Game at a glance

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.

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Fourth quarter

Peephole perspective: This one slogged along and turned into a why-bother exercise for both teams, until the Seahawks drove 80 yards in the final five minutes to a too-little, too-late TD. Final: 49ers 40, Seahawks 21.

Player of the quarter: Deon Butler. He caught a 43-yarder and then added a couple of shorter receptions in the Seahawks’ final drive to his 2-yard TD catch.

Play of the quarter: The TD catch, but even that was painful as Butler was injured after catching the pass in the end zone and taken off the field on a cart.

Number of the quarter: One. As in, the 49ers, at 5-8, are one game out of first in the NFC West.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks got to the 49ers’ 19 on their first possession of the quarter, as Matt Hasselbeck passed to Butler for 43 yards and Ruvell Martin for 20 on back-to-back play. But when the drive stalled, Olindo Mare was wide right on a 43-yard field goal.

The Seahawks’ final drive – which took nine plays – included a 36-yard pass to Ruvell Martin to the 49ers’ 9, and the TD pass which came on third-and-goal.


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Third quarter

Peephole perspective: The 49ers got an interception return for TD by FS Dashon Goldson. The Seahawks answered with a 92-yard kickoff return for a TD by Leon Washington. But it’s still all 49ers, 40-14.

Player of the quarter: Washington. Why not? Unless you go with the player from Washington – Goldson.

Play of the quarter: In a game that has been all 49ers, Washington gave the Seahawks a few now-that’s-more-like-it seconds when he ran back a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.

Number of the quarter: 40. As in the number of total points for the 49ers.

The bigger picture: New half, same results. On the second play, Goldson intercepted Matt Hasselbeck’s pass that was intended for TE Chris Baker and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to push the 49ers’ lead to 37-7. Hasselbeck changed the play and altered the formation by stepping back into the shotgun after reading that the 49ers were blitzing. But it obviously did not help.

The Seahawks drove to the 49ers’ 7 on the their next possession, but CB Nate Clements intercepted Hasselbeck’s pass in the end zone that was intended for Brandon Stokley.

Jeff Reed kicked his fourth field goal – this one a 36-yarder – with 3:32 left in the quarter to give the 49ers a 40-7 lead. The seven-play, 51-yard “drive” was actually one play – a 46-yard pass from Alex Smith to WR Josh Morgan to the Seahawks’ 21 on third-and-8.

The Seahawks then got their second touchdown, as Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a score – his third of the season. Washington already held the club single-season record with his TD returns of 101 and 99 yards against the Chargers in Week 3.

The Seahawks also lost WR Brandon Stokley to a hamstring injury in the quarter.


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Second quarter

Peephole perspective: The 49ers scored 13 points off a trio of Seahawks’ turnovers in the quarter, and scored on six of their seven possessions in the half. SF, 30-7.

Player of the quarter: Alex Smith. The 49ers QB had two touchdown passes in the quarter, giving him three for the half. He completed 13 of 20 passes in the first half for 195 yards. This was a guy who had sat out the previous five games with a sprained shoulder.

Play of the quarter: Three plays after the 49ers kicked a field goal to go up 13-7, LB Travis LaBoy beat LT Russell Okung for a fumble-forcing sack of Matt Hasselbeck. LaBoy also recovered the ball, and three plays later the 49ers scored on a 15-yard pass from Smith to WR Josh Morgan. From 10-7 to 20-7 in a couple of blinks.

Number of the quarter: 20. That’s Brian Westbrook’s uniform number. He’s playing because Frank Gore is on IR with a fractured hip. The former Eagle caught a 10-yard pass on third-and-8 on the drive to one of Jeff Reed’s field goals and then took a short pass from Smith for 62 yards and a TD.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks used a wild-cat play to pick up a first down on the third play of the quarter, as FB Michael Robinson took the direct snap – with Hasselbeck flanked to the left – and ran for 15 yards. But Hasselbeck’s pass on the next play was intercepted by LB Takeo Spikes.

