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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

October 19, 2012 at 1:02 PM

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Seahawks learn some lessons the hard way in San Francisco

Some lessons are more painful than others, but Thursday's game at San Francisco left plenty of marks on this Seahawks' team that lost its fifth consecutive divisional game and fell to 4-3:

Three things we learned
1. Seattle's defense is not quite ready for coronation.
San Francisco rushed for 175 yards, the most Seattle has allowed this season. More telling, 117 of those rushing yards were gained in the second half against a Seattle defense that hadn't given up more than 87 yards rushing in any full game this season. It would be inaccurate to say the 49ers ran right over the top of Seattle's defense, though. Trap runs were the key to San Francisco's big gains up the middle, a play in which a pulling guard helped neutralize defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and get 49ers running back Frank Gore into the second level of the defense. Gore finished with 131 yards rushing, becoming only the third opponent in Seattle's past 24 regular-season games to reach triple digits.

2. The rookie hasn't quite turned the corner.
Russell Wilson failed to complete a pass in the third quarter, the second time this season that has happened, and he had three completions for a total of 19 yards in the second half. As coach Pete Carroll said after the game, 9-for-23 passing is not going to get it done in the NFL. Not even if you have an above-average running game and very good -- not yet great -- defense.

3. You can't take Wilson's passing numbers at face value.
Well, 9-for-23 passing may not get it done, but how about 14-for-23? Does that sound better? Because Wilson had some passes that couldn't have been thrown any better and should have resulted in big gains that were flat-out dropped. Wilson played very well in the first half, and if tight end Evan Moore, receiver Golden Tate and running back Robert Turbin catch balls that hit them in the hands in the first two quarters, Seattle's lead would have been larger than 6-3 at halftime.

Three things we're still trying to figure out
1. Whether Seattle planned a receiving retro night?
Because those Seahawks sure put on a vintage 2004 performance, dropping passes at the most inopportune times. There were five drops, two of which kept Seattle from getting the ball in scoring position, and two others coming on third down. It was reminiscent of 2004 when the Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson -- most notably -- had such a hard time holding onto passes. Tate's drops were particularly painful, especially the slant he ran on third-and-2 on Seattle's first possession of the third quarter. Not only was it Seattle's most blatant drop of the game, but that turned out to be the only play Seattle ran in San Francisco's half of the field in the final two periods.

2. Why was Sidney Rice targeted once in the first three quarters?
For a team that spent the whole game looking for a touchdown, it's surprising it didn't look to Rice more. He is the most dangerous receiver on Seattle's roster, and the one time Wilson threw to him in the first half resulted in a 27-yard gain. Why the Seahawks didn't find more ways to get him the ball remains one of the biggest question marks from Thursday's loss.

3. Why Seattle is having such a difficult time winning in the NFC West?
That's not a criticism of the division, which is greatly improved, but a puzzling fact that these low-scoring, defensive slugfests should be the kind of games where this team excels. Instead, the Seahawks are 0-3 in the division, all three of those losses coming by seven points or fewer. What's worse, Seattle has held all three division opponents to 20 points or fewer, which puts the onus squarely on the offense, which has shown a tendency to occasionally curl up in a fetal position when facing an above-average defense. Seattle crossed midfield only once, and never advanced the ball past their own 31 during any of the Seahawks' three possessions in the fourth quarter.

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