The 49ers took a beating not only on the scoreboard Sunday in Seattle, but also to their health.
The Niners – who went into the game already missing their starting center, right tackle and cornerback – also lost (at some point) running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde, tight end Garrett Celek and linebackers Michael Wilhoite, Chris Borland and Ahmad Brooks.
With two games remaining – Saturday vs. the Chargers and Dec. 28 vs. the Cardinals – San Francisco is a wounded team.
The loss of Borland Sunday was particularly damaging.
The inside linebacker has been a tackling machine since taking over for the injured Patrick Willis. In the six games leading into Sunday’s game at Seattle, Borland had at least 10 tackles in five of them and exceeded 16 in three of them.
He’s been active, aggressive and smart while helping the 49ers make up for the absence of Willis, a perennial Pro Bowler.
But on Sunday, Borland injured his ankle on the final play of the first half. He wasn’t able to return, and his absence was felt.
The Seahawks’ rushing game – held in check the first half – was very effective over the final two quarters when Seattle pulled away for the win. As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, Seattle had 105 of its 152 rushing yards when Borland was on the sideline.
Nick Moody, who replaced Borland, hadn’t played a snap on defense this season and the Seahawks took advantage of him.
“I don’t know the other guy that came in,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “I don’t know how much he’s been playing – I haven’t seen him much. Borland’s been playing great football. We knew that he was out and that just added to the fact that we were going to run the football anyway. He is such a good player that he makes a difference.”
With a short week to get ready for the Chargers Saturday night, Borland will have to make a fast recovery. He says he’ll be ready. The 49ers certainly will need him.
“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Borland said of his ankle injury. “I’ll be back next week.”