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Harbaugh sidesteps job talk, focuses on games

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — One day after coaching what might be his final meaningful game for the San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh was perfectly happy to talk about his future.

As long as that future was confined to the next two weeks, that is.

“We have a lot to play for,” Harbaugh said less than 24 hours after his team was formally eliminated from postseason contention in a 17-7 loss at Seattle. “We’re going to play these next two games like our lives depend on it. Playing for a winning season, playing for each other, playing for the team, playing for the honor of the game.”

Harbaugh has one year remaining on his 49ers contract. Speaking to reporters in Seattle shortly after Sunday’s loss, he assured everyone he looked forward to sitting down with owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke after the season.

Harbaugh reiterated Monday he will be focused on the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals the next two weeks, not the scheduling of the meeting that figures to determine where he will coach next season.

“I’d rather talk about how proud I am of (the 49ers players),” Harbaugh responded when asked about his job and the many rumors engulfing it. “I know it’s been a lot of (talk), and it may be taking away from them and the way they play. Hate to keep contributing to that.”

The 49ers were rumored to have offered Harbaugh in a trade to Cleveland last offseason. Because he still has another year on his contract, York, Baalke and the club’s other decision-makers retain the option to use the coach as trade bait again this spring.

That possibility figures to be Agenda Item 1 in the meeting Harbaugh knows is in his future.

“Always available,” he assured.

Meantime, Harbaugh heaped praise on his team after its hard-fought loss to Seattle, gushing, “They fought like champs.”

In this case, the champs had entered the ring with one black eye and left with two.

The 49ers took the field to face the defending champs without two offensive starters (center Daniel Kilgore and tackle Anthony Davis), five defensive starters (nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, and cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver) and three would-be injury replacements (center Marcus Martin, nose tackle Ian Williams and cornerback Chris Cook). Not to mention third wideout Stevie Johnson and nickel corner Jimmie Ward.

Then, adding injury to injury, they lost running backs Frank Gore (concussion) and Carlos Hyde (back), backup tight end Garrett Celek (ankle), inside linebacker Chris Borland (ankle), outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb) and special-teams ace Kassim Osgood (hand) during the contest.

Bowman was placed on the Injured Reserve List before Sunday’s game, making it official that he will not play a single down this season after undergoing ACL surgery in February.

How badly are the 49ers banged up right now? They finished Sunday’s game with 13 starters, four second-stringers and five third-stringers among their 11 on offense and 11 on defense.

–Seemingly the 49ers spend their Mondays this season refuting various reports that surfaced before, during or in the wake of the game they played a day earlier.

This Monday was no different, except that the 49ers found themselves agreeing with what was being reported for a change.

NFL head of officials Dean Blandino announced Monday that a key roughing-the-passer penalty on 49ers linebacker Nick Moody in the fourth quarter Sunday should not have been called.

Referee Ed Hochuli awarded Seattle a first down on their way to a clinching touchdown because he claimed Moody had led with the forehead of his helmet during a hit on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. By rule, the call could not be challenged on the field.

But upon further review Monday, Blandino noted Moody had hit Wilson with the facemask and side of his helmet, which is a legal hit.

Harbaugh was asked Monday if it stung to find out a day later that a referee made a potentially difference-making mistake in the game.

“Worse to hear it after the fact? No,” he insisted. “I mean, it’s worse to get the penalty at the time.”

NOTES: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not throw a touchdown pass in Sunday’s loss at Seattle and still has not thrown a TD pass in the fourth quarter all season.

REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS

–PASSING OFFENSE: F — Colin Kaepernick didn’t throw any interceptions in Sunday’s loss at Seattle. That pretty much exhausts the positives in the 49ers’ passing game. Kaepernick was sacked six times and threw for just 141 yards, connecting with wideouts Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree a total of just five times for 42 yards. He never completed a pass to tight end Vernon Davis.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — The 49ers had a nice thing going in the run game until injuries to Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde relegated the unit to using third-stringer Alfonso Smith. The 49ers were able to win the time-of-possession battle 31:02-28:58 thanks almost exclusively to their 140 rushing yards. Even Colin Kaepernick (nine carries, 46 yards) got into the act.

PASSING DEFENSE: A-minus — The 49ers sacked Russell Wilson five times and limited Seattle to five first downs through the air. Wilson completed only 12 passes all day, not counting an interception he threw to 49ers safety Eric Reid on the final play of the first half. Wilson did manage a touchdown pass to wideout Paul Richardson in the fourth quarter.

RUSHING DEFENSE: B-minus — The 49ers held Marshawn Lynch under 100 yards, but barely. He had 91 of Seattle’s 152 rushing yards and also scored a touchdown. The Seahawks used their running game to keep possession, earning 10 first downs rushing.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — In a game where the 49ers couldn’t afford to make any mistakes on special teams, they didn’t make any. Andy Lee landed three of his five punts inside the 20, and the 49ers limited the Seahawks a total of 31 return yards. Unfortunately, the 49ers’ best offensive weapon — Phil Dawson — never had a chance to try a field goal.

COACHING: B — It’s hard to blame the coaching staff for a narrow loss on the road to one of the hottest teams in the league. To do so with two starting offensive linemen, the team’s top two nose tackles, two All-Pro linebackers and two best cover corners injured — among others — constitutes a commendable feat. Alas, the 49ers’ lost the must-win game by exactly the same amount the oddsmakers had predicted (10 points), so to say they exceeded expectations was not exactly true, either.


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