49ers

49ers takeaways: What we learned from blowout loss to Seahawks

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SEATTLE — The only thing that changed with Richard Sherman moving to the 49ers is that he now has a different perspective of the Seahawks’ dominance.

Russell Wilson threw three first-half touchdown passes, and the Seahawks cruised to their 10th consecutive victory over the 49ers on Sunday with a 43-16 decision at CenturyLink Field.

After Wilson’s first touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Jaron Brown, the Seahawks reenacted one of Sherman’s top moment with Seattle — the play that kicked off the head-to-head win streak.

Sherman tipped a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree late in the NFC Championship game in January 2014. Teammate Malcolm Smith, also now with the 49ers, made the interception to clinch the victory to send the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl championship.

For the reenactment as part of their touchdown celebration, Doug Baldwin played the role of Sherman, while David Moore was Malcolm Smith.

Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s game:

Second-guessing Saleh

Even when completely healthy, it’s not a great matchup for Smith, the veteran linebacker, to be running down the field with Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett.

But Smith has been bothered recently with an Achilles injury, making the challenge even more problematic for Smith. Lockett entered the game with 43 catches for 661 yards (15.4 average) and a Seahawks-best eight touchdowns.

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has come under criticism this season, and the flaw in the defense of asking Smith to run with Lockett definitely is worthy of second-guessing. The play resulted in a 52-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson.

 

Smith’s coverage was good, but Lockett created separation with a subtle push-off as the ball arrived. Free safety Jaquiski Tartt, from the middle of the field, wasn’t in position to provide help on the deep pass.
The 49ers entered the game with the NFL’s No. 11-ranked defense in yards allowed and tied for 26th in points allowed.

Wilson provides spark, then is injured

Running back Matt Breida had a big day one week ago at Tampa Bay, but the 49ers’ coaching staff felt as if he did not take full advantage of the blocking efforts.

Breida is still showing the effects of an ankle injury that has lingered through most of this season. Although he rushed for 106 yards the Buccaneers, the coaching staff observed that Breida did not make defenders miss.

On Sunday, the 49ers countered with a heavy dose of running back Jeff Wilson, who was called up from the practice squad a week earlier. And Wilson’s fresh legs were on display in the first half, as he gained 39 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 44 yards.

But Wilson did not stay healthy for long, as he sustained a foot injury late in the first half. Wilson, whom the 49ers signed as an undrafted rookie from North Texas, also was ruled to have fumbled on a play in which it looked as if the ball popped loose at the Seattle 3-yard line.

Wilson finished with 61 yards rushing and eight catches for 73 yards. Breida carried five times for just 6 yards.

Look for the 49ers to continue to use Wilson a lot down the stretch to limit some of the wear-and-tear on Breida.

[RELATED: Pettis has career day in return to Seattle]

49ers see what Harris can do

Rookie strong safety Marcell Harris made his first NFL start Sunday, as the team moved Jaquiski Tartt to free safety to open the door for the sixth-round pick.

Harris had not started a game since the end of the 2016 season at Florida. He missed his entire senior season due to a torn Achilles.

Harris spent the first eight weeks of the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He played primarily on special teams the past three games.

On Sunday, Harris recorded two solo tackles, four total, while playing the entire game. Tartt sustained a shoulder stinger while making a tackle on the kickoff to open the second half, and Antone Exum took over at free safety for the remainder of the game.

With the season hopelessly lost, the 49ers must continue to find opportunities for many of their young players to get opportunities. In the final four games, the 49ers should look to get cornerback Tarvarius Moore, a third-round pick, onto the field to gain some experience, if he's available. Moore left the game in the fourth quarter with a jaw injury.