Game 2: Shehawks 29, 49ers 3 — Straight Jabs

A cumulative butt-kicking.  That’s the correct way to classify this game.  There can be great variation in NFL games of the same point spread, and, although it’s weird to say, this one was a relatively closely fought 26-point rout.  It was like an MMA match between two evenly skilled fighters, where nobody lands any knock-down blows or seriously threatens submission.  One fighter just has a bit better jab and keeps poking his opponent with it over and over.  Although each round is close, by the end of the fight the winner is mostly unscathed, and the loser has a battered eye the size of a peewee football.*

JoshKoscheck

On Sunday night, the Seahawks were the ones with the strong jab, securing a definitive victory over the 49ers, and claiming the “2013 Best NFC Team” title belt, for now.  They’re at the top of everybody’s Power Rankings, which means about as much as those 842 coins I have from NFL.com Rewards.  But, hey, it’s better than a busted toe.

Speaking of which, hopefully Russell Okung will be okay after leaving the game in the first half with a foot injury.  He apparently has turf toe, and I don’t believe a time table has been announced yet for his return.  The drop off from him to Paul McQuistan at left tackle is substantial, if last night is any indication, which, actually, it might not be.  McQuistan was charged with blocking Aldon Smith all game, a task that would’ve been a bear for vintage Walter Jones.  Smith wrought havoc on the ‘Hawks line the entire night, making several great plays including this one, in which he treats McQuistan and Robert Turbin like saloon doors.  The ‘Hawks, to their credit, however, were able to exploit Smith a few times.  They burned him with a read option and then got him (and the rest of the Niners D) with a sweet touchdown-scoring screen the very next play.  They also irritated Smith to the point he committed a stupid, half-assed, personal foul (Breno Giacomini, everybody!) that literally caused Jim Harbaugh to scream, “Son of a bitch!” into his laminated play sheet.

OneEyeBrowBaby[Breno Giacomini]

Football Outsiders’ Danny Tuccitto uses this personal foul as an example of subconscious favoritism by the referees toward the hometown ‘Hawks in this week’s “Audibles at the Line” column.  I don’t doubt such bias is a real thing, in general, but it’s difficult to make the case for it in this game, in particular.  Or, I should say, it’s difficult unless you only present the questionable calls that go for the home team.  If you don’t consider the weird blocked punt, the Sidney Rice taunting call, the ridiculous offside no-call on 4th down, the forearm to the head of Russell Wilson during a slide, the ticky-tack Rice holding penalty… if you don’t consider any of that, then I suppose, yes, the refereeing does look a bit biased.  You can say whatever you want about the refs or anything else, but the Seahawks were just better and tougher than the 49ers last night, and they won the game.  End of.

A few parting thoughts on the game:

  • The ‘Hawks defense looked great again, and this time they actually got pressure on the QB.  It’s tempting to say the D will be even better when Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons, and Bruce Irvin return, and it might be, but then there will probably be other injuries.  Anything close to 100% health is not a realistic assumption in the NFL today.
  • Russell Wilson had a much less productive game than he did in Week 1, but it felt the same watching it.  He wasn’t particularly sharp, and he made a few absurd Russell Wilson plays, like this and my personal favorite, the little flip to Golden Tate, for which I can find no clip.
  • Colin Kaepernick might have had the best game any quarterback with less than 150 yards passing and four turnovers has ever had.  If Alex Smith is playing this game, I don’t think the Niners get a first down.  Kaepernick scrambling was their entire offense.  He’s awesomely terrifying to opposing fans.
  • A lot has been discussed about the cut block that injured 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams, but from what I understand it was a legal block.  If Patrick Willis doesn’t like it, he should take it up with the league.  And if he’s mad about people hitting guys in a technically legal, but still kinda shady way, the Niners had two of those in a row on Wilson, so, yeah.
  • I think it’s funny that in the linked article Willis uses rams to describe the honorable way to hit an opponent.  I didn’t know NFL players were bound by an ovine code of ethic.
  • Due to some bizarre scheduling the Seahawks play the entire AFC South over the next four weeks.  I see no reason to expect they won’t go 4-0.  Actually, I do, random variation.  But anything less than 3-1 would be a bit of a let down.

-DJG

*Basically, I’m saying Sunday night’s game was the George St. Pierre – Josh Koscheck fight from 2010.