SEATTLE — Against one of the top defenses in the league, Blaine Gabbert showed flashes of why San Francisco went ahead with benching Colin Kaepernick.
But those positive moments lacked the consistency for San Francisco to take down the Seahawks on a day Seattle started to look more like the team that has won two straight NFC titles.
“I think we had a great offensive plan. Guys came out to play, but we fluttered in the red zone and you’ve got to get touchdowns … especially versus a good football team like that,” Gabbert said. “You can’t come away with field goals. Points are good, but touchdowns change a game.”
Gabbert threw for 264 yards and a touchdown, but San Francisco couldn’t overcome an early 20-0 deficit or slow down Seattle rookie running back Thomas Rawls in a 29-13 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday.
Rawls rushed for 209 yards, the most yards rushing ever allowed by the 49ers. San Francisco was ready for a Seattle run game led by Marshawn Lynch, not an undrafted rookie from Central Michigan.
“We prepared for 24. And 24 didn’t play,” San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman said in reference to Lynch. “So I don’t know what effect that had on us, but they did a great job taking advantage of it.
Gabbert will be the 49ers starter going forward after the decision to place Kaepernick on injured reserve on Saturday. After winning in his first start, Gabbert had his moments against Seattle, especially at the end of the first half when he led the 49ers on a 92-yard touchdown drive just before halftime.
But up until the point Gabbert hit Vance McDonald on a 19-yard touchdown, the 49ers had done nothing offensively and created far too big a hole to overcome on the road.
Along with the slow start, San Francisco’s defense had no answer for Rawls, who had the second-best rushing day in Seahawks history. Rawls averaged 7 yards per carry and was a surprise replacement after Lynch was unable to go in pregame due to an abdominal injury.
The 49ers should have known of Rawls. He had two 100-yard games earlier this season, including 169 yards rushing against Cincinnati. But San Francisco still couldn’t slow him.
“I think Rawls wanted to prove himself to the Seattle Seahawks today, so he came out there with a little chip on his shoulder,” Bowman said. “We have to play better, we have to tackle better. If we do that, this game would have been a lot different.”
Rawls ran for a 2-yard TD on Seattle’s second drive, then gave the Seahawks a 29-13 lead with 12:32 remaining on a 31-yard catch-and-run pass out of the backfield. Rawls caught the rollout throw from Wilson, stiff-armed Michael Wilhoite and raced for the first receiving touchdown of his career.
Rawls became just the third running back in Seahawks history to top 200 yards in a game and trailed only Shaun Alexander’s 266-yard game in 2001 in franchise history. He’s the third running back in the NFL this season to go over 200 yards, joining Doug Martin (235) and Adrian Peterson (203).
Rawls finished with 255 all-purpose yards, including three catches for 46 yards. Rawls now has two games of more than 160 yards rushing in his rookie season; Lynch has never run for more than 153 yards in any game in his career.
Along with the run game, Tyler Lockett caught two touchdown passes from Russell Wilson.
“Coach talked a lot about ownership this week and we’ve got to own this one,” Wilhoite said. “We went out there and we didn’t perform well and it showed.”
The 49ers had just 38 total yards on their first four possessions before Gabbert got going late in the first half. He was 6 of 7 for 78 yards on the scoring drive just before halftime, but the 49ers had to settle for field goals twice in the third quarter after getting inside the Seattle 10.
“We were able to stop them when they got to the red zone and that’s all you need to do,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
NOTES: DL Glenn Dorsey will have an MRI on Monday, but the 49ers are concerned he could have an ACL injury in his right knee. … Seattle won its fifth straight against the 49ers. … McDonald’s touchdown was his first career TD catch. … RB Shaun Draughn had eight receptions for San Francisco the most by a 49ers running back since Frank Gore had nine in 2010.