When defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois was declared the starting DE, he knew the Seahawks would attack him offensively. On the first running play, the Seahawks called a running play on the right side of the defense which Marshawn Lynch got past Jean Francois. Lynch found an easier path to the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown run.
He finished the game with 111 rushing yards as it was his third consecutive game passing the 100-yard mark against the 49ers. The defense allowed a season-high 176 yards on the ground and it’s no coincidence that Justin Smith’s presence is missed.
Smith was declared inactive before the game, ending a streak of 185 consecutive starts. He suffered an elbow injury during the third quarter of last week’s game against the Patriots. Smith tried returning to the game, but was unable to and couldn’t practice throughout the entire week.
It has become a major question mark on whether he will be ready in time for next week’s game against the Cardinals as well as the postseason. Jim Harbaugh said he wasn’t sure and the team will need to wait until he is cleared to play. Smith has not undergone any procedures and Harbaugh said on Monday he is “working through something.”
If Smith is out for a prolonged period of time, it puts a negative domino effect on the rest of the defense. The 49ers have allowed 73 points in their last six quarters of football. They made just enough plays to survive the Patriot’s assault with key sacks from Ray McDonald and Jean Francois. With no effective DE to take the blocks and force double teams, the linebackers will have trouble making plays on stopping the run or passing. Pressure will not come to the quarterback and the secondary cannot cover the receivers for a long period of time.
His replacement Jean Francois led all defensive linemen with six tackles. He said he was able to adjust his game despite the early struggles.
“The majority of their shotgun reads or stretch [runs] were going to come at me,” said Jean Francois. “It just slowed down after a minute. Then it started back up. It didn’t matter what the score was, I had to keep playing.”
In response to Smith’s injury, the 49ers activated NT Ian Williams for the first time this season. The second-year player was on the field for 12 snaps. Backup defensive lineman Will Tukuafu left the game with a back injury in the third quarter and doctors will be evaluating him this week.
-Mario Manningham will undergo an MRI to evaluate his knee injury.
-Vernon Davis will also be evaluated by doctors on his concussion injury he suffered.