NaVarro Bowman, DeForest Buckner and the rest of the 49ers' defense probably left Century Link Field encouraged. They were coming into this game 0-1, with most people counting them out in Seattle.
The 49ers were historically bad at Century Link Field these past few years, with their last win coming in 2011. Most analysts, writers and fans -- including me -- wrote them off this weekend. Las Vegas had set the line to Seattle -14 early in the week and I thought the Seahawks would easily cover.
But as halftime arrived, the 49ers were in this game and had a realistic chance of winning. The defense was all over the field, rushing to the ball carrier and not giving up very many yards after the catch. Their tackling was as solid as it's been in these past few years and with Aaron Lynch active, the 49ers had a semblance of a pass rush. This was all without the 49ers' best player in LB Reuben Foster.
San Francisco routinely chased QB Russell Wilson out of the pocket, making him complete difficult throws on the run and evading pressure. Wilson finished the game 23-of-39 for 198 yards and one touchdown late in the game. The 49ers' run defense was stout too, only giving up 131 yards on 37 carries -- which is only an average of 3.54 yards per carry.
The defense absolutely showed up in Seattle and reminded me of the Vic Fangio defenses. It was a "bend, don't break" defense, where the 49ers would continue to hold Seattle for field goals rather than touchdowns. It was a basic defense that allowed for the playmakers to get to the ball and make tackles, rather than having intricate schemes. Robert Saleh has the entire defense humming and playing as a unit. I'm sure when the defense stepped on the plane last night, they have firm belief that they can defeat the Rams on a short week.
On the other hand, the offense was purely a one-man show. RB Carlos Hyde carried the team on his back -- literally -- and almost brought home the 49ers' first win of the season. Hyde was sensational, carrying 15 times for 124 yards, including a long of 61 on a carry up the left sideline. He was bouncing off of Seahawk defenders all game long and made every yard count.
The receiving corps for San Francisco was abysmal, with WR Pierre Garcon leading the way, with three catches for 26 yards. Marquise Goodwin had another key drop, but like Kyle Shanahan said after the game "it's two drops in two games, what can you do?"
The offensive line was a little better than Week 1, with G Laken Tomlinson taking over for Zane Beadles. They held up in certain situations, but going in, we knew it was going to a difficult task given the defensive front that Seattle possesses.
But here's what John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are thinking as they depart Seattle and head back to Santa Clara: that was the perfect game for the 49ers.
Think about it. There's absolutely no use winning games in the NFL without a starting, franchise quarterback in my opinion. QB Brian Hoyer was abhorrent in Week 1 and played worse on Sunday. If the 49ers had a B-level signal-caller, they walk out of Seattle as winners. But the rest of the team actually looked respectable. The defense held up against one of the better quarterbacks in the league on the road. They only gave up 12 points and held an opponent to less than 300 yards in consecutive weeks.
RB Carlos Hyde looks refreshed in this new scheme and is starting to look like the elite back we all thought he would look like coming out of Ohio State. The offensive line has holes, but RT Trent Brown and LT Joe Staley are holding their own on the ends. Tackles are more important in the NFL than guards, so at least San Francisco has that going for them.
So San Francisco played as well as it could've and lost the ball game. It's best if the 49ers land a top draft pick and can utilize that for a franchise quarterback or pass rusher. This is exactly what John Lynch could want as the general manager. Build a good defense that competes every week, add skill players and weapons and keep losing until you find a franchise quarterback.
As a fan, it's horrible to see your team lose every Sunday. But I promise, it's much worse if the 49ers win these meaningless games and position themselves out of the top three or four spots in the NFL Draft. They're better off going 0-16, after being close in every single game. If they lose every game this year, 12-9, trust me, nobody will be more excited than John Lynch. He'll know they're a franchise quarterback and a few other players from turning this thing around quickly.
So what happened Sunday was perfect for San Francisco. Stay competitive, play good defense, run the ball well and lose a close game.