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Seahawks’ defense shows toughness that’s been missing in win over 49ers

The Seahawks' defense allowed just one score to the 49ers in the first half. (Getty)

Don’t call it a comeback, Bobby’s been here for years, jacking up backs keeping suckers in fear.

And while the Seahawks’ middle linebacker did not technically knock out the 49ers or their quarterback, Bobby Wagner landed the biggest blows in a victory that was uncharacteristically comfortable.

Seahawks beat 49ers | Quick hits on Seattle’s win | Instant reaction

Seattle 37, San Francisco 27, and you’re tempted to say it shouldn’t have been that close considering Seattle led by 23 points early in the fourth quarter. But who are we kidding? These are the Seahawks after all, and this defense hemorrhages points in the final period. But on Sunday, Seattle’s lead was so big it didn’t matter, and the reason was because for the first three periods the Seahawks showed a steel-toed toughness that the defense had been missing the previous two games.

The 49ers wanted to run the ball. The Seahawks would not let them. The 49ers didn’t want to put the game in Jimmy Garoppolo’s hands. Seattle forced them to, holding the 49ers to fewer than 3 yards per carry in the first half. Wagner finished with 11 tackles, most of any player in the game. He had two sacks, both coming on third down to force 49er punts.

There will be plenty of people who characterize this as a bounce-back performance for Wagner. I tend to think the rumors of his demise had been greatly exaggerated. He ranked fifth in the league in tackles entering this week’s game with 63. Sunday’s game should serve as a reminder that for all the faults of this defense – and there are plenty – the middle linebacker is one of its only strengths.

Now, no one should get carried away bragging about this win over the 49ers. That’s not a knock on San Francisco, but a reflection of how injured both these teams are. The 49ers have been riddled with injuries from the start of this season whether it was defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas – who suffered season-ending injuries back in September – to running back Raheem Mostert and even receiver Deebo Samuel, who was absent to start the season but came back only suffer a strained hamstring last week. Cornerback Richard Sherman has yet to play.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a sprained ankle earlier this year, and while he has been back for three weeks now, it’s evident to anyone watching he’s not even close to full strength. He can’t drive off his back foot, rendering his fastball more like a changeup.

So instead of depending on the quarterback, the 49ers doubled down on the run game. They ran more than they passed in each of the past two games, both wins. They planned to do more of the same on Sunday against a Seahawks team almost as injured-wracked as San Francisco. Neither Chris Carson nor Carlos Hyde played for the Seahawks. Jamal Adams missed his fourth game because of a strained groin. Cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Ugo Ahmadi were out, too.

And yet Seattle’s defense acquitted itself pretty well. At least it did for three quarters. The 49ers gained 108 yards in the first half, which was 1 fewer than Seattle receiver DK Metcalf. San Francisco failed to gain a first down on either of its third-quarter possessions and Garoppolo left the game after that period, limping off after he was sacked by Alton Robinson with just over 4 minutes remaining in the period.

When Jason Myers kicked a 48-yard field goal in the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Seahawks had a 23-point lead, and while San Francisco backup Nick Mullens led three touchdown drives, the 49ers never cut the lead to single digits.

This wasn’t a statement victory by Seattle so much as an act of survival. And after these two teams dueled to the final play in each of their regular-season meetings last season, the Seahawks were more than happy to have a more comfortable afternoon thanks in large part to the man in the middle of their defense.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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