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Seattle Seahawks

Commentary: Thursday showed us the real Seahawks, and they’re not good enough to compete with NFL’s best

Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett fights for extra yardage during the fourth quarter Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers at Lumen Field in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – If that surprised you, perhaps Harlem Globetrotter victories do, too.

Maybe Batman besting the Joker, or James Bond getting the girl, or the sun shining in San Diego shocks you to your core.

There might have been a brief window Thursday night when it seemed like a Seattle comeback was possible, but the final score reading 49ers 31, Seahawks 13 accurately depicts the lopsided nature of this game. When exactly was it over?

Probably before it started.

The Seahawks’ past two meetings with NFL elites – the 49ers (8-3) on Thursday and the Ravens (8-3), who won 37-3 on Nov. 5 – have revealed what most of their games suggested: This team is simply not equipped to compete with the top tier of the league.

Yes, there was the road win against Detroit (8-3) in Week 2, in which Seattle quarterback Geno Smith had his finest performance of the season. But it’s safe to call that an outlier at this point.

The Seahawks are still that thing they were all last season, and what most expected them to be this season – average.

Don’t expect that to change before year’s end.

The difference between San Francisco’s and Seattle’s capabilities was evident immediately Thursday. The Niners drove 71 yards for a touchdown on nine plays on their first possession, and at one point had 12 first downs to the Seahawks’ 0. It was 24-3 at halftime, and if not for a 66-yard kickoff return by Seattle’s Dee Eskridge in the first quarter, it would have been 24-0.

Moving the ball was futile against a Niners team that came into the game fifth in the NFL in total defense. The Seahawks’ 56 net yards in the first half proved as much. Trying to slow down a San Francisco team that came into the game third in total offense was equally fruitless. The 49ers had possession of the ball for 22 minutes, 31 seconds in the first half, 35:30 for the game and outgained the Seahawks 377-220.

The short-lived stretch of hope came in the third quarter, after Seattle linebacker Jordyn Brooks intercepted a ball that bounced off running back Christian McCaffrey’s hand and ran it 12 yards into the end zone to make it 24-10. A defensive stop on the Niners’ next possession ensued, followed by a Seahawks field goal on a drive that got as close as the San Francisco 7.

Then reality woke up from its siesta.

Seattle didn’t make any serious scoring threat in the final quarter. In fact, if not for a seasonlong kickoff return, a pick that fell right into a linebacker’s hands and a career-highlight, one-handed snag by receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, there would have been no scoring threats at all.

The worst part for the Seahawks (6-5), who have lost two straight – Thursday was probably the best chance they had at a win during this merciless four-game stretch.

On Thursday, they have Dallas (8-3) on the road. Then, it’s another tango with San Francisco – which has outscored the Seahawks 120-56 in their past four meetings – but this time in California. Then, they host the 9-1 Eagles.

I wrote Sunday that anything better than 1-3 over that stint would be considered a success.

Based on what we saw Thursday, I’ll amend that to one win will be a success.

This team has struggled with subpar opponents all season – losing twice to the Rams and getting fits from the Commanders (4-8) and even the Panthers (1-9). It has also gone seven straight quarters and 20 straight possessions without an offensive touchdown.

“It’s been a tough stretch for us,” said Smith, who finished with 180 yards, no touchdowns and one interception on 18-of-27 passing. “There is no excuse for it. There is no, you know, words that I can say to make it better. … I think what we have to do is continue to work hard, if not work harder.”

About 20 minutes earlier, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked about the lopsided losses to the Niners and Ravens and how they compare to the league’s best.

“We got plenty of chances. We got plenty of chances coming up,” he said. “This is playoff time every week.”

But it was a follow-up question about how far Pete thinks the Seahawks lag behind the Niners that seemed to strike a nerve.

“What?” said Carroll, who clearly heard the question. “They had a really good first half and jumped on us. I can’t make that determination.”

OK, I’ll make it. They’re way behind. An ultramarathon behind.

There’s the NFL’s top tier and then there’s Seattle – mired in the middle with little hope of moving up.