An open-and-shut opener

Posted Sep 11, 2011

After the Seahawks had cut the lead to 19-17 in the fourth quarter, they appeared ready to pull out a win in their opener. Instead, Ted Ginn Jr. returned two kicks for scores in 56 seconds to seal the 49ers' victory.

SAN FRANCISCO – After rookie Doug Baldwin had scored on a 55-yard touchdown pass to cut the 49ers’ lead to two points with four minutes to play on Sunday afternoon, Pete Carroll had a sense his Seahawks team was about to “take over the game.”

The coach’s reaction paled to that of Matt McCoy, as the linebacker watched from the sideline at Candlestick Park.

“When Baldwin scored, I was jumping up and down and it was really exciting,” said McCoy, who had spearheaded a goal-line stand just minutes earlier to force the 49ers to settle for a field goal.

But it wasn’t to be. Not on this opening day, as the 49ers’ Ted Ginn Jr. returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and, and 56 seconds later, ran back a punt for another score.

Quicker than anyone could utter what just happened, the 49ers had a 33-17 lead and the victory.

“This was a very disappointing first game for us,” Carroll said. “The way that we played the football game, we gave them so many opportunities.”

In addition to the 268 yards on return yardage by Ginn, the Seahawks also were penalized 11 times – an area that also was a problem in the preseason – and turned the ball over three times.

The defense held up its end, limiting old nemesis Frank Gore to 59 yards on 22 carries for 2.7-yard average and also holding Alex Smith to 124 yards on 15 completions. The Seahawks forced the 49ers to go three-and-out on their first three possessions of the second half and five times in the game.

“They’re really not a powerful team,” free safety Earl Thomas said of limiting the 49ers to field goals after they had reach the Seahawks’ 9-, 6-, 14- and 1-yard lines. “They do the same stuff.

“I think the defense played really well. I think we gave ourselves a chance, we just couldn’t finish at the end.”

After a sluggish start that looked too much like the problems that plagued them during the preseason, the offense came out after a scoreless first half to put 17 points on the board. Tarvaris Jackson completed 21 of 37 passes for 197 yards and spread the ball to nine receivers.

“We realized there were certain things that we should run and certain things that we should do that were going to be effective,” wide receiver Ben Obomanu said. “They weren’t doing anything that we didn’t prepare for, so it was just a matter of scaling some stuff down and doing it better.”

But the special teams that had been so extra-special for the Seahawks last season did not hold up their third of the deal with the outcome on the line.

“We’ve got a lot of talent,” said McCoy, who led the special teams in coverage tackles last season. “I don’t think it’s an effort or talent thing. We just have to make the corrections. I really don’t know exactly what happened. So I really can’t comment on it.”

What happened on the kickoff return was that Ginn broke it up the sideline and then outran Thomas – one the fastest Seahawks – to the end zone.

“He’s special, man,” Thomas said of Ginn. “But he’s going to be average when you do it right. And we didn’t do it right, we let him get to the edge and he did the rest.”   

The Seahawks had more first downs (18-12) and total yards (219-209) than the 49ers, and also held them to 1 of 12 on third-down situations. But it wasn’t enough to emerge with a victory.

“It felt like we did the things we needed to do to get back in the game,” Carroll said. “It felt really like we were right there to take this game over. Then we just fell apart in the kicking game.”

And the Seahawks will be kicking themselves over this loss for a while.