Niners’ poise missing in punchless defeat

Among Pete Carroll’s favorite mantras – and, goodness, there are plenty of them – is “Always Compete,” a phrase the Seahawks have slapped on T-shirts.

And Seattle, which hung in despite looking comically inept on offense for nearly two quarters, lived up to its motto in a 31-6 victory over San Francisco on Sunday.

The Niners? The stats suggest they fell apart after the Seahawks took their first lead. Compete? How about crumble?

In the Niners’ first three drives, they had nine first downs, 139
yards, zero turnovers and drove inside Seattle’s 10-yard line on each
possession. After the Seahawks took a 7-6 lead with 2:26 left in the
second quarter, the 49ers, on their final nine drives, had five first
downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and never reached field-goal range.

First three drives: 32 offensive plays. Final nine: 36.

Beyond the stats, Mike Singletary and Alex Smith conceded the Niners lost their poise.

“I think guys were a little overwhelmed with the way things were happening,” Singletary said.

Smith, “All of a sudden, we faced a little adversity and we didn’t
respond,” Smith said. “We got down two scores and I just felt like, all
of a sudden, we started pressing … It was the start of the second
half, there was still a lot of football left to be played, and we just
dug ourselves deeper. We’ve done that before and it hurts. We definitely
didn’t respond.”

Smith is right. The Niners have fallen apart on
the road before. Since 2007, they are a winning team (13-11) at home
and gruesome (7-18) on the road.

Why? Singletary referred to his
team as “young” again in the postgame press conference, but it’s
debatable if that term still applies. Of the Niners’ 22 starters Sunday,
14 have played at least four NFL seasons (not counting 2010) and 17
have played at least three.

Most of these guys – notably Justin
Smith, Takeo Spikes, Nate Clements, Michael Lewis etc. — have been
around a little. And you’d expect them, collectively, to handle a crazy
crowd and a resurgent team without getting “overwhelmed.”

Maybe T-shirts would be a start?

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