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Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Dec 24, 2012

Or footnotes: Red Bryant’s block of a field goal and 90-yard return by Richard Sherman for a touchdown sounded the upset bell for the Seahawks in their playoff-clinching victory over the 49ers on Sunday night.

Into the avalanche of points the Seahawks scored the past 15 days stepped Red Bryant and Richard Sherman.

The defensive standouts also showed they can stand out on special teams in Sunday night’s ridiculously easy 42-13 victory over the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers by blocking a field goal (Bryant) and then returning it (Sherman) 90 yards for a touchdown.

Not that the Seahawks needed another TD on a rain-drenched evening at CenturyLink Field, but it was the from-Bryant’s-right-hand-to-Sherman’s-waiting-hands play that ignited the rout and firmly planted the anything-can-happen seed.

As Pete Carroll said after the game, and after the Seahawks had clinched their second playoff spot in his three seasons as coach, “I think the bell rang right there – we have a chance to beat these guys on this night.”

And you could hear that bell even over the din being generated by the 68,161 fans – the second-largest, but loudest, gathering of the 12th Man this season.

For Bryant, it was his first blocked kick this season after he turned in four last season.

“We’ve been working,” he said. “We’ve been going and going and going. A lot of teams, they do a great job. So I’m just grateful. Whenever we get a blocked field goal, especially if I get a block, there’s guys behind the scenes that are making it possible.” 

For Sherman, it was a fresh-legs performance that also included breaking up a third-down pass in the end zone to setup the field goal attempted that Bryant blocked and he returned and an end-zone interception. Not too shabby for a guy who missed practice on Thursday and Friday because he was appealing his four-game suspension for allegedly violating the league’s performance enhancing policy.

“Well, it helped me rest my legs a little bit,” said Sherman, who is tied for second in the league with seven interceptions. “But I was studying the whole time. They sent me the plays and the third downs and everything I was supposed to have so I was prepared.”

While Bryant and Sherman contributed just one of the 18 touchdowns the Seahawks have scored in beating the Arizona Cardinals 58-0 at home, the Buffalo Bills 50-17 in Toronto and the 49ers 42-13, it was the style points attached to it that made it extra special.

With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked against the 49ers and something that needs work beyond when the players return from their Christmas break on Wednesday to begin preparing for this week’s regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams:

WHAT WORKED

The O-line Marshawn Lynch had another 100-yard rushing game, his ninth of the season. Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes for the first time in his 15-game NFL career. Doug Baldwin, last year’s leading receiver, looked that part in catching two of Wilson’s TD throws.

But it started, all of it, with the job the boys up front did a 49ers’ defensive front that is not used to getting pushed around. The 49ers played without injured Pro Bowl lineman Justin Smith, but the Pro Bowl trio of linebacker/rush-end Aldon Smith, tackling-machine linebacker Patrick Willis and Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson did play, and finished with no game-altering plays.

So, take a bow left tackle Russell Okung, and left guard Paul McQuistan, and playing-at-a-Pro-Bowl-level center Max Unger, and rookie right guard J.R. Sweezy and as-physical-as-they-come right tackle Breno Giacomini.

“We knew that they were a physical team and we feel like we’re a physical team,” said Giacomini, making correct reads on both counts. “We don’t want to hurt anybody, but we kind of felt like we were physical, they were physical, too. Both teams were physical and that is just part of the game.”

Who was the most physical? As the old saying goes, check the scoreboard. 

The kid QB – What else could Wilson possibly do that he hasn’t already done in his season of exceeded expectations? Did we mention he passed for four touchdowns, giving him 25 for the season and leaving him one shy of the league rookie record set by Peyton Manning?

You have to love this assessment from Carroll when asked what has changed about Wilson: “I can’t tell you, because he hasn’t changed. All he has done is just won us over. We’ve changed, he’s the same.”

It just took a while for Wilson to be allowed to show just how much he not only can handle, but excel at.

The defense – The 49ers scored their touchdown with 1 minute, 40 seconds left in the game, and many of the Seahawks’ backups on the field. Other than that, the Seahawks beat up the 49ers’ offense – literally, figuratively, all those “lys.”

Old nemesis Frank Gore was a nonfactor because the Seahawks jumped on top so early, and decisively. He carried six times for 28 yards, leaving the 49ers with a 3-7 record against the Seahawks when Gore doesn’t top 100 yards – compared to 4-0 when he does. Colin Kaepernick was 19 of 36 and looked nothing like the QB who dissected the Patriots in New England with four TD passes on the previous Sunday night.

“Who has been playing better than us the last few weeks?” Bryant asked. “This is the National Football League, and you don’t get any gimmies. We work hard to win. I was on a 4-12 team (in 2008) and we had a whole bunch of injuries.

“It’s hard to win in this league. The 49ers are a great football team, a real good football team to beat.”    

WHAT NEEDS WORK

Taking this increasingly impressive show on the road – Yes, they play the Rams at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. But, barring an improbable upset of the 49ers by the Cardinals in San Francisco that same afternoon, the Seahawks will begin their postseason on the road.

And yes, they’ve won their past two road games – in overtime against the Bears in Chicago in Week 13 and then over the Bills on the neutral field that is Rogers Centre last week. But the Bills are not a playoff and while the Bears could be, they’re not playing like one down the stretch.

The last time – the only time – the Seahawks have won a playoff game on the road came in 1983, when they upset the Dolphins in Miami. Since then, it’s been oh-for-L.A. (1983), oh-for-Miami (1984), oh-for-Houston (1987), oh-for-Cincinnati (1988), oh-for-Green Bay (2003 and 2007), oh-for-Detroit (2005) and oh-for-Chicago (2006 and 2010).

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