The brevity of his comments often going unappreciated, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh succinctly assessed his team’s recent fortunes as “a rough patch.”
A rough patch? Let’s see, from going to the Super Bowl and two other NFC championship games since the 2011 season, to now standing at 7-6 and in third place in the NFC West Division?
Yeah, that qualifies.
The struggles have stirred headlines about Harbaugh’s job security, conflicts between the staff and the front office, and player dissatisfaction.
Take your pick of the speculated reasons: The team is aging, disgruntled, sick of Harbaugh, down to its last hopes.
If any of those things are true, it puts the Niners’ backs against the wall, and thereby being dangerous to the Seahawks, who appear buoyed by rising confidence in recent weeks.
Running back Frank Gore, who has made a career with big games against the Seahawks, had an even more colorful description of the Niners’ season thus far: ‘weird.’
“This year … it’s just been weird for us,” said Gore, who twice has rushed for more than 200 yards against the Hawks. “Injuries, ups and downs, us not playing well. You go through that … it just didn’t happen for us this year.”
The games they should have won, Gore said, “we didn’t take control of them.”
The last two losses, though, have carried a more ominous sense to them. Those weren’t just a couple games slipping away.
The Hawks dominated them in Santa Clara on Thanksgiving in a game that could have been far more lopsided than the 19-3 final.
And with even greater indignity, they fell on Sunday, 24-13, against the dysfunctional cross-bay Oakland Raiders, who had been 1-11 beforehand.
Gore said the team’s issues have not been rooted in dissention or concern over the status of Harbaugh.
“We don’t pay attention; we feel like our coach is a winner,” Gore said. “Since he’s been in the NFL, he’s done a great job. We still believe in our coach. I like him a lot … it just didn’t happen for us this year.”
It certainly didn’t happen on Thanksgiving, when Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick was picked off twice by Richard Sherman and finished the game with a 36.7 passer rating.
And while Gore picked up just 28 rushing yards, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch had 104 on 20 carries. Against the resurgent Seahawk defense, the Niners managed just 164 total yards.
Harbaugh can come off prickly during these weekly teleconferences, but was accommodating and even genial Wednesday, if not expansive.
Meeting the Seahawks, he conceded, is a game that carries more emotion because of the rivalry that has developed recently. It evokes more intensity, he said, although, “these games in the NFL are that way; each week is, in a lot of ways, its own season.”
The game on Thanksgiving was so ugly that Niners owner Jed York tweeted that the performance “wasn’t acceptable.”
Harbaugh was more specific about the deficiencies, lacking rhythm offensively and failing to keep drives alone.
“Seattle’s defense played extremely well,” Harbaugh said. “Offensively, they did a great job creating and making plays. They made more than we did and we did not get to where it was competitive enough in the ball game to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Harbaugh supported Kaepernick when asked of his recent performances. And he spread around the accountability for getting the fortunes turned around.
“It takes everybody, you’re professional,” he said. “That’s the way you approach every week, every game, every day, every practice, every play; you give it every ounce of energy you have from the time you pull into your parking spot, all week, every week. You give it your absolute best.”
The Seahawks certainly have their attention.
“They’re a good team with a great defense,” Gore said. “I can’t take anything away from them. We know what type of game it’s going to be when we play against them. Hopefully we come out there and give them boys a good game.”