Rost: Defense, led by under-the-radar hero, carry Seahawks to big win over 49ers

Oct 3, 2021, 7:13 PM
Seahawks Ryan Neal...
Seahawks DBs Ryan Neal and Jamal Adams tackle 49ers QB Trey Lance during the third quarter. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

You’d be hard-pressed to figure out which team won Sunday’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks if you looked at the stats alone.

Instant Reaction: 710 ESPN Seattle on Hawks’ win over 49ers

Seattle posted just 234 net yards to San Francisco’s 457. The Seahawks gained 4.3 yards per play (6.3 for San Francisco) and had just 129 passing yards to 314 for the 49ers.

On offense, Russell Wilson was sacked three times, all on third down.

And while not controlled as dominantly as past Seahawks opponents, the 49ers also owned time of possession, 31 minutes to Seattle’s 28.

But add in context, and the Seahawks’ 28-21 win didn’t feel like much of a battle at all by the fourth quarter – though it wasn’t for a lack of first-half stress.

Defense carries the Seahawks

The defense shouldered much of the blame following the Seahawks’ Week 3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, but credit it for this one: they kept the game close through four quarters despite several first half three-and-outs from the offense.

Wilson and the rest of Seattle’s offense looked abysmal early. Seattle had minus-3 yards to 167 for the 49ers in the first quarter and had just three total first downs in the first half.

Seattle’s defense, which through three weeks had been leading the league in yards surrendered, gave up over 400 yards on the day. But take out a 76-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deebo Samuel and the 49ers’ offense clocked in at 381 yards. After scoring a touchdown on their opening possession, here’s how the next eight drives for the 49ers played out: interception, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble.

That interception was the first of the season for the Seahawks (nabbed by last year’s team leader in interceptions, Quandre Diggs). That, and the fumble recovery on special teams by linebacker Jon Rhattigan, are the kinds of plays Seattle made last season that had been absent in September. Seattle’s offense didn’t do anything with the first pick but took advantage of the second turnover with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Freddie Swain.

Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams will bring a tougher challenge to town Thursday night, but if the defense can continue to make timely plays, the offense is talented enough to pull itself back into a game – which is exactly what happened Sunday.

Under-the-radar hero of the day: Ryan Neal

Sidney Jones got the start over the embattled Tre Flowers at cornerback in a move fans had been anticipating for some time. But it was instead another defensive back, safety Ryan Neal, who drew the most praise postgame. Neal finished with three tackles and a pass defended in an effective role as the sixth defensive back in Seattle’s dime package.

“It was just something looking at (George Kittle) and how good he was, we just thought the matchup might work out for us and help us a little bit,” Carroll said. “He had a beautiful game. I don’t know how many (one-on-one) wins, but I think he had some breakups on third down that were really huge for the game.”

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