The Seattle Seahawks denied the rival San Francisco 49ers a trip to the Super Bowl last season, and on Sunday they knocked them out of playoff contention.
The 49ers’ postseason chances were extinguished with a 17-7 loss at CenturyLink Field. And that came as a bitter turn for a team that had made three straight NFC championship games, including the loss last season to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
“It’s not fun,” tackle Joe Staley said. “This is my life. This is what I do. This is what I put all my work into. I don’t just show up on Sunday. This is my life. You play for this. You don’t play to lose the game. You don’t play to not execute. I give it everything I have in this game.”
Tough as it might be, the 49ers vowed to continue competing as they finish their season with home games against the Chargers on Saturday and the Cardinals Dec. 18. That last one could impact the Seahawks’ playoff chances or seeding.
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“We’ve got to go out there individually and look at ourselves in the mirror and say we’ve got to step up our games,” defensive tackle Ray McDonald said. “We fell short again.”
Regardless of results, those final two games won’t send the Niners anywhere but home.
And it could be an offseason of change, starting with the question of whether Jim Harbaugh will return as coach.
Harbaugh didn’t have much to say about that Sunday, other than expressing his willingness to meet with ownership and general manager Trent Baalke at any time.
However, in light of Harbaugh’s 48-21-1 record over four seasons in San Francisco, quarterback Colin Kaepernick is surprised there is even a coaching question to answer.
“It’s not something that I can fully wrap my mind around, that that would be the situation,” said Kaepernick, who fell to 1-5 against the Seahawks. “But he has my full support if he is here or somewhere else. I hope he is back here, and I think he is a great coach.”
Harbaugh had a simple answer — “No” — when asked if he could explain how this season slipped away. But his players cited a lethal combination of injuries and lack of execution.
Both of those showed up again Sunday.
Running back Frank Gore went out in the second quarter with a concussion suffered while throwing a block on Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Later, Gore’s replacement Carlos Hyde went down with a knee injury.
There was a similar situation at linebacker, where rookie Chris Borland — who was filling in for Patrick Willis — went down with an ankle injury.
“We don’t make excuses,” receiver Anquan Boldin said. “Whoever’s out there has to play. It’s the NFL. … We expect everybody to perform when they’re in there. That being said, it is tough when you’re down the way we were. Out two backs. Down to our third center. Down to our second right tackle. So on and so forth. I thought we ran out of linebackers as well.”