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Maiocco: 49ers' identity consists of ups, downs of average team

NBC Sports
Dewayne Eskridge, Jimmie Ward

We really did not learn anything new about the 49ers on Sunday.

Well, we figured out that all of the issues that led to their early-season slide did not miraculously disappear with the flip of a switch during that Monday night victory over the Los Angeles Rams a few weeks back.

During their three-game win streak, the 49ers found success with a timeless combination of elements that lead to victories.

They took care of the football, created takeaways, converted on third downs and did all the little things necessary to run the ball a lot — whether those yards were coming in 3- to 4-yard increments or bigger chunks.

When the 49ers failed to do most of those things Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, of course, it brought an end to their winning ways.

The 49ers could have gained some breathing room in the race for an NFC wild-card spot. Instead, with their 30-23 loss, the 49ers saw their margin for error tighten.

At 6-6, the 49ers will be in for a battle over the final five games of the season to make the playoffs. Three victories will punch their ticket to the playoffs.

If the 49ers get shut out of the NFL postseason, this is the game that will leave the deepest wound.

Coach Kyle Shanahan had his team prepared for what he figured would be its most difficult fight of the season. He was correct.

A breakdown on special teams handed the Seahawks seven points for free.


Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s timing and anticipation were off on two passes that were intercepted.

And another special-teams blunder, Travis Benjamin’s fumble to open the third quarter, prevented the 49ers’ offense from building on the momentum from a 23-point first half. The 49ers’ offense was held scoreless over the final 30 minutes of the game.

The defense has played at the most-consistent level. And that continued Sunday even without middle linebacker Fred Warner.

The cornerback position has been an area of concern ever since Jason Verrett sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 1.

Veteran Josh Norman was signed the week leading up to the first game of the season to be a backup. He was immediately forced into a starting role.

Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley might have given the 49ers a high-level pairing of cornerbacks. When Verrett was lost, there was going to be a drop-off. And when Moseley is not on the field, as was the case for most of Sunday’s game, that’s another significant hit to the secondary.

Norman has been penalized more than anyone on the team. But he leads the league in forced fumbles. He gives up a high percentage of completions, but generally limits the big-yardage plays.

The 49ers were left to scramble on the other side after Moseley's injury. Rookie Deommodore Lenoir got the first opportunity before they turned to veteran Dontae Johnson in the second half.

We all can agree the 49ers, like most teams, have issues at cornerback. But the overall pass defense has been better than expected and was one of the bright spots in Seattle with three takeaways and just 4.4 net yards allowed per pass attempt.

Russell Wilson completed 30 of 37 passes for 231 yards. He was sacked four times for 50 yards.

The Seahawks’ top receivers are Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. They were held in check. Lockett caught seven passes for 68 yards, while Metcalf had five receptions for 60.

The point is, nobody is expecting miracles from the 49ers’ cornerbacks. Nobody expected the 49ers to be fourth in the NFL allowing just 205.1 passing yards per game, either.

RELATED: Grading 49ers' offense, defense in tough loss to Seahawks

The 49ers are an average team. Their record proves it.

The 49ers might be different than most average teams because they have far-above average players at nearly every position group on both sides of the ball.

This average team is still capable of some very good things as long as they manage to stay out of their own way. And that has been the biggest problem this season.

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