SANTA CLARA — It's difficult to expect much more from the 49ers than what we've already seen.
So, yes, the 49ers have a bunch of built-in excuses with another season picking up on the injury front where the 2020 version of the team left off.
But even without all the bad luck hovering over this team, the 49ers should have done enough in the first half to come out of Week 4 with a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers’ offense did not capitalize on an incredible showing from the defense. And the result was a 28-21 loss that drops the 49ers (2-2) two games behind the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals.
Here are the grades for the 49ers’ deflating defeat:
On the bright side, rookie running back Trey Sermon ran with a lot more purpose than he did in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers. Sermon had 89 yards on 19 rushing attempts, coming off a 31-yard showing. The 49ers did a nice job of creating holes for the running back by starting with the passing game.
Rookie quarterback Trey Lance added 41 yards rushing on seven carries, not including a successful run on a two-point conversion. The 49ers averaged 4.9 yards per rushing attempt.
Jimmy Garoppolo played the first half before exiting with a calf injury. Lance entered at the beginning of the third quarter. It was not always pretty, but Lance did flash the big-play ability that prompted the 49ers to select him with the No. 3 overall pick. He connected with Deebo Samuel on scoring plays that covered 76 and 8 yards.
Garoppolo capped the first drive of the game with a 21-yard touchdown to Ross Dwelley. But, after that, the 49ers’ passing game struggled behind Garoppolo. Lance threw for 157 yards, while Garoppolo threw for 165 yards. The overall numbers look a lot better than how it felt. Samuel had an outstanding game with eight catches for 156 yards.
The 49ers did a good job against running back Chris Carson, an underrated part of the Seahawks offense. Carson managed just 30 yards on 13 rushing attempts. Seattle scored two rushing touchdowns — one from quarterback Russell Wilson and one from backup running back Alex Collins.
The 49ers had seven tackles for loss. Linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair and Fred Warner combined for 19 tackles.
The 49ers’ defense was outstanding for most of the first half, but everyone knew it was only a matter of time before Wilson would get going. Dee Ford had two first-half sacks. But he had a costly offside penalty at a key point in the fourth quarter.
Dre Kirkpatrick made his first start with the 49ers, but he was called for a controversial pass interference at an inopportune time in the fourth quarter.
Wilson completed 16 of 23 passes for 149 yards. He threw scoring passes to DK Metcalf and Freddie Swain. The 49ers did not sack Wilson in the second half.
Trenton Cannon had a miserable day as a return man. He lost a second-half fumble that led directly to a Seahawks touchdown. It was not a good day for special teams, but it is difficult to blame Mitch Wishnowsky for the kicking game.
Pressed into action when Robbie Gould sustained a pregame groin injury, Wishnowsky missed a 41-yard FG and a 38-yard PAT attempt.
Seriously, at this point, what can they do? The 49ers were down to their fifth running back and were ultra-thin at cornerback, too. The game plan to get Garoppolo going seemed sound. After Lance entered, the 49ers schemed up a touchdown pass to Samuel in which there was no defender anywhere near.
The decision to attempt a 38-yard PAT rather than a two-point conversion from the 7-yard line did not work.
What else can possibly go wrong for this team? (Maybe that is a question that should not be asked.) The 49ers had their opportunities early in this game to create a nice cushion against the Seahawks in this NFC West matchup. The offense faltered. The special teams faltered. And, eventually, the defense gave up some plays, too.
The 49ers have lost two in a row and now face a critical game against the division-leading Cardinals.