Seattle’s three losses were by a total of 17 points. In 2010, Carroll’s first season as the Seahawks’ coach, they were also 4-3 after seven games. But their three losses were by a total of 64 points. That year, the Seahawks’ average margin of defeat was a league-worst 21 points.

You can’t say that the Seahawks have not been in every game this year. There’s been a chance to win in all three losses and if you ask me, there’s a lot to like about that. It’s tough to win games in the NFL, no matter who you play.

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Don’t feel too bad about the Seahawks’ loss, 4-3 record