Colin Kaepernick was at his worst on the prime-time Thanksgiving stage, and Richard Sherman quickly became the Niners' biggest nemesis again.
He literally dared the quarterback to throw his way — “I told their sideline if they threw it my way I'd end the game,” Sherman said.
Kaepernick did just that as San Francisco fell flat on offense, its owner publicly apologized for a game that “wasn't acceptable,” and the team's playoff hopes took a huge hit Thursday with a 19-3 loss to Sherman and the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
“We only had three points. We have to start early and we have to play,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree said. “That's all we have to talk about.”
Sherman set up the only touchdown with another key defensive play in this heated rivalry, then made a second interception with the 49ers driving late, as the Seahawks ended a five-game losing streak on San Francisco's home field.
In the waning moments with thousands of red seats already empty, 49ers CEO Jed York posted on Twitter: “Thank you (hashtag)49ersfaithful for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn't acceptable. I apologize for that.”
Kaepernick, whose team has reached three straight NFC title games, couldn't argue.
“It's not acceptable,” he said. “We didn't perform well. We have a much higher standard for ourselves. … We have to win out in order to have a shot to get into the playoffs.”
The 49ers were held to three points or fewer for the first time since a 29-3 Week 2 loss at Seattle last year. And they still must face the Seahawks in 17 days at CenturyLink Field, where Sherman's touchdown-saving deflection of a pass headed to Crabtree 10 months earlier sealed the NFC championship game in the final minute.
This looked awfully familiar. The target on both Sherman interceptions was Crabtree.
“The second one was pretty entertaining. I was laughing the whole time,” Sherman said. “They threw it. I said, 'Way to be, way to be.'”
The brash cornerback offered plenty without opening his mouth, too: Blowing kisses to the crowd, then putting a finger to his lips to make the hush sign before waving goodbye.
Steven Hauschka kicked four field goals and the Seahawks' stout defense helped Seattle (8-4) overcome 14 penalties for 105 yards, including an offensive pass interference that negated a touchdown.
Russell Wilson passed for 236 yards and thoroughly outplayed Kaepernick, who had one of his worst performances for the 49ers (7-5) in a game with high stakes for both NFC powers just trying to get to the playoffs.
Kaepernick had the second-lowest passer rating of his career at 36.7, with his only lower rating a 20.1 in a 29-3 Week 2 loss at Seattle last year. Kaepernick was 16 for 29 for 121 yards and the 49ers were outgained 379-164.
After his second pick, Sherman looked at those fans still remaining in half-empty stadium on a Thanksgiving night and waved. Sherman and Crabtree were at the center of the decisive play in January's NFC title game, when Sherman deflected a pass headed his way in the end zone and Malcolm Smith intercepted it with less than a minute remaining to seal the Seahawks' 23-17 victory. Sherman later called Crabtree “mediocre.”
San Francisco's offense might have earned that distinction after its latest dud snapped the Niners' three-game winning streak.
“Things just aren't happening for us out there. I don't know what it is,” wideout Anquan Boldin said.
Even general manager Trent Baalke's daughter, Cassie, apparently got into the Twitter discussion about the team's struggles, calling out offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The tweet was quickly removed.
“Greg Roman can take a hike..the 49ers don't want you no more,” the tweet said.
When the word mediocre came up, Sherman said that distinction wen to “their fans” for vulgar name-calling throughout the game.
“You never have to resort to name-calling,” said Sherman, who said a bottle was thrown as the Seahawks exited.
Asked about Crabtree on Thursday, Sherman smiled and quipped: “History? What history?”
“He said he was throwing to the open man. He didn't care who was out there,” Sherman said of Kaepernick. “I was the open man.”
Phil Dawson provided San Francisco's lone points on a 40-yard field goal late in the third.
Regarding York's comments, Harbaugh didn't address it.
“We've got to reboot, come back and win them all,” he said.
NOTES: Wilson had a 118.8 passer rating. … Crabtree hurt his left knee 56 seconds into the game after landing awkwardly on his left side following a 5-yard reception on which he was tackled by S Kam Chancellor. … 49ers DT Ray McDonald injured a finger. … In a lighthearted moment before kickoff, Harbaugh's black hat blew off during the national anthem and landed on the lowest white stripe of a flag that covered the entire field. A San Francisco staffer quickly retrieved the cap just in time as the flag was being rolled up after “The Star-Spangled Banner.”