Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a moral victory in football.
This should actually come as good news to a San Francisco 49ers team who has a amassed a total of zero actual victories two weeks into the regular season, after they added a 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks to their growingly unimpressive regular season resume.
Despite losing a snail-paced snoozer at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, the 49ers walk away from the loss with a few things trending in the positive.
Although there were obvious lowlights — including an uninspiring effort from quarterback, Brian Hoyer, and a shaky secondary that suffered yet another injury at safety — areas like the defensive line and an improving running back corps can allow the 49ers to leave Seattle with their heads held high — or at least not all the way down.
From the first snap Sunday afternoon, one thing was very apparent; the 49ers defensive line was much deeper and skilled than the Seahawks offensive line, which has faced its fair share of criticism heading into the season.
That criticism of Seattle’s O-line proved to be valid, as the San Francisco defensive line saw little to no resistance in getting into the Seahawks’ backfield.
Winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, the 49ers allowed a total of 131 yards on the ground on 37 attempts from Seattle running backs forcing an average of only 3.5 yards per carry.
At the beginning of the offseason and all the way through training camp, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh made it very clear that his defense would emphasize stopping the run after the 49ers defense ranked dead last in opponents rushing yard during the 2016 season.
The 49ers D-line also was able to get to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on Sunday as well, sacking the elusive signal caller three times for 17 yards.
Unfortunately for players like Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, who were seemingly unblockable on Sunday, their efforts were rendered useless as the San Francisco secondary took another hit at safety.
Starting strong safety Eric Reid left the game after suffering a noncontact knee injury in the first half. Although the five-year veteran tried to make a return in the third quarter, he was once again forced to exit with a visible limp.
Partly attributed to Reid’s exit, San Francisco’s secondary gave up the game’s only touchdown to Seahawks wideout Paul Richardson in the fourth quarter, who also scored Seattle’s first touchdown of the season Week 1 vs. Green Bay.
On the other end of the field, things didn’t look much better from a production standpoint. Quarterback Hoyer had a forgettable afternoon, throwing for an abysmal 99 yards, completing 15-of-27 passes and giving up an interception.
The 49ers entered the game without a touchdown in Week 1, and were unable to change that narrative and had to settle for three field goals from Robbie Gould.
The lone offensive bright spot was finding a way to move the ball behind workhorse Carlos Hyde. In 15 carries, Hyde racked up a game high 124 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt. Rookie running back Matt Breida added another 35 yards on four touches to bring San Francisco’s rushing total to 159 yards, leading both teams in ground production.
In Hyde’s case, this breakout game must bring a grin to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s face, as there were an onslaught of questions surrounding the third-year back and his future in San Francisco.
If his impact on the ground continues, it may no longer be a question about if Hyde will be a part of the 49er rebuild. Along with the likes of Breida, San Francisco may have a formidable running back corp moving forward.
Though the loss drops the 49ers to 0-2 on the season, they will now be able to head back to Santa Clara with a few moral victories in their back pocket. By the looks of things, that may be all they have to hang their hats on by the end of the season.