SAN FRANCISCO – A recap of the Seahawks’ 40-21 loss to the 49ers at Candlestick Park on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Alex Smith. The 49ers’ quarterback had missed the previous five games with a sprained shoulder, and the team’s fans were not happy when coach Mike Singletary announced on Tuesday that Smith would return for this win-or-be-eliminated-from-the-division-race game against the Seahawks – as evidenced by the boos when Smith threw incomplete on his first two pass attempts.
But the former first pick overall in the draft turned the jeers to cheers by completing 17 of 27 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers – 42 yards to tight end Vernon Davis, 15 yards to wide receiver Josh Morgan and 62 yards to running back Brian Westbrook.
Smith was especially efficient in leading the 49ers to a 30-7 halftime lead, as he hit 13 of 20 for 195 yards and all three scores.
“He’s a good quarterback,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said. “And if you let a quarterback be good, then he’s going to be able to be good if you make mistakes. So he made some good throws and made the most of his opportunities.”
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: The obvious choices are Smith’s TD passes. But a play with more lasting ramifications for the Seahawks was Matt Hasselbeck’s 2-yard scoring pass to Deon Butler with less than two minutes left in the game.
Butler made the catch, but also broke his leg when it appeared 49ers safety Taylor Mays went into Butler’s leg in the end zone. Butler finished with five catches for 68 yards, but he’s also finished for the season. He remained in San Francisco when the team flew back to Seattle after the game.
“He was unbelievably courageous and tough on the field,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Defense: On the second play of the second half, Dashon Goldson intercepted a Hasselbeck pass and the former University of Washington safety returned it 39 yards for a touchdown that pushed the 49ers’ lead to 37-7.
“I know better,” said Hasselbeck, who threw four interceptions and also lost the ball on a fumble-forcing sack.
But the pick that was gnawing at him most after the game was the pass strong safety Reggie Smith intercepted just before the end of the first half.
“It was inexcusable,” he said. “It was just terrible. It was awful.”
Special teams: After the 49ers had scored for an eighth – and final – time, Leon Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. It was his third scoring return this season, and bumped his season average to 27.8 yards.
“It wasn’t enough,” he said. “There is no consolation prize. You have to win the game.”
Pre-game: In a nice gesture, Carroll made former 49ers fullback Michael Robinson the fourth co-captain for this game – along with elected captains Hasselbeck (offense), Lofa Tatupu (defense) and Roy Lewis (special teams).
Robinson, who was signed by the Seahawks on Sept. 6, responded by leading the team with 33 rushing yards, including a 17-yarder out of the wild-cat formation when he took the direct snap from center.
The pre-game coin toss also included another former 49er and Seahawk – running back Ricky Watters, who was the 49ers’ honorary captain for the game.
In-game: It was a hit Lewis laid on Smith at the end of a 5-yard scramble late in the first quarter. The Seahawks’ dime back got a direct shot on the 49ers QB and dropped him in his tracks.
Post-game: The concern his teammates showed for Butler.
“That was tough to see,” fellow wide receiver Ruvell Martin said. “Deon is a great guy, a great teammate. You hate to see his season end like that.”
The Seahawks have lost five of their past seven games – by an average of 23.6 points – but they remain tied for the NFC West lead with the St. Louis Rams. Both teams are 6-7. The Rams lost to the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday.
Linebacker Aaron Curry led the Seahawks with eight tackles, including his four sack of the season.
Defensive end Chris Clemons also had a sack, giving him 9½. The last end to post double-digit sacks for the Seahawks was Patrick Kerney, who led the NFC with 14½ in 2007.
The linebacking trio of Takeo Spikes (nine), Patrick Willis (seven) and Manny Lawson (six) combined to make 22 tackles for the 49ers.
The Seahawks actually had more total offensive yards (361) than the 49ers (336), and ran more plays (65-56).
Running back Marshawn Lynch led the Seahawks with seven receptions, as Hasselbeck completed passes to 10 players – including left guard Mike Gibson, who caught a deflected pass on the Seahawks’ first possession.
Besides Butler, wide receiver Brandon Stokley strained a hamstring in the third quarter and did not return. It only compounded an already shorthanded situation, as leading receiver Mike Williams (sprained ankle) and starting flanker Ben Obomanu (lacerated hand) were inactive.
YOU DON’T SAY
“The story is that we turned the football over too many times and they got a ton of points out of it.” – Carroll