SAN FRANCISCO -- The opening moments of San Francisco's game against Seattle could not have gone much worse. The only things missing were plague and pestilence.
Initially there were the two first-quarter fumbles by superstar runner Frank Gore, who last year frightened linebackers and caused defensive coordinators to run up their therapists' billable hours.
|As Alex Smith leaves on a cart, the 49ers' chances in the near future go with him. (US Presswire)|
Soon the entire team would need consoling. After getting sacked with just over 12 minutes left in the first quarter, Alex Smith, the skinny franchise thrower who was getting better by the pass, pulled his slumped and aching body onto a cart and was driven away. The collective heartbeats of the team and fans at Monster Park stopped immediately as he left the game with what the team would later describe as a separated shoulder.
"I looked at him, saw him try to throw, and knew," said Smith's backup, Trent Dilfer. "I put my helmet on and started warming up."
Smith never returned. The 23-3 final score indicates just how much of an on-field disaster this was for San Francisco. This could go down as one of the worst regular-season losses for this franchise in several years, considering the 49ers lost their starting quarterback and played like donkey poop all in one swell afternoon.
Falling to a division rival, losing to a motivated former coach, a Niners defense displaying more holes than the S.S. Minnow, the turnovers, the boos from the home crowd and the penalties were all horrific. They all still paled considering the news with Smith, the most important development from this week's NFL games.
Though a miracle could happen, it is looking like Smith will be out at least several weeks (and that's conservative). In fact, don't be surprised if the 49ers reach out to their rivals just down road and over a bridge or two, as Oakland has one of the few realistically tradable and viable backups in Andrew Walter.
Dilfer is a good teammate and even better guy, but going from Smith to Dilfer is the difference in talent between Sarah Silverman and that guy who smashes watermelons on stage. The difference is grand.
"Just because we were bad this week doesn't mean we'll be bad next week," said a confident Dilfer about the offense.
No, it doesn't. Yet this is a perfect example of the difference between Smith and Dilfer. While trailing 20-0, Dilfer had tight end Delanie Walker open deep along the right sideline as Walker had beaten Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson by about two steps. Dilfer's pass was just a tad too long. Smith would have likely connected. Dilfer later threw an ugly pick that likely sealed the game for Seattle.
Not that this loss should be put on Dilfer's shoulders (even though he's the quarterback with two good ones) and certainly his accuracy and timing will increase as he plays more with the first-team 49ers offense. And Smith's loss is only the beginning of San Francisco's problems.
What's shocking was how easily Seattle's admittedly inspired defense -- the Seahawks were swept last year by the 49ers, and Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson is an ex-Niner who played out of his mind -- totally dominated. Seattle held San Francisco to 184 total yards and sacked the quarterbacks six times, with Peterson getting half of them.