The 49ers then got a 44-yard field goal from Jeff Reed to make it 13-7 with 10:31 left in the half. The 49ers converted on third down again, as Smith passed to Westbrook for 10 yards on third-8.

The 49ers got the ball right back, as beat Okung for a fumble-forcing sack of Hasselbeck and also recovered the ball at the Seahawks’ 17. The 49ers capitalized as Smith passed to WR Josh Morgan on third-and-8 and Morgan jumped past CB Marcus Trufant to get into the end zone. That’s 10 points off Seahawks’ turnovers in the first seven minutes of the quarter.

The Seahawks then drove to the 49ers’ 33, but Justin Forsett got 1 and zero yards on second- and third-down carries and Hasselbeck’s fourth-and-3 pass to Ruvell Martin was incomplete as CB Shawntae Spencer had him well covered on the play.

The 49ers the Seahawks pay, again, as Smith and Westbrook hooked up on a 62-yard play that was a lot more run than pass to make it 27-7. Rookie FS Earl Thomas whiffed on tackling Westbrook near midfield, and Westbrook did the rest.

Hasselbeck was intercepted again on the Seahawks next possession, this time by SS Reggie Smith. That set up a 22-yard field by Reed as time expired in the half.


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First quarter

Peephole perspective: A first-possession TD pass and a last-play-of-the-quarter field goal for the 49ers. The first catch of the season for Ruvell Martin – for a TD – for the Seahawks. 49ers 10-7.

Play of the quarter: Martin made his first catch a big one, beating SS Reggie Smith with a double move to get into the end zone to take an 110-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck.

Player of the quarter: Alex Smith. The 49ers’ beleagurered QB was 5 of 9 for 91 yards in the quarter, after sitting out the previous five games with a sprained shoulder.

Number of the quarter: 3. As in third downs, as Smith went to TE Vernon Davis for 22 yards on a third-and-10 play on the opening TD drive and then went to WR Josh Morgan for 21 on a third-and-7 on the field goal drive.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks won the coin toss, as Lofa Tatupu called heads and it was.  But they deferred, so the 49ers got the ball first and drove 74 yards in six plays to Smith’s 42-yard TD pass to Davis. Smith and Davis also hooked up for 22 yards on a third-and-10 play. On the TD, Davis came across the field from right to left, caught Smith’s pass near the 25 and ran untouched into the end zone because SS Lawyer Milloy slipped on the play.

The Seahawks moved to the 49ers’ 49 on their first possession, but QB Matt Hasselbeck was flushed from the pocket and threw incomplete on second down and his third-down pass was tipped and caught by LG Mike Gibson for a 2-yard loss.

The 49ers’ next possession went three-and-out as DT Brandon Mebane made the tackles on first and second downs and Aaron Curry got to Smith for a 10-yard sack on third down. Curry lined up at tackle and beat RG Chilo Rachael.

The Seahawks then drove 52 yards in seven plays to a tying TD – Hasselbeck’s 11-yard pass to Martin, who got Smith to bit on a double move to get open in the end zone. Hasselbeck was 4 of4 for 49 yards, including an 8-yarder to Brandon Stokley on second-and-5, a 15-yarder to TE Chris Baker to the 49ers’ 22 and a 15-yarder to Stokley to the 12. The TD gave the Seahawks 34 first-quarter points for the season.

The 49ers came right back, however, driving 59 yards to a 33-yard field goal by Jeff Reed on the final play of the quarter. Smith passed to Morgan for 21 yards on third-and-7 and RB Anthony Dixon broke a 34-yard run on the next play.


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No surprises among 49ers inactives

The following players are inactive for the 49ers today:

K Joe Nedney

CB Tramaine Brock

RB DeShawn Wynn

CB William James

LB Thaddeus Gibson

OT Joe Staley

OT Alex Boone


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Williams, Obomanu inactive for Seahawks

Ruvell Martin, who not caught a pass this season, will start for the Seahawks today because leading receiver Mike Williams and flanker Ben Obomanu are inactive.

