More from the game
This is more like it.
Coming off a three-game losing streak with three different quarterbacks and a multitude of receivers shuttling in and out due to injury, the Seattle Seahawks erupted Sunday afternoon with big play after big play at Monster Park to run away from the San Francisco 49ers 34-13.
Adding to the value, the Seahawks moved to within two games of first place Arizona and into a three-way tie for second as everybody else in the NFC West lost.
Leonard Weaver had two huge touchdowns on short receptions from Seneca Wallace that turned into big runs of 43 and 62 yards, plus Josh Wilson intercepted a pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, while the defense had five sacks and forced four fumbles. All of it was the kind of change that coach Mike Holmgren has been looking for the past few weeks
"Clearly it feels a lot better this week than it has the last couple," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "This game, unlike the last couple, we were able to come up with big plays. Josh's big play and Weaver's two … as I mentioned before, we need to have them, and we got them."
Wilson's, in particular, was a game changer. The Seahawks were leading 13-3 in the final minute of the half and the 49ers had penetrated the Seahawks 40-yard line. But Wilson jumped in front of Bryant Johnson on the Seattle 25 and raced the distance to give the Seahawks a 20-3 lead going into the locker room at intermission. Already they had established themselves on both sides of the football, by pressuring quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan into two fumbles and the interception. It so disturbed him, he was pulled in favor of Shaun Hill the rest of the game, as Mike Singletary made his debut as 49ers head coach following the Monday firing of Mike Nolan.
Patrick Kerney and Julian Peterson led the Seahawks sack brigade, in fact Peterson's first quarter sack and Kerney's 50-yard run with the fumble it caused was one of the key turning points of the game. Rocky Bernard had two sacks and Craig Terrell added another to round out a big impact day for the defense.
It was a huge win for everybody, particularly in the wake of the 33-30 overtime loss to the 49ers in Week 2 at Qwest Field that is still lingering in some minds.
Insider Look Back
Seneca Wallace on the big picture impact of today's win
"I hope this game today will get us going, give us something to build on. I'm definitely looking for some carryover effect. It was a real confidence booster for us today. We were able to make big plays. That was the key. I'm gaining in confidence. The more I play, the better I think I will get."Turning point
Every time Leonard Weaver caught a pass – he had a big 10-yard catch and run to set up a touchdown, and that was followed by a 43-yard catch and run for a score, and a game-clinching 62-yard touchdown
Offensive player of the game
The Seahawks were looking some stability on offense and found in Sunday with quarterback Seneca Wallace. Entering the game with a 55.7 quarterback rating, Wallace was 15-of-25 for 222 yards and touchdown passes of 43 and 62 yards to Leonard Weaver. He was not sacked nor did he turn the ball over for a 115.8 quarterback rating.
Defensive player of the game
Cornerback Josh Wilson was all over the field Sunday, with 6 tackles, a forced fumble, a pass defense and a spectacular 75-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half that really put the game into the Seahawks lap. He also returned a kickoff for 40 yards.
Special teams player of the game
Punter Jon Ryan continued to pick up the pace, as Sunday he had his best game 5 punts for a 53.4 average, including a 60-yarder and another inside the 20.
"The ball is a funny shape - sometimes it comes to you, sometimes it doesn't," Kerney said. "Momentum and confidence plays a big role through the length of the NFL seasons. It's up and down, riding those waves of the season. We had a 14-point lead on them obviously and gave it up. We had to have this one."
The Seahawks scored the first three times they had the football, but the first two – one the benefit of Kerney's fumble recovery – ended up with field goals of 43 and 42 yards from Olindo Mare to make it 6-0. It still didn't look like Wallace was comfortable, and he had a little chat with Holmgren coming to the sidelines.
Coming off a 12-of-23 effort for 73 yards, including an interception last week, he wanted to assure Holmgren his sore calf was a lot better and he was going to gain control of the offense in short order. The result was he was 15-of-25 for 222 yards, no interceptions, the two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 115.8 compared to 55.7 coming in. Not only did Weaver make great runs on the touchdowns that allowed him to have a career high 116 yards on receptions, but Wallace made subtle adjustments in the pocket both times that were difference-makers.
"He was much improved over last week," Holmgren said. "He was feeling better. His leg was better. He settled down. As the game progressed, he got better. He came over and just said, 'Just stay with me,' a very mature way of handing it, so I tried to be as mature as my player."
It worked well. After the first two stalled drives, he drove the team the length of the field with 14 plays and 63 yards that took some 7:32 – including a clutch fourth down conversion. So clearly, he was healthier and playing more like the Wallace we had seen in previous years – despite still being somewhat inhibited by the calf from being his more elusive and acrobatic self.
Weaver, on the other hand, was just plain explosive once he got into the open field, showing the form that allowed them to play some halfback when he was a rookie. Now that he's the primary blocker in the backfield, he doesn't carry the ball much. And yet on this particular day, he had 129 yards total offense compared to 97 in the first six games combined.
"When he does have a chance, it doesn't surprise me," Holmgren said. "The conversion he's made to fullback hasn't been as much fun because he blocks a lot more, but he made two nice plays."
It was all nice. They are finished with the 49ers, having split the two games; they have beaten the Rams once in Seattle and have a rematch in St. Louis in Dec.; and there are two games with the Cardinals. To win the division it will very likely require winning all three remaining division games, and a bunch more.
Then again, from here on out, the Seahawks are more about the hopelessly abused "one game at a time" cliché than ever before, if only because the 1-5 start doesn't allow for any looking ahead or slippage. So next on the docket are the always rugged Philadelphia Eagles, as they fly cross country to Qwest Field next Sunday.
The Seahawks came out of the game fairly healthy, although Kerney's shoulder is sore and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu left the game in the first quarter with a strained groin. It was the second week in a row that D.D. Lewis filled in at middle linebacker and was superb – Sunday making 9 tackles. His performance and perceptions really reflect what this win and the rest of the season will be about.
"Whether we're starting or not, we're all preparing the same way," Lewis said. "We talked about it all week, being exact and being in the right place. And that's what we did, and we were fortunate enough to get the victory. You always want to try and get turnovers on the road. That's a key part about playing defense. It does a lot (for our confidence). We know we've got to take it one game at a time, but we know we have to get victories."
And this was a nice start.
The 49ers pulled quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan on the last series of the opening half and Shaun Hill took over. Hill wasted no time impressively driving the 49ers right down the field to the Seattle 22. He mixed up short passes and Frank Gore runs for a first down on the 25, but the Seahawks defense tightened. They blew up a screen pass, stopped Gore for a 3-yard gain and Marcus