SANTA CLARA, Calif. — No Geno Smith led many to think that the Seattle Seahawks had no hope here Sunday.
By the 1:05 p.m. kickoff, some of the betting lines in Las Vegas had the San Francisco 49ers favored by as many as 15.5 points — the largest spread against the Seahawks in a game since 1992.
But for brief moments Sunday, the Seahawks seemed as if they’d pull off the biggest regular-season upset of the Pete Carroll era as Smith’s replacement, Drew Lock, generally played about as well as could have been expected.
When the clock finally hit zero, though, the game had pretty much turned out as everyone figured — a 28-16 49ers win in which San Francisco had some pretty eye-opening domination in the box score.
The 49ers gained 527 yards, the most against Seattle this year and the fifth-most ever allowed by a Carroll team, and averaged 9.9 yards per play — three yards more per play than any opponent this year against the Seahawks.
And after an early uprising, the offense scored just six points in the final three quarters and converted just 2 of 11 third downs for the game — and just one of the final 10.
Even uglier, the loss was Seattle’s fourth straight — the longest streak of the Carroll era and something the Seahawks had not done since the final four games of Jim Mora’s lone year in 2009 — dropping the Seahawks to 6-7 following a 5-2 start.
And it was the fifth straight loss against the 49ers, all by at least eight points and by a combined 148-72.
“We just got big-played by their guys on offense too many times to win the game today,” Carroll said.
He soundly particularly miffed that in his view, the 49ers, who had 10 plays of 20 yards or more, had success running the same plays they always do, which included a 72-yard run by Christian McCaffrey on the first play of the game that led to a quick 7-0 San Francisco lead.
“That’s their favorite play,” Carroll said. “We’ve been practicing against it the whole time.”
As another example, Carroll cited a 54-yard TD pass from Brock Purdy to Deebo Samuel in the second quarter that put the 49ers ahead 14-10 at the half.
“There was nothing special about them running Deebo on a deep crosser,” Carroll said. “He’s been doing that his whole career, and we saw it and we didn’t play it right.”
Samuel ran right by safety Jamal Adams — the third-highest paid safety in the NFL — to break into the open on the play.
Seattle brought linebackers Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks on a blitz up the middle on the play and Adams said he anticipated that Purdy would have to throw the ball earlier than he did.
“It was just a bang-bang play,” Adams said. “I was too short. I was sitting flat-footed and obviously I kind of expect the ball to come out a little quicker. … Obviously, I take that heat.”
Still, Seattle and Lock didn’t fold.
A 25-yard Lock TD pass to tight end Colby Parkinson made it 21-16 with 24 seconds to play in the third quarter and created a little air of nervousness in the crowd.
But three plays later, the 49ers had a 28-16 lead after a 44-yard TD pass from Purdy to tight end George Kittle.
Safety Julian Love was fooled enough on the play that he tried to hold Kittle, drawing a flag, to prevent a big gain. But Kittle shrugged off Love and broke into the open for the catch and the score anyway.
Carroll said of the 49ers formation on the Kittle play that “he’s been doing that for his whole career.”
“There was nothing new about those things,” Carroll said. “We didn’t execute well enough to stop those opportunities. That’s the stuff we practiced, and we needed to come through and make those plays. We didn’t do it.”
Said Love when asked why the 49ers had success even if, as Carroll insisted, they weren’t doing anything new: “They were scheming up some of the stuff we do. But that’s a pillar of what we have to do on defense — play top down and not allow explosives. Obviously, we allowed too many balls over our heads today.”
Take away even just one or two of those and Seattle might have had a legit shot to pull off the upset with the way Lock was playing.
He found out Thursday he might have to start after Smith hurt his groin in practice. Smith went through a pregame workout to try to convince coaches he could play but Carroll said he made the decision to sit Smith and go with Lock.
Lock, who hadn’t started since the final game of the 2021 season when he was with Denver, completed 22 of 31 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
“Drew did an excellent job,” Carroll said. “… He did a lot of cool stuff and came through for us to give us a chance.”
He also threw two interceptions, but both came in the fourth quarter once Seattle was down 12 and seemed pretty desperate, the final one on a fourth-down play with 2:59 left.
That pass was picked off by Fred Warner, who was tackled by Seattle receiver DK Metcalf as he lateraled it to teammate Dre Greenlaw. That set off a huge fracas that resulted in Metcalf and 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir being ejected.
It also epitomized a Seahawks team going through some frustrations that no one — other than those who maybe did so with other teams — has ever experienced.
Seattle likely has to win three of its last four to make the playoffs, a stretch that begins with a home game next Monday against the defending-NFC-champion Eagles.
As might be expected, Carroll said he thinks Seattle can still make something of the season, noting that Seattle has been playing some of the best teams in the league the last few weeks. The last three losses have come against the 49ers and Cowboys, the last two on the road.
“This is the challenging portion of this season,” Carroll said before turning his eye to the Eagles game. “… I believe these guys are going to bounce back and be ready to go again. We’ve got to get back on track because this losing thing sucks.”
Carroll said his postgame message to the team was about “continuing to believe,” noting that a few players made the same statement including receiver Tyler Lockett.
“All we have to do right now is stay together,” Lockett said. “Stay in it and keep playing with our heads down.”
Love, though, said it’s going to take a lot of individual decisions along the way for that needed togetherness to happen.
“You have two options right now,” Love said. “You either fall victim to your circumstances or you rally. We have four more opportunities for the regular season, and we have to capture them. Everything we can get is in front of us still, thankfully. We have two ways to go and each person in that locker room needs to decide what they’re going to do.”