If the 49ers are trying to lull the Seattle Seahawks to sleep before their big matchup on Thanksgiving at Levi's Stadium, they're doing a swell job.
In their last three games against weak teams, the 49ers have looked progressively worse. On Sunday, they hosted a Washington team that has looked worse and worse as the season progressed. The once-dynamic Robert Griffin III looks totally lost. Their Redskins' defense is shot. And they were on the road.
But for most of Sunday's game, Washington looked like the winner. It was the 49ers who looked lost, playing well defensively — the return of Aldon Smith has revitalized the pass rush — but with no consistency on offense. Frank Gore is finally showing his age. It probably isn't long before rookie Carlos Hyde replaces him as the top back, even if Gore remains the starter.
A big catch by Anquan Boldin, who has made so many of them for the Niners, was the big play that set up a Hyde touchdown, which finally put the Niners ahead to stay. A gutty win, but hardly worth celebrating.
Meanwhile, the defending NFL champion Seahawks were shutting down NFC West leader Arizona in Seattle, giving the 49ers and Seahawks a chance to catch the Cardinals in the final five games.
More likely, the 49ers and Seahawks will be battling for second place in the division with the Thanksgiving game here and the Dec. 14 game in Seattle the most important.
The Seahawks have had their own problems this season, with the same type of free-agent losses that the Niners have suffered. Losing Golden Tate, their chief deep threat in the passing game, was especially damaging. For a time, the Seahawks hoped Percy Harvin would fill that role, but his toxic personality soon led the Seahawks to trade him for a conditional draft pick. Harvin's reputation is well-established in the league. It would be no surprise if he's out of the NFL at this time next year.
But Russell Wilson has continued to advance. Wilson is a smart quarterback, one who knows when to abandon a play and run, but also one who uses his legs to buy time to find an open receiver.
Colin Kaepernick has yet to learn that lesson. He can make big plays, as he did on the first drive Sunday and the last one, but he lacks the consistency of a top quarterback. The more the league learns about him, the less effective he is. When he took over for Alex Smith in 2012, the 49ers got to the Super Bowl. Last year, they lost in the NFC Championship Game. This year, they're struggling to make the playoffs. That isn't all his fault, but he's not doing what a top quarterback should, either. When his first receiving choice is open, he'll throw a great pass. When he has to look for a second or third receiver, he's in trouble.
Wilson is less talented but has much more football intelligence, which is what makes the Seahawks a better team. The Niners may win Thursday night but the Seahawks will win the larger battle. They'll be in the playoffs. The Niners won't be.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.