The move with Williams is not surprising. He did not practice all week after spraining his left ankle in last week’s game against the Panthers – and also is dealing with a strained left foot. Coach Pete Carroll said Friday that he expected Obomanu to play, but he will not because of the severe laceration he got on his right hand against the Panthers. So Deon Butler also will start today.

Also inactive for the Seahawks:

OG Chester Pitts

OT Will Robinson

OT Breno Giacomini

DT Amon Gordon

DE Jay Richardson

3rd QB: J.P. Losman

DT Colin Cole will play – and start – after being sidelined since spraining his right ankle in the Halloween game against the Raiders in Oakland.


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Countdown to kickoff

SAN FRANCISCO – Greetings from a foggy/cloudy/socked-in Candlestick Park, where the implications of today’s game between the Seahawks and 49ers are much clearer. The Seahawks have a chance to regain sole possession of first place in the NFC West with a victory, while the 49ers are playing to stay in the hunt for the division title that everyone was predicting for them this season.

As 49ers tight end Vernon Davis put it this week, “We have to go in with a must-win attitude. Because that’s all we’ve got.”

A loss would drop the 49ers to 4-9 and eliminate them from the division race.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, enter the game at 6-6 and tied for first with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have the tiebreaker because of their Week 4 win over the Seahawks in St. Louis. But the Rams also play the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in New Orleans today.

Whichever team has a red-letter day at Candlestick could be determined by their respective performances in the red zone.

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Seahawks vs. 49ers

When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., Candlestick Park, San Francisco

Records: Seahawks 6-6 and tied for first in NFC West; 49ers 4-8 and third in the NFC West

TV: KCPQ/13, with Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick and Chris Myers

Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Matchup microscope

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. the 49ers’ defense: The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their past 18 games, the second-longest streak in the league. Not that Lynch has to crack triple figures, but he does need to do his part to keep the running game going in a positive direction after the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 161 yards against the Panthers last week. Lynch had 83 of those yards, and a career-high three touchdowns. Justin Forsett added 60 yards, on only six carries. The Seahawks have to stay out of third-and-long situations to keep the 49ers’ pass rush from getting after QB Matt Hasselbeck. The 49ers had four sacks in last week’s loss to the Packers in Green Bay, including three by pass-rushing outside LBs Ahmad Brooks (two) and Travis LaBoy.

One to watch

The crowd at Candlestick when Alex Smith throws his first incomplete pass: Remember the Sunday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles? The hometown fans let the 49ers’ QB have it, and then some, despite a 25-of-39, 309-yard, three-TD performance. Well, he’s back for more, after coach Mike Singletary made the move from Troy Smith back to Alex Smith this week – even though Troy Smith was 3-2 as the starter while subbing for Alex Smith when he was out with a sprained shoulder. Even Alex Smith had to question the timing of the decision. The fans will do more than question the move if Alex Smith doesn’t “give us the best chance to win,” as Singletary put it.

Fun to watch

Seahawks DE Chris Clemons vs. 49ers OT Anthony Davis: The 49ers’ rookie starter has been inconsistent and is playing with a sore back. But he’s also coming off solid efforts against the Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett and the Packers’ Clay Matthews, who leads the NFC with 11½ sacks. Clemons has a career-high 8½ sacks from the “Leo” spot for the Seahawks, but only three in the past six games. He needs to use is relentless style of play to get into the rookie’s head, to help him get to Alex Smith.

One tough task

Covering Vernon Davis: Whoever the assignment falls to on any given down is up against it, be it SS Lawyer Milloy, OLB Aaron Curry or CBs Roy Lewis and Jordan Babineaux in the nickel and dime packages. The 49ers’ Pro Bowl TE is a tough cover because he’s bigger (6-3, 250) than anyone the Seahawks can throw at him and faster (4.38 seconds for 40 yards) than anyone his size should be. Davis had a career-best 126 receiving yards on four catches in last week’s loss to the Packers in Green Bay. That eclipsed the 111-yard receiving effort he had against the Seahawks at Qwest Field last season, on six catches. He also had an eight-catch, 73-yard outing in this year’s season opener.

