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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—The Seahawks continued their dominance over the 49ers, winning a fourth straight game at Levi’s Stadium and an eighth straight overall against San Francisco. The Seahawks took a while to find their way on offense, but thanks to a strong performance by the defense and a big second half from Russell Wilson and the offense, Seattle was able to pull away in the second half and roll to a 24-13 victory
Here are five rapid reactions to a victory that improved Seattle’s record to 7-4:
1. Bobby Wagner and the defense were dominant.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner didn’t practice Friday and was listed as questionable because of a hamstring injury, but Wagner not only played, he was arguably the best player on the field for much of the game.
Wagner finished the game with eight tackles, putting him at 100 for the season, two tackles for loss, a pass defensed, two quarterback hits and an interception. Wagner, who last year led the NFL in tackles, has gone over 100 tackles in every season of his six-year career.
Wagner’s interception, an impressive individual effort on which he ripped the ball away from receiver Trent Taylor while going to the ground, gave Seattle a short field that the offense was able to turn into the team’s only first-half score.
Wagner was part of a very strong overall defensive effort that saw the Seahawks limit San Francisco to just a pair of field goals until a 75-yard touchdown drive at the end of the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. The Seahawks were able to hold Carlos Hyde, who had a big game against them in Week 2, to just 47 yards on 16 carries.
2. The Seahawks pass rush made life difficult on C.J. Beathard.
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard wasn’t able to get a lot done against Seattle’s defense, and one of the biggest reasons for that was a pass rush that produced three sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
While the Seahawks got good play from some of the usual standouts like Michael Bennett, Frank Clark and Sheldon Richardson, they also got some big plays from rotational players such as Marcus Smith, who had a sack and two quarterback hits, Branden Jackson, who split a sack with Clark, and Quinton Jefferson, who forced an intentional grounding call with one rush, and who had the initial pressure on Smith’s sack.
3. Russell Wilson heated up in the second half.
Russell Wilson was intercepted on the first pass he threw Sunday, and he and the offense continued to struggle in the first half. Wilson completed 8 of 19 first-half passes for 80 yards and a 32.8 passer rating, but as he has done so often, he turned things around in the second half.
Following a 49ers field goal to open the third quarter, Wilson led the Seahawks offense on a six-play, 71-yard scoring drive, then after the defense forced a three-and-out, the offense went 63 yards for another touchdown, all but putting the game out of reach.
Despite that slow start, Wilson finished 20 for 34 for 228 yards, two touchdowns, one interceptions and an 86.4 passer rating.
4. Jimmy Graham continues to dominate in the red zone.
When Jimmy Graham was split out wide on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line facing man coverage, just about everyone in the stadium knew where the ball was going. Knowing what’s coming and stopping it, however, are two different things, and Wilson hit Graham on a slant route for an easy score. The touchdown was Graham’s eighth this season, all coming in the last seven games, and all being scored from inside the red zone.
With that touchdown catch, Graham now has the most touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history with 16, and in a single season with eight.
And Graham wasn’t the only tight end getting the job done in the red zone Sunday. Seeing an increased work load due to Luke Willson’s early exit from the game with a concussion, Nick Vannett took advantage of the opportunity, catching two passes for 29 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
5. The Seahawks cut down on penalties.
The Seahawks came into the game as the most penalized team in the NFL, and had been flagged for 62 penalties over the past five games. On Sunday, however, they kept those penalties in check with just six for 35 yards.