SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The 49ers haven’t won a game at CenturyLink Field since 2011.
A lot has happened in the five seasons since. San Francisco (1-1) has gone through a pair of coaches and three starting quarterbacks, while the Seahawks (1-1) have remained stable as one of the premier teams in the NFC and played in two straight Super Bowls before last season.
However, Pete Carroll’s team is coming off a 9-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, compounding a poor offensive showing in the season-opening win against the Dolphins, which required a last-minute touchdown to secure the victory.
Seattle’s offense scored 15 points over its first two games, the second-fewest in the NFL. On Sunday, the underdog 49ers hope to take advantage of those early struggles.
“We haven’t been up to the standards that we’ve set,” Carroll said of his offense in a conference call. “We expected to pick up where we left off and we didn’t get off to a very good start in those two games. So we know where we’re going with it, we know what we want to do, we just got to make it happen.”
With star running back Marshawn Lynch retired, quarterback Russell Wilson dealing with an ankle injury and a banged-up offensive line, the Seahawks have struggled to replicate their success from the second half of 2015 when they averaged 32 points per game.
On the other hand, San Francisco’s struggling passing attack faces a Seattle defense that hasn’t allowed more than 17 points to their division foe in the regular season since 2010.
That was before cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas formed one of the best defensive trios in the NFL. The defense is tops in both yardage and scoring
“I think the Seahawks secondary is probably the best in the league right now,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “They try to dictate to your offensive on how you’re going to play based upon how they play. They’ve got a great scheme that those guys have been in for a long time. They are very comfortable in that scheme.”
Kelly indicated this week that the 49ers aren’t quite comfortable in his new offense. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed 47 percent of his passes with two fourth-quarter interceptions in a 46-27 loss to Carolina last week.
San Francisco had a stretch of six possessions through the second and third quarters where the offense got five first downs. All six series resulted in punts.
The Panthers in that sequence expanded their lead and ultimately put the game out of reach. Kelly didn’t put the blame singularly on his quarterback despite Gabbert’s rough day.
“There’s a lot that’s involved in all of that and I think being good in the passing game on the offensive side of the ball takes all 11 guys,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t just take a quarterback that’s an accurate guy because if you can’t protect him he’s not going to be very accurate. Or, if your receivers and the quarterback aren’t on the same page, you’re not going to be very accurate.”
Gabbert replaced starter Colin Kaepernick nine games into last season and made his first road start against Seattle in November. The Seahawks won 29-13 but Gabbert said he enjoyed the “hostile environment” at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s a great place to play,” Gabbert said. “Their fans are really enthusiastic and it’s just fun to go up there and play in that stadium.”