Notable

Hasselbeck is 10-4 in his previous starts against the 49ers, with 3,380 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. … He also needs one more win to reach 70 for his career, which will tie the franchise record set by Dave Krieg. … Alex Smith is 2-5 in his previous starts against the Seahawks, with both wins coming in 2006. … The 49ers’ Davis has 18 touchdown receptions over the past two seasons, which ties for the most in the league by a tight end. … MLB Patrick Willis leads the 49ers in tackles (118) and also has a career-high five sacks. … OLB David Hawthorne leads the Seahawks in tackles (79), and has 53 in the past five games.


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Up next: San Francisco 49ers

When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., Candlestick Park, San Francisco

Record: 4-8 after Sunday’s 34-16 loss to the Packers in Green Bay

Where they rank: No. 24 on offense (15th rushing, 22nd passing); No. 11 on defense (tied for 10th rushing, 18th passing)

Series: The Seahawks lead 13-10, including a 31-6 win at Qwest Field in the season opener

Star power: Patrick Willis. With old nemesis Frank Gore and his thundering thighs on injured reserve because of a fractured hip, the nod goes to the tackling machine that plays middle linebacker for the 49ers. Willis once again leads the team with 101 tackles and he also has a career-high five sacks. As good as Willis has been since the 49ers made him the 11th pick overall in the 2007 draft, he seems to play even better against the Seahawks. As a rookie, he had 16 tackles in the game at Candlestick and 10 more in the game at Qwest Field. In 2008, it was 12 and 10, and his only career interception. Last season, it was five and 16 – but one of his five tackles at Candlestick involved Willis’ helmet going into to the back of Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, cracking two ribs. In the opener at Qwest this season, Willis had 10 tackles. That’s 79 tackles in seven games against the Seahawks, a pace that would produce a 181-tackle season.

Unsung hero: David Baas. He was drafted in 2005 to play guard, but has moved to center because of a season-ending injury to Eric Heitmann. Baas had not played center since his days at Michigan and his first start in the NFL at the pivotal position was in this year’s opener against the Seahawks. With Baas in the middle of a line that includes rookie starters at right tackle (Anthony Davis) and left guard (Mike Iupati), the unit did not allow sacks against the Saints or Broncos and rushed for a season-high 261 yards against the Cardinals.

On the spot: The 49ers’ running game. Without Gore – who has supplied 40 percent of the 49ers’ offense this season as the team’s leading rusher and receiver – it’s up to former Philadelphia Eagle Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon. They combined for 64 yards on 18 carries against the Packers. The loss of Gore has altered the way the 49ers call plays. As coach Mike Singletary explained it to reporters on Monday, “Frank runs plays well inside. Obviously, you have Brian Westbrook, a guy who’s had issues with concussions; we are not going to run him the same way.” But run they must, especially against a Seahawks defense that has allowed an average of 165 rushing yards the past six games.  

Burning question: Alex Smith? The word from Singletary is that Smith will return as the starting quarterback against the Seahawks. Smith, the first pick overall in the 2005 draft, was 1-6 as the starter before separating his non-throwing shoulder in the Week 7 loss to the Panthers. That’s when Troy Smith took over and led the 49ers to three wins in a five-game span. But after T. Smith completed 10 of 25 passes against the Packers, it’s back to A. Smith. “Right now, he gives us the best chance to win,” Singletary said today in making the announcement on a Bay Area radio show. A. Smith has had mixed results against the Seahawks in the past. He is 2-5 – with both wins coming in 2006 – while completing 56 percent of his passes (107 of 191) for 1,051 yards with five TDs and three interceptions.

Familiar faces: FS Dashon Goldson played the University of Washington, while backup SS Taylor Mays played at Seattle’s O’Dea High School. Offensive line coach Mike Solari and offensive assistant Chris Beake held the same positions with the Seahawks the past two seasons. Special assistant to the head coach Bill Nayes was the Seahawks’ football operations coordinator from 1999-2006.

The last word: “We’re going to need our fans big-time. Good or bad, don’t give up on us until the season is done and we’re out of it.” – Willis, remembering what the fans were like at Qwest Field in the season opener


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