By Danny O’Neil
Marshawn Lynch stopped just short of the end zone in the fourth quarter, extending the ball over the goal line with an almost militant indifference while looking back at the San Francisco defense.
Consider it the signature moment of one of Seattle’s most significant victories under coach Pete Carroll.
Seattle did more than beat San Francisco 29-3.
The Seahawks beat the two-time defending division champions for a second consecutive time, validating that 42-13 victory last December, and then they stared the 49ers down.
Seattle did not complete a pass in the first quarter, the Seahawks had their first punt blocked and were stopped on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter and yet they never trailed in this game and were never ahead by fewer than nine points after San Francisco scored.
Seattle picked off Colin Kaepernick three times and stripped the ball from him once. The 49ers didn’t complete a pass of 20 yards or more in the game and Kaepernick was responsible for 87 of the team’s 100 yards rushing. It was a whupping.
The significance: Seattle won despite quarterback Russell Wilson not playing his best. In fact, the Seahawks won despite Wilson playing his worst game in the NFL. He was 0-for-6 passing in the first quarter, completed just two passes in the first half and was intercepted. How did the Seahawks do that? On the ground, of course.
Play of the game: Any questions about the pass rush halted about the time Cliff Avril chased down Kaepernick from behind in the second quarter, stripping the ball loose for a fumble recovered by linebacker K.J. Wright. Seventeen yards later, Seattle kicked a field goal as the defense was largely responsible for the Seahawks’ 5-0 halftime lead.
Turning point: It wasn’t a play by the Seahawks, but a penalty by the 49ers. The Seahawks faced third-and-28 at the San Francisco 42 and were scrambling just to get back into field-goal position. Wilson completed a 15-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller, but instead of bringing on the field-goal unit, the Seahawks got a first down after linebacker Aldon Smith was assessed a personal-foul for hitting tackle Breno Giacomini in the helmet after the play was over. That gave Seattle a first down, and two plays later, the Seahawks scored on a 7-yard pass to running back Marshawn Lynch.
Player of the game: Lynch. Not only did he score all three of Seattle’s touchdowns, but he was responsible for nearly half of Seattle’s yards from scrimmage. Lynch led Seattle with 98 yards rushing and was No. 2 in receiving yardage with 37. Bonus points because of the awesomely casual way in which he walked across the goal line on his 7-yard, third-down touchdown catch.
The good: Cornerback Richard Sherman picked off his first pass of the year, leaping up to intercept Kaepernick’s throw to Vernon Davis in the fourth quarter. Seattle’s defense scored almost as many points (two) as its offense (three) in the first half, recording a safety when 49ers tight end Bruce Miller was penalized for holding in the end zone. In Miller’s defense, he didn’t hold blitzing linebacker Malcolm Smith so much as Miller flat-out tackled him from behind. 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin – who had more than 200 yards receiving in Week 1 – did not catch a pass until the fourth quarter.
The bad: Wilson did not complete a pass in the first half. Well, at least he didn’t complete a pass to his own team. He was intercepted in the first quarter and was 2-for-8 passing in the first half for 48 yards. The flags kept coming. Seattle had back-to-back holding penalties in the fourth quarter when it was trying to run out the clock. The only good news: San Francisco’s penalty problems were even worse.
The ugly: Seattle had its first punt of the game blocked, something that had not happened in a game since September 2008. That blocked punt also came against San Francisco. Seattle had 25 yards of penalties on its final possession of the first half, neutering what was a promising drive. Twice, Seattle had moved the ball into San Francisco’s half of the field only to have a penalty put the Seahawks back in their own territory.
Go figure: There were five total points scored in the first half, 10 scored in the first 11 minutes of the third quarter. Over the last 18 regular-season games, San Francisco has allowed more than 100 yards rushing only six times. Seattle is responsible for three of those.
Seattle: DE Chris Clemons, RB Christine Michael, CB Brandon Browner, OT Alvin Bailey, OT Michael Bowie, DT Jordan Hill, S Jeron Johnson. San Francisco: QB B.J. Daniels, WR Chris Harper, RB LaMichael James, LB Nate Stupar, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, G Joe Looney, WR Jon Baldwin.
Seattle: LT Russell Okung left the game with a foot injury after the first quarter. San Francisco: DT Ian Williams suffered a knee injury in the first quarter. S Eric Reid suffered a concussion in the second quarter and did not return. TE Vernon Davis suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and left the game.