SANTA CLARA—Less than a week after the Seahawks kicked off their 2022 season with a thrilling win, they were served a reminder of how unforgiving the NFL can be to a team that turns in a sloppy performance against a good opponent.
Facing a daunting opponent in the 49ers, and making several costly self-inflicted errors, the Seahawks fell behind big in the first half and never recovered on their way to a 27-7 loss at Levi's Stadium.
"What a distance from one week to the next," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "The league just reminds you how you get humbled. We didn't do anything like we wanted to today. The line of scrimmage on either side of the ball, we didn't deal with it right. We had 10 penalties, they had one; we had three turnovers, they had none. It's really hard to win this football game today the way we did it. We have to bounce right back. We don't have a choice, we have to bounce back and get going again, make sure we get back on track to do the things we want to do. We didn't run the ball worth a darn today. Give them credit, they're a nice group. They held Chicago to 200 yards last week, they're real. But we've got to get right, and we've got to score."
Echoing his coach's sentiments, safety Quandre Diggs said, "This league can humble you quick, and we were humbled today. That's just part of it."
The Seahawks did get an impressive touchdown on special teams, with Michael Jackson returning a Tariq Woolen-blocked field goal 86 yards for a score, but Seattle's offense failed to score in the game, making it six quarters since the Seahawks have scored on offense.
"We have to do everything better," said Carroll. "We have to run the ball with some consistency. We actually protected pretty well early in the game for the first three quarters. But we've just got to make more things happen. We have to fit it off what we do with the running game and make the passing game come to life off the play-(action) passes and stuff that really didn't even show today. We ran the ball for nothing. We've got to execute better.
Later, Carroll bluntly summed it up, saying, "Nothing worked. We didn't do anything anywhere."
And while the Seahawks know they could have done a lot more to help themselves on offense, it's also worth noting that the 49ers defense, which has been one of the best in the league for several years, had a lot to do with those struggles.
"They make it hard on you," said quarterback Geno Smith. "They've got a great pass rush, they're a championship team. Hat's off to them, they played a great game."
The Seahawks also hurt themselves on the penalty front, both in terms of offensive penalties that killed drives—none bigger than an ineligible man down field call that negated a huge pass to DK Metcalf—and defensive penalties that extend drives for the 49ers. In all, the Seahawks had 10 penalties enforced against them to just one for the 49ers.
"We can't play football like that," Carroll said. "We gave them too much. We made it too easy on them."
Seattle's defense did well to keep the score down in the second half to try to keep the Seahawks in the game, but in the first half they had a hard time slowing down the 49ers running game, with San Francisco averaging 6.5 yards per carry on its way to 123 first-half rushing yards.
"We need more guys around the ball so guys don't get stuck in one-on-ones so much," Carroll said of the missed tackles that contributed to those rushing totals. "We've just got to do better."
Yet even with the offense and defense both struggling to get right, the Seahawks had a chance to get right back in the game when their most promising drive of the half took them inside the 49ers' 10-yard line. But with the Seahawks looking to cut into a 13-0 lead and make it a close game before halftime, they called a trick play Carroll would come to regret, one that called for running back DeeJay Dallas to throw to DK Metcalf in the back of the end zone. But instead of floating a pass over a defender to an open Metcalf, Dallas threw it right to Charvarius Ward for a drive and momentum-killing turnover.
"We threw the ball right to their guy," Carroll said of the play. "I wish I'd have called time out, I should have… It was a really cool play to call and give a shot to, but it asks a lot, and in that situation, I just wish I'd have gotten us out of it.
"That's huge turnaround. We screw that up and don't get in the end zone right there, it'd have been entirely different."
Another big turnover a few minutes later, this one coming on special teams, allowed the 49ers to extend their lead to 20-0. On a windy day that made conditions tough on returners, Tyler Lockett attempted to fair catch a punt and didn't have time to warn Xavier Crawford, who was blocking on the play, that he was getting too close, and Crawford was shoved into Lockett by a 49ers player—a completely legal play—causing a muffed punt that set up another 49ers touchdown.
And while players didn't want to use the emotion of the previous week's win—not to mention the physical challenges of a short week—as an excuse for a poor performance, Carroll said ultimately the Seahawks played like they didn't handle those challenges very well.
"We didn't look very good," he said. "It didn't look like we did very well with that… When you win that (Week 1) game, it was going to be a challenge, so we took it head on, but we didn't do well enough with it. We didn't come back and play like we wanted to play. We missed too many tackles, we just didn't look the same. So I've got to do a better job."
Ultimately though, the cause for the struggles mattered less than the fact that the Seahawks simply got outplayed on Sunday.
"I don't know about all of that," linebacker Jordyn Brooks said if there were any lingering effects from last week's win. "We just got beat today in all phases. So we'll just go to work and get better. They just played better than us today, that's the facts."
Said Smith, "We can't let that be an excuse. We have to play games every week, going to have some short weeks, so I don't really think it was because of last week that we didn't get it done today. I feel like we really shot ourselves in the foot, had some uncharacteristic plays here and there, so we've just got to get back to work, clean up the mistakes and get ready for last week… I feel like everyone was locked in, and we had great energy the entire time, I just think we made some mistakes that we couldn't recover from."
The Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 for their first road matchup of the 2022 Season.