Ron Agostini

The 49ers’ Thanksgiving nightmare

By Ron Agostini

ragostini@modbee.com

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stands on the sideline during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. The Seahawks 19-3. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stands on the sideline during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. The Seahawks 19-3. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) AP

As 49er disappointments go, this one rates, on a scale of 10, about a 15.

How much lower can you submerge than Richard Sherman dancing, preening and taunting the 49ers after his second interception? Or Russell Wilson again outplaying Colin Kaepernick? Or an offense that appeared to be running in quicksand? Or having the whole thing televised on Thanksgiving night in Levi’s Stadium’s introduction to Prime Time?

The new house looked fine. The same thing can’t be said for the home team fast-tracking toward couch-time in January.

The Seattle Seahawks’19-3 win easily could have been 30-3 or worse. The trend started with, let’s see, the first play--Jeron Johnson stuffing kick returner Carlos Hyde at the SF 13 yard line. And it was a harbinger--the Seahawks sprinting to the ball, the 49ers unable to get out of their own way.

When it ended, Sherman and Wilson munched on turkey on the SF logo at midfield. Yes, the indignities stacked atop one another, like kindling for a funeral pyre.

49er CEO Jed York, with the clock not yet showing zeroes, tweeted his apologies to the fans for his team’s “unacceptable performance.” Could those two words mean the beginning of the end for coach Jim Harbaugh as the whispers about his exit grow louder?

“It’s not acceptable,” Kaepernick agreed. “We have a much higher standard for ourselves.”

Seattle’s so-called “ownership” over the 49ers, the last two games notwithstanding, is an overstatement. Until Thursday, the home team won 10 of the last 11 meetings since 2009. The win was the Seahawks’ first on SF home turf since 2008.

What’s not overstated, however, is Kaepernick’s repeating nightmares against Seattle. He’s now 1-4 against the champions from the Northwest. A lot of teams have caught up with Kaepernick’s racing legs, but none claim rightful ownership of his every move like the Seahawks.

Kaepernick overthrew receivers, missed open receivers or threw to guys who were not open. Repeated attempts to find Brandon Lloyd deep downfield failed. Lloyd actually beat Sherman on the first interception, but Kaepernick tossed off-target.

The Turlock QB’s rating was an anemic 36.7, compared to Wilson’s 118.8. The eye-test told painful truths more graphic than the numbers.

Wilson eluded, dodged, extended plays and toyed with the 49ers. Kaepernick guided an offense which sputtered for 45 yards on its first 24 snaps, and Seattle’s suffocating defense tethered the quarterback to the line of scrimmage. Only a respectable effort by the 49er defense muffled Seattle’s laughter.

Worse, the 49ers appeared to be determined to beat Sherman--whose tipped ball finished the 49ers in the championship game--and, instead, nuked themselves. Michael Crabtree, the receiver humiliated last January by Sherman’s rant, was injured early in the game and was a non-factor.

“They were bad throws. My receivers won. I just made bad throws,” Kaepernick said. “If your quarterback doesn’t play well, it’s going to be hard to win games.”

The mile-long stares in the 49er locker room were hard to miss. They’re a 3-3 mediocrity at Levi’s to date, and their offense remains stuck in neutral.

“I know we’ve got players,” running back Frank Gore said. “Things are not happening for us. I don’t know what is.”

For the 49ers, there is nowhere to hide. Hints of their demise have been posted like road signs along the interstate for the last three months – the ugly losses to Chicago and St. Louis, the offense averaging less than a touchdown after halftime, an injury-weakened defense wilting under the weight of having to carry the entire team.

They’ve been found out, all right, and in not-subtle terms by their strutting archrival. Seattle, 8-5, earned an inside track toward the playoffs. The 7-5 49ers, who stumbled to 164 net yards against the Seahawks, look the part of a team fading from view after appearances in three straight NFC championship games.

Apart from the 49ers’ embarrassment, it’s too bad both teams were asked to play what basically was an elimination game as early as Thanksgiving. If you thought Thursday night was ugly, check out the mess in the NFC South. The Falcons and the Saints are locked in a 4-7 death-struggle for one lame division title.

Contrast that with the carnage dealt weekly in the NFC West. Division leader Arizona was hardened by going 10-6 and staying home a year ago. This season, the 49ers appear to the Cardinals’ successor.

The NFL wants to honor division champions and keep alive divisional rivalries. We get that. But competitive integrity has been compromised. Let’s start with, well, Thursday.

Thanksgiving was billed as a banner day in the league. Three top-tier games were scheduled – Bears-Lions, Eagles-Cowboys and Seahawks-49ers.

Three games. Three duds.

It was the trifecta of flameouts and another invitation to throw stones through the NFL windows for going full-monty on these short-rest Thursday affairs. Yes, the Thanksgiving games were traditional, but the league now has embraced them season-long. The quality of the product has dipped.

The 49ers don’t have time to stress about NFL issues. Their problems multiply by the day. Harbaugh talked bravely about “winning ‘em all” but his words seem empty with an offense kicking up little more than dust.

The long knives have been unsheathed, folks, and the Oakland Raiders are waiting on Dec. 7.

As hard as it seems for 49er fans to comprehend, it can get worse.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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