Jackson had five catches for 114 yards on a sprained ankle, and Koren Robinson also caught a TD pass for the Seahawks (5-3), who stayed atop the NFC West with their second victory following three straight losses.
Coach Mike Holmgren stuck with the plan that stopped the skid last week against Carolina, sacrificing much of his beloved West Coast gadgetry to keep his talented skill players working at a brisk pace in a straightforward scheme.
“It’s just like in my high school,” said Alexander, who capped two long second-quarter drives with short TD runs. “Our coaches said, ‘You know what, if we can just run three plays well, we’ll probably win the state championship. It’s simple.’ Of course, the NFL’s a little complex, so we need maybe one more than three.
“It’s a really simplified offense, but we have enough talent to really make things simple and still make great plays.”
Seattle didn’t need much trickery to extend the woeful 49ers’ worst start since 1979. Hasselbeck was 17-for-28 for 285 yards while the Seahawks marched to 453 yards of offense, with Alexander’s shifty running setting up Seattle’s passing game.
“We condensed some things down, and guys are just executing a lot better now,” Holmgren said. “If Matt can throw the ball effectively and we can gain some yards rushing, we’re going to be able to do some good things.”
Jerry Rice caught one 5-yard pass, but wasn’t a factor in Seattle’s game plan. The relatively sparse crowd at Candlestick Park gave an ovation to the longtime 49ers star in perhaps his last game in San Francisco—though Rice would be interested in returning to the Niners next season.
Jackson didn’t practice this week and wasn’t cleared to play until Saturday morning, but he put on a performance reminiscent of Rice in his prime.
He caught a 33-yard scoring pass in the first quarter and a 39-yarder in the third, sprinting past San Francisco’s secondary to haul in Hasselbeck’s perfect throws.
“I played with injuries all last season,” Jackson said. “This isn’t anything different. We’ve got a lot of receivers banged up, so I had no choice but to go out there.”
Tim Rattay passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns for the Niners (1-7), who wasted an impressive offensive performance with dismal defense in their fourth straight loss to Seattle under coach Dennis Erickson.
“We all want to win, and this isn’t much fun for anybody,” said Erickson, the Seahawks’ coach for four seasons before Holmgren arrived. “It’s not about effort. It’s about not giving up big plays.”
Both teams moved the ball easily in the first half, and San Francisco took a 24-21 lead on Brandon Lloyd’s 39-yard TD catch early in the third quarter. But Robinson and Jackson caught TD passes later in the quarter, and linebacker Anthony Simmons clinched the win with a 23-yard interception return for a score midway through the fourth.
“We can’t hope to win and expect to lose,” said tight end Eric Johnson, who had five catches for 54 yards. “This sort of thing just pounds your motivation. It’s tough to keep coming back.”
Lloyd had four catches for 75 yards after teammates Fred Beasley and Kevan Barlow criticized him earlier in the week for a lack of professionalism and team spirit. Lloyd showed plenty of emotion this week, waving a towel on the sideline and screaming at officials.
Barlow rushed for a TD on the 49ers’ first game-opening scoring drive of the season, and Curtis Conway leaped at the goal line for a 28-yard TD catch later in the half.
Alexander had his 17th career multi-touchdown game, tying Steve Largent for the franchise record. Only Kansas City’s Priest Holmes has more multi-TD games since 2001. … Seahawks CB Ken Lucas was carted off the field in the second quarter with a bruised chest after falling on the ball while trying to make an interception. He was expected to stay in a San Francisco hospital overnight. … The 49ers still can’t run the ball. Barlow had just 61 yards, leaving San Francisco near the bottom of the league after years as a top rushing team.