49ers feel good about NFC rank despite loss

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comDecember 24, 2012 

The San Francisco 49ers didn’t single out anything they liked about their 42-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

However, they still like their position in NFC West standings. And that’s their consolation as they head into the final weekend of the regular season knowing they can clinch the division championship at home next weekend with a win over Arizona. A loss combined with a Seattle win over St. Louis would give the division to the Seahawks.

“We’ll wake up (today), we’ll have a half-game lead in the division, and our hand will be on the dial to take care of business next week,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I expect our team will handle that. … It’s one loss. We obviously don’t feel good about it. It’s how we handle it.”

When Harbaugh said he didn’t feel good about it, he meant it.

“We didn’t win the down enough. We didn’t do good enough. Didn’t coach well enough. Didn’t play well enough,” he said, in one of the wordier answers of his postgame press conference.

He was asked if the long travel from the game at New England last week had anything to do with the result. It shouldn’t, he said.

He was asked if the loss of defensive tackle Justin Smith had anything to do with the result. That shouldn’t either, he said.

He was asked if the loud Seahawks crowd at CenturyLink Field had anything to do with it. This time he allowed that it might have.

“I think we could have done better,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any part that we really feel good about right now.”

The Seahawks gave their home crowd instant reasons to get excited, bolting to a 21-0 lead just seconds into the second quarter.

“They started off fast,” San Francisco tight end Delanie Walker said. “Their crowd was loud. They were in it. Their defense was physical. They stopped us.”

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, making his first start in Seattle, seemed to have trouble with the noise – the 49ers were called for two delay of game penalties early and spent two timeouts to avoid others.

“It’s something you have to deal with on the road,” he said. “… We just have to get in and out of the huddle. That’s something that we can control.”

Kaepernick had been 4-1 over his first five starts since taking the job from veteran Alex Smith.

As the Seahawks handed him his second loss, he completed 19 of 36 passes for 244 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He carried seven times, and his 31 rushing yards led the Niners.

However, the San Francisco offense was able to scratch out a pair of field goals in the second quarter, with its lone touchdown coming in the final couple of minutes of the game.

“Every time you’re on the field you’re learning something,” said Kaepernick, a second-year player out of Nevada. “We just have to take what we can from this game into next week. … I think the whole team knows that if you get down you have to keep scoring points. We didn’t do that tonight.”

His performance was shaky enough where Harbaugh was asked if Kaepernick would retain the starting job next Sunday with the NFC West title on the line.

Harbaugh confirmed he would.

“It’s a team effort,” Harbaugh said. “… I think everybody’s going to feel the same way after this. This wasn’t good. You can’t feel like you coached well, you can’t feel like you played well after this one.”

The game was a dramatic reversal from the Oct. 18 meeting in San Francisco, when the 49ers edged the Seahawks, 13-6.

And while Harbaugh wasn’t offering excuses for the Sunday pratfall, he was willing to acknowledge that the Seahawks were an improved team from the one he had faced earlier.

“They made more plays,” he said. “They won the down more. They blocked the field goal attempt and took it back for a touchdown. They made some tremendous receptions. The quarterback (Russell Wilson) extended the play a lot. They won more downs.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com @donruiztnt

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