Here is my Monday column from Seattle about the 49ers-Seahawks game. Note: This is a corrected version.
SEATTLE — There was nothing pretty about that game between the 49ers and Seahawks, you know the marquee game of the day, the jewel in the crown of the NFL’s second week the Seahawks won 29-3.
The first half told the whole story, not a pretty story. It ended with the Seahawks leading 5-0. That’s not a football score. That’s baseball or soccer.
The battle between quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, the so-called battle of an eyebrow, was no battle at all. Neither quarterback looked special or even good, if you want to be honest. Wilson looked better over the course of the game, but neither was Johnny Unitas.
Although both defenses played well — Seattle’s played better — the offenses for both teams were skittish and nervous and simply not up to the occasion — and it was an occasion, a happening, an event.
But here’s the strange thing. Despite the lack of offensive design, despite the lack of intricate plays or even thrilling plays, the game was good in its way. Yes, it was. It was a throwback to football as it used to be, to the core and heart of football. Football is a game about imposing your will on the other guys, and that’s what both defenses did for a while. There is beauty in a game like that — call it rough beauty.
The Seahawks were saying to the 49ers and the 49ers were saying to the Seahawks, “Can you play rough? Do you want to play rough? Do you have the stomach for this? Do you have the will for this?
The stomach and will involved rain and thunder and lightning — it’s like it involved the wrath of God. And after an hour delay, the teams played some more and the best team, the Seahawks, survived.
They survived by being basic and insistent and tough. If you look at the play by play, the Seahawks’ game plan basically went Marshawn Lynch, Marshawn Lynch, Marshawn Lynch and more Marshawn Lynch. They were daring the 49ers to stop Lynch if they could. The 49ers couldn’t.
There is something to be said for this kind of guts-and-glory, sweat-and-muscle, hurt-and-be-hurt football where every inch gained requires a battle, every first down is an enormous victory, every point feels like riches. Rough football is beautiful, if you just can see it.
But the 49ers were not rough enough. You couldn’t help noticing some of their players were missing in action. This tended to hurt the overall effort.
Missing was Kaepernick. He has been anointed the prince of quarterbacks so early in his career. And in some ways he deserves to be the prince. It’s just that he turned over the ball four times — three interceptions and one fumble. This is hardly the stuff of legend. It’s hold-your-nose stuff.
Part of it wasn’t his fault. The Seahawks’ corners took the Niners’ receivers, whoever they are, right out of the game.
Missing in action was Anquan Boldin. He caught his first and only pass at 9:36 of the fourth quarter. It was for seven yards. The Seattle corners nullified him. He was last week’s hero and this week’s invisible man. Seattle brought him back to grim reality, brought the entire San Francisco offense back to grim reality. Afterward, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, “Where was Anquan?”
Where was he?
Missing in action was what’s his name Frank Gore, another invisible man. It looks like his legs are shot. It looks like old age happened to him Sunday night. He averaged 1.8 yards a carry. Or maybe some imposter was wearing No. 21, some guy whose sole talent was to take the ball and fall forward.
And where were the 49ers’ coaches? They had no cohesive game plan, especially on offense. I’m talking to you, offensive coordinator Greg Roman. You engineered” an offensive output of three points. The 49ers — you — never adjusted to what the Seahawks were doing, never had a clue. Afterward, Jim Harbaugh said, “I’m certainly not proud of the way we played tonight or coached.”
And then there was this. The Seahawks kept their cool, but the Niners lost theirs. As Bill Walsh used to say after a debacle, “The wheels came off.” There was Bruce Miller holding in the end zone leading to a safety. Those two points were huge.
There was that unnecessary roughness penalty by Aldon Smith in the fourth quarter after the whistle blew. There was Vance McDonald hitting a guy in the face and getting called for it — that loused up a nice pass to Gore. And right after that, Kaepernick threw a dead duck to Vernon Davis that Richard Sherman intercepted.
And all that brings us to the ultimate meaning of this game, if you believe games can have ultimate meaning, especially games so early in the season. The Seahawks did not prove they are better than the 49ers even though the Seahawks ran San Francisco out of town the second time in a row. They are better on turf than the Niners. But they aren’t better on grass. Remember that.
In a way you should have expected this outcome. It was the Seahawks’ home opener. The 49ers had to face that and the crazy atmosphere in CenturyLink Field — a place that sounds like the inside of a nervous breakdown. Destroying teams is what the Seahawks do up here. But that will have no bearing on Dec. 8 when the teams meet at Candlestick.
If the Niners are a great team, they will admit they got humbled and will rise again.
I was going to give a snappy ending. It would have read, “One good thing, the Niners got their plays in on time.” Except they didn’t, not in the fourth quarter. On one drive, they had to call timeouts twice to avoid delay-of-game penalties — twice in a mere three plays. The lines of communication got clogged.
So, I’m sorry for the crummy ending to this column. The 49ers’ ending was way crummier.
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