Jimmy Garoppolo limped away early to the locker room. So did George Kittle with a foot injury. Even defensive captain Fred Warner had an injury scare for the first time in the 49ers’ season-long injury cycle.
Don’t let those injuries overshadow the commanding reason for Sunday’s 37-27 loss to the host Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers defense simply could not stop MVP candidate Russell Wilson (four touchdown passes). It could not prevent a career day by D.K. Metcalf (12 catches, 161 yards, two touchdowns). It could not repeat last season’s goal-line magic in Seattle.
And the 49ers (4-4) could not answer Seattle with any offensive glory, at least when the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
First-half miscues, including a red-zone interception of Garoppolo, kept them from finding a rhythm against the NFL’s most generous defense.
Second-half injuries to Garoppolo and Kittle will keep everyone on edge heading into Thursday night’s visit by the Green Bay Packers (5-2) in a NFC Championship Game rematch. Warner, at least returned from his apparent collar-bone scare to play in the fourth quarter, which amounted to Sunday’s best highlight in a sad, twisted way.
While the 49ers remain in last place with a .500 record at the halfway point, hope is not gone, even if more starters are gone to injury. The NFC West is so competitive that teams could cannibalize each other, allowing for a second-half surge if the 49ers’ injury replacements overachieve.
Here are the highs, lows and all you need to know from the 49ers’ 13th loss in 17 meetings with the Wilson-led Seahawks:
Garoppolo’s accuracy was off throughout the first half, and as the fourth quarter began, he was done because of an aggravated injury to his right ankle, which he originally hurt Oct. 20.
Garoppolo passed for only 84 yards, completing 11-of-16 attempts and throwing a crucial interception in the red zone (to ex-49er D.J. Reed) on the 49ers’ second series. Garoppolo had never lost a NFC West road game in four such starts for the 49ers prior to this debacle.
Nick Mullens relieved Garoppolo to steer a fourth-quarter comeback attempt that had little chance. Mullens produced touchdowns on his first three drives of that final quarter. Those drives were capped by touchdowns from Jerick McKinnon (1-yard run), Ross Dwelley (20-yard catch) and Brandon Aiyuk (3-yard catch).
Mullens did nearly throw his own red zone interception and looked a bit rattled early by the Seahawks’ pass rush. He was 18-of-25 for 238 yards.
More Mullens might be in store for future games.
Garoppolo missed 2 1/2 games after getting pulled at halftime with his ankle injury in the Sept. 20 rout of the New York Jets, and Shanahan pulled him after a mistake-laden half in last month’s loss to the Miami Dolphins.
George Kittle hobbled to the 49ers’ bench in the fourth quarter, and he eventually walked to the locker room with trainers, after making a 25-yard catch to the Seahawks’ 37. It was only his second catch of the game.
Kittle endured season lows with two receptions on four targets for 39 yards. Initially reported as an ankle injury, the 49ers changed that diagnosis to a foot injury by game’s end. His replacement, Dwelley, had one reception, the 16-yarder for a touchdown.
The 49ers couldn’t find any goal-line heroes to replicate Dre Greenlaw’s win-preserving tackle last year in Seattle. The Seahawks were 4-for-4 in capping off goal-to-go situations. The first three times ended with touchdown passes by Wilson, and DeeJay Dallas’ 6-yard run provided insurance points with 3:33 to go.
The first two of Seattle’s goal-to-go touchdowns were 2-yard scores, starting with a Metcalf touchdown catch against Moseley and then a Dallas scoring reception once linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair peeled off his coverage in the third quarter. Wilson’s 6-yard touchdown pass to David Moore on third-and-goal gave Seattle a 27-7 lead.
Making Seattle’s offensive effort even more impressive was that it came without running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (hamstring). Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ defense played without star safety Jamal Adams (groin), cornerback Shaq Griffin (hamstring) and rusher Benson Mayowa (ankle).
Wilson finished 27-of-37 for 261 yards. He had four touchdowns and no interceptions this game, pushing his season totals to 26 touchdowns and six interceptions.
MOSELEY VS. METCALF
Emmanuel Moseley proved overmatched by Metcalf, who capitalized with two touchdown catches (46 yards, 2 yards). He also beat Moseley for a 35-yard catch to the 12-yard line to set up that second score and 13-6 Seahawks lead 3:04 before halftime.
Moseley did make a fantastic play in the fourth quarter by breaking up a potential 30-yard touchdown pass to Metcalf. The Seahawks settled for a field goal and 30-7 lead.
On Metcalf’s first touchdown, Moseley slipped early in coverage, then Metcalf zoomed past Dre Greenlaw, benefited from a Seahawks’ apparent hold of Jason Verrett, and raced down the right sideline for a touchdown. Seattle missed the point-after kick.
The 49ers briefly held a lead, and they got it from JaMycal Hasty’s first career touchdown. It came on a hard-earned, 1-yard run as he endured a hard hit from linebacker Bobby Wagner, then reached the ball across the goal line with 6:59 left in the first quarter. Robbie Gould’s subsequent point-after kick put the 49ers ahead 7-6.
Hasty scored on his 11th carry (25 yards at that point), and it alleviated ball-security concerns from a second-series fumble that the Seahawks failed to recover inbound, as a replay ruling reversed.
Hasty had only one carry after that score. He finished with 29 yards (12 carries).
Tevin Coleman got the start but promptly vanished because of a knee injury after a 12-yard carry on the second series.
Coleman was ruled out early in the third quarter, after the 49ers went three-and-out on their first series after halftime. He missed the previous five games with a knee sprain that put him on Injured Reserve. His Sunday totals were three carries for 20 yards before turning the backfield duties over to Hasty.
McKinnon had four receptions for 40 yards but his three carries netted minus-1 yard.
DANTE PETTIS EXIT?
Will Dante Pettis’ final play as a 49er by a fumble on an 18-yard kick return with 7:58 left in third quarter? Making matters worse on that play, Pettis injured his shoulder. He was a healthy scratch the past three games and got to suit up this game because Deebo Samuel (knee) and Richie James Jr. (ankle) were inactive.
Pettis has no receptions this season and the only other times he’s touched the ball this season were on a pair of 7-yard punt returns. A University of Washington product, Pettis totaled 129 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers’ visit to Seattle two years ago.
The 49ers looked strangely uptight and out of sync upon encountering the NFL’s worst-ranked defense. Only 116 yards (and seven points) showed for their 34 plays before halftime.
Two baffling calls backfired, the first being a Jerick McKinnon 3-yard loss on a third-and-5 snap from the wildcat formation. A reverse-field, screen pass to Trent Taylor resulted in a 6-yard loss 1:23 until halftime.
Garoppolo’s accuracy looked off from the jump, and a second-series interception in the red zone gave Seattle life and confidence. Garoppolo’s protection seemed fine, except for a third-down sack in which Bobby Wagner blitzed past center Hroniss Grasu.
Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne benefitted from Mullens’ fourth-quarter charge. AIyuk had eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Bourne had eight receptions for 81 yards.
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.