Jim Harbaugh made his debut on Sunday at Candlestick Park, and there was a lot of hope from the San Francisco 49ers faithful that he'd be able to improve his offense.
But it wasn't Harbaugh's offensive unit that made the most noise for San Francisco on Sunday. For much of the game, the 49ers most questioned unit was its normal anemic self. They averaged a horrid 2.7 yards per carry. Frank Gore had a pretty weak rushing performance save a late fourth quarter drive. Despite completing three-fourths of his passes and rushing for 22 yards on seven carries, Alex Smith only managed 124 passing yards on 6.2 yards per attempt. Worst of all, they converted one lone third down (which was pretty much third-and-an-inch) out of 12 opportunities. San Francisco managed 209 yards of offense and turned only ONE of five red zone opportunities into touchdowns, allowing Seattle to hang around for most of the game.
However, the units that really shined on Sunday came on the other side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and special teams coordinator Brad Seely had their units raring to go on Sunday.
Fangio's defense totally locked down the Seahawks rushing attack. Seattle doesn't have a great offensive line, but they looked absolutely pitiful in trying to open holes for the Seattle runners as the 49ers defensive front manhandled them at the line. Marshawn Lynch had 33 yards on 13 carries (and he generated most of those yards on his own); Justin Forsett picked up three yards on three carries, Michael Robinson two yards on his lone carry. 49ers front seven defenders Navorro Bowman, Ray McDonald and Patrick Willis all picked up five to six tackles in containing the Seahawks runners.
When Seattle's run attack closed up, the 49ers got to work at battering Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson was sacked five times (twice by Justin Smith and Parys Haralson each, once by Ray McDonald), and Haralson forced a crucial fumble to set up a Niners field goal. Willis, Tarell Brown, Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers, Ahamd Brooks and Aldon Smith also deflected passes, and Tramaine Brock picked off a Jackson pass at the end of the half.
The unsung heroes came on special teams. Punter Andy Lee boomed incredible punts of 61, 64, 58, 55, and 60 yards in the winds of the Stick. David Akers knocked in all four of his field goals, even if they were all red zone chippers, but also boomed kickoffs back and forced Seattle to start generally from within their own 25. And we've already talked about the contributions of kick returner Ted Ginn, Jr., who broke the game open at the end. But those contributions were equally valuable to ensuring victory for San Francisco.
San Francisco has to be greatly encouraged by the performance of their defense and special teams, but the offense simply has to improve. Otherwise the 49ers will be right back where they were for the past half-decade--a team that could only produce in certain places while remaining totally deficient in others.
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