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Notebook: James Produces 201 Yards

Posted Dec 24, 2012



SEATTLE – There was no victory for the 49ers in Seattle on Sunday night, but there were no excuses, either.

Following the unprecedented 42-13 defeat to the Seahawks, San Francisco stayed accountable in the face of adversity. Whether it was a player from the offensive side of the ball, defensive side or special teams, all 49ers shouldered their share of the blame for the team-wide loss.

As he sat in his locker on the unfamiliar end of a lopsided outcome, rookie LaMichael James struggled to recall the last time he had suffered such a big loss.

“It doesn’t feel good,” James said. “That’s what I was just telling somebody, I’ve never really had a loss like that. I think it makes you better. It makes you more hungry; it humbles you. It’s going to make us a better team.”

The 49ers (10-4-1) have made a habit of bouncing back after tough losses. Following each regular season defeat in the Jim Harbaugh era, San Francisco is a perfect 6-0 in rebound games.

As he packed up his bags shortly after the loss in Seattle, 49ers defensive captain Patrick Willis said he was already looking forward to next week’s game at home against the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the tough Week 16 defeat, the 49ers can still lock up their second straight division title with a victory in regular season finale.

“You have to feel the lows in order to feel the highs,” Willis said. “Looking forward to next week, we have to make it a great game. Our destiny is still in our hands. … We’ve had some adverse times and we had one tonight. I know we’ll be stronger for it and that’s all that matters.”

Virtually the entire game didn’t bode well for the 49ers, but if there was one constant positive throughout the game it was the kickoff return game. James consistently gave the 49ers good field position throughout the evening, standing out as one of the lone bright spots for San Francisco.

James averaged 28.7 yards per kickoff return, but he probably returned more kicks than he would have liked, as the Seahawks scored six touchdowns.

“It was a positive if you want to look at it individually as a kickoff return unit,” James said after racking up a career-high 201 all-purpose yards, including 15 rushing and 14 receiving. “But we lost the game. That’s the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter what we did. It’s a loss.”

While the Seattle offense put together five touchdown drives and received another via a 90-yard blocked field goal return by Richard Sherman, the 49ers didn’t get into the end zone until the game’s futile stages.

Down 42-6 in the driving rain, tight end Delanie Walker gave the 49ers their first touchdown with just 100 seconds left on the game clock. Colin Kaepernick, who finished 19 of 36 for 244 yards, one score and interception, found Walker on the right side of the end zone for the late touchdown, which marked the third for Walker this season.

But it was far too little, far too late.

Asked if he could gather any positives from such a tough loss, Walker said, “No positives. We lost. What’s positive about losing?”

“We haven’t had a game like this in a while,” Walker continued. “It hurts. They beat us. They outplayed us and they beat us.”

Seattle safety Kam Chancellor set the tone of the game early when he knocked Vernon Davis out of the contest with a concussion due to a menacing hit that also jarred the ball loose. While the 49ers were awarded the ball at the Seattle 10-yard line due to unnecessary roughness, Davis was done for the night. Adding insult to injury, Sherman returned the block Akers kick for a momentum-swinging touchdown four plays later.

Without Davis in the lineup, the 49ers called on young Garrett Celek to help fill the void. The undrafted rookie showed some nice hands throughout the contest, catching two passes for a career-high 41 yards. Once receiver Mario Manningham exited the game with a knee injury in the second half, Walker even had to play some tight end.

“Changed a lot,” Walker said of the contest following Davis’ injury. “Vernon’s a big key to this offense and when he went down we had to move the puzzles.”

The 29 points marked the biggest margin of defeat for the 49ers in the Harbaugh era, but the players have a grasp of the bigger picture. With a victory next week against the Cardinals, the NFC West crown will stay in San Francisco.

“We’re looking ahead to Arizona, we’re going to get past this one,” Donte Whitner said. “It’s very disappointing. We didn’t play well in any phase of the game, but we understand what we have to do.

“We have to come back and go back to work, erase this one and understand that the division is still at stake. If Minnesota can help us out and take care of Green Bay, we can still get the No. 2 seed. We’re not going to hang our heads, but we understand that tonight was not our night.”

Johnson makes NFL Debut

It wasn’t the greatest game to make his NFL debut, but Cam Johnson fulfilled his lifelong dream of stepping in between the lines on Sunday night.

The seventh-round pick out of Virginia entered the game in the third quarter against the Seahawks to give Aldon Smith a breather and was also on the field for the final kneedowns by Seattle quarterback Matt Flynn. After earning his promotion to the 53-man roster on Saturday, Johnson was happy to get on the field, even if it was in a stinging defeat.

“I wish we would have came out with a win, that would have made it a better feeling leaving the game,” Johnson said.

But the first-year player has been around his teammates long enough to know they’ll bounce back strong with a week of work to prepare for the showdown with Arizona. While Johnson didn’t have enough time to organize tickets for his family, he figures to have some fans in the stands at Candlestick Park in Week 17.

“We’ve got some good, veteran guys who have been around,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some good personality and character on the team, so I know the guys will bounce back and we’ll be able to turn this thing around.”

Notes and Quotes

David Akers made two field goals, including an impressive 54-yarder, to bring his consecutive games streak with a conversion to 32, dating back to his time with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. Akers is now six games shy of tying Matt Stover for the all-time record.

Patrick Willis notched his first interception of the year in the second quarter, while Isaac Sopoaga took down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson for his first sack of the year later in the game.

“We just didn’t execute today,” Joe Staley said. “Didn’t play our best football. Credit to them, they played well. We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to make, but we’ll move forward.”
Game Pass: San Francisco 49ers