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



December 13, 2010 at 11:52 AM

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What we learned: 49ers 40, Seahawks 21

Posted by Danny O'Neil

I. Three things we learned

      a) Matt Hasselbeck remains turnover-prone.
He demonstrated that when he was intercepted 10 times over the final four games of 2009, and he has shown the same predilection recently. He committed 10 turnovers in the previous three games, including five on Sunday that led to 20 points for San Francisco. His team missed its starting two wide receivers Sunday in San Francisco, and Hasselbeck showed the same headstrong desire to make plays downfield the result was five turnovers in a two-quarter span that turned Sunday's loss into a blowout. Could Seattle have won without taking chances and trying to force some plays? It's not all that likely, but it's certain the Seahawks can't win when the quarterback plays as cavalierly as Hasselbeck did.

      b) The Seahawks have found consistency the past seven games.
That's not a good thing, though, because Seattle has consistently played poorly. The Seahawks have given up 20 or more points in a quarter four times in the past seven games. They never allowed more than 12 points in any single period their first six games. Seattle's past three victories have come against the following starting quarterbacks: Max Hall and Derek Anderson of Arizona and Jimmy Clausen of Carolina. And of all Seattle's losses this season have been by 15 or more points.

      c) Charlie Whitehurst isn't considered a viable alternative to Hasselbeck right now.
If the Seahawks were going to make a quarterback change this season, it would have occurred at halftime of Sunday's game after Hasselbeck committed three turnovers in the second quarter, two of them in Seattle's half of the field. The fact that coach Pete Carroll said he didn't consider benching Hasselbeck until very late in the game and then only to give Whitehurst some repetitions shows that Seattle doesn't consider him a viable replacement for Hasselbeck right now.

II. Three things we don't know

      a) What is tight end John Carlson's role on this team going forward?
Seattle started the game with two tight ends on the field in San Francisco, and Carlson was not one of them. Chris Baker and Cameron Morrah were the top two alternatives, and not only did Carlson not catch a pass Sunday, but he didn't have a ball thrown to him in a game in which 10 different players caught passes for the Seahawks. Now, Carlson is coming back from a hip injury, but the fact he finished with fewer receptions than guard Mike Gibson - who caught a tipped ball - is telling.

      b) What is Seattle's deal is with fourth-down fades?
Hasselbeck said afterward that is something that is within the offense, that if there's one-on-one coverage outside that's a chance the Seahawks offense is built to take advantage of. But at this point it's becoming clear that's an opportunity opposing defenses are trying to bait the Seahawks into taking. In effect, they're comfortable leaving the outside receiver in single coverage and Seattle has not been able to cash in that opportunity yet.

      c) How Deon Butler will recover from a frightening leg injury.
It was a serious injury. That was apparent as Ruvell Martin waved the trainers over as soon as he saw Butler on the ground in the end zone. Butler was the first person coach Pete Carroll visited after exiting Seattle's locker room after the game. Coach Mike Singletary also went in to see Butler. It was an unfortunate and frightening moment in Sunday's game.

III. Three things we're still trying to figure out

      a) What has gone so dramatically wrong with Golden Tate?
We've heard his route running is problematic. That's the reason he was inactive Week 1 and why his role in the offense was downgraded after the Week 4 loss at St. Louis, but with Seattle missing its starting wide receivers, the Seahawks started Ruvell Martin, a player it cut twice previously this year, and though Tate caught three passes in the game, he couldn't have been on the field for more than a dozen or so plays in the game.

      b) How did Hasselbeck spread the ball around so evenly?
He was picked off four times in the game, each interception by a different defender. Each of San Francisco's starting safeties caught one. So did cornerback Nate Clements. If nothing else, Hasselbeck prevented one player from padding interception totals by throwing the ball all over the field.

      c) Whether Seattle can win the division at 7-9?
It's going to be tricky. The Seahawks will have to beat the Rams in Week 17, and the Rams have to lose at least one game in addition to that, and the 49ers can not win their final two games in the division.

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