SEATTLE – Quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s first game as the no-questions-asked starter for the remainder of the 49ers’ season went about as well as could be expected.
But despite an improved passing performance for the league’s No. 32-ranked offense, it was more of the same for the 49ers on their annual trip to the Pacific Northwest.
The Seattle Seahawks were without the services of 49ers-killing running back Marshawn Lynch, but it hardly mattered as newcomer Thomas Rawls helped spark an early onslaught en route to a 29-13 victory Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The 49ers (3-7) were completely outclassed on both sides of the ball in the first half – as has been the case any time they have ventured into an opponent’s stadium. The 49ers remain winless away from Levi’s Stadium, where they’ve absorbed previous blowout loss at Pittsburgh (43-18), Arizona (47-7) and St. Louis (27-6).
It did not matter that the Seahawks were playing without Lynch on Sunday. The Seahawks’ maligned offensive line battered the 49ers’ front seven, quarterback Russell Wilson made plays with his legs and arm, the 49ers’ defense had difficult making tackles, and the secondary could not stick with the Seahawks wideouts.
But the biggest star of the day was Rawls, an undrafted rookie from Central Michigan, who did his best Lynch impersonation while Lynch was sidelined with an abdominal strain.
Rawls gained 96 yards and a touchdown on 16 rushing attempts in the first half. The Seahawks scored on their first three possessions of the game to roll to a 20-0 lead at the half. He finished with 209 yards on 30 attempts.
When the 49ers pulled to within 10 points, 23-13 in the fourth quarter, Rawls caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Wilson for a 29-13 lead. Rawls added three catches for 46 yards.
Wilson completed 24 of 29 passes for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
For most of the first half, the 49ers’ offense was equally futile against a Seattle defense that surrendered 39 points last week to Carson Palmer and the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals.
Coach Jim Tomsula said last week that the emphasis would be on starting fast, but the 49ers were completely overmatched on both sides of the ball from the beginning of the game.
The 49ers had just 38 yards of total offense in the first 28 minutes of the game, but Gabbert engineered an impressive touchdown drive late in the first half to pull the 49ers to within 20-7 at the intermission.
Gabbert completed six of seven attempts for 78 yards on the drive, including well-thrown 19-yard pass to tight end Vance McDonald for his first career touchdown.
Gabbert was making his second start with the 49ers after replacing Colin Kaepernick, who was benched two weeks ago against the Atlanta Falcons. Now, it’s Gabbert’s job for the remainder of the season after the 49ers placed Kaepernick on injured reserve with a left shoulder injury. Kaepernick is scheduled to undergo surgery next week.
The 49ers’ passing game got off to an ominous start when Cliff Avril threw Gabbert for a 7-yard loss on his first pass attempt of the game. Gabbert took several big hits, but hung in the pocket and generally delivered the ball on time.
Gabbert finished the game with 22 completions in 34 attempts for 264 yards with one touchdowns and no interceptions.
The 49ers entered Sunday having gone nine consecutive games without scoring more than 19 points against the Seahawks.
Dorsey injured: Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey sustained an apparent serious right knee injury on the 49ers’ first defensive play of the game and did not return. Dorsey’s injury occurred on the 49ers’ first defensive snap of the game. Dorsey was carted off the field and taken back to the 49ers’ locker room for further observation. Dorsey, an eighth-year pro from LSU, started the first 10 games for the 49ers at left defensive tackle. He ranked sixth on the 49ers with 37 tackles. Rookie Arik Armstead, a first-round draft pick, replaced Dorsey in the 49ers’ base defense.
Kaepernick’s future: General manager Trent Baalke said prior to the game he does not consider it a foregone conclusion that Kaepernick has already played his final game with the 49ers. Kaepernick was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
When asked if Kaepernick has played his final game with the 49ers, Baalke answered, “I wouldn’t say that at all. I think people are reading into that. For me, where we stand right now, I wouldn’t read too much into that right now.”
Boldin returns: Wide receiver Anquan Boldin returned to action after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. With Boldin active for Sunday’s game, the 49ers will not suit up veteran wide receiver Jerome Simpson or undrafted rookie DeAndrew White. Boldin, the team’s leading receiver on the season, caught five passes for 93 yards. Defensive end Tank Carradine and cornerback Keith Reaser were also among the 49ers’ inactive players.
This ‘n’ that: Andrew Tiller got his first start of the season at right guard in place of Jordan Devey, who started the 49ers’ first nine games of the season. Tiller played the entire game. . . In Lynch's past nine games against the 49ers, he has averaged 101.9 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns. . . Cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker regained their starting jobs on Sunday after both were out of action against the Falcons two weeks ago. But after Acker struggled in the first half, he was benched in favor of Marcus Cromartie. . . Seahawks rookie receiver Tyler Lockett caught two first-half touchdown passes from Russell Wilson. He beat nickel back Jimmie Ward on a 24-yard pass play. On his second TD, he spun away from Acker, then twisted through Jaquiski Tartt’s grasp to score on an 11-yard touchdown. . . Running back Shaun Draughn made his second career start after the 49ers signed him off the street to take over for injured Carlos Hyde. Draughn carried 12 times for 37 yards, and added eight receptions for 40 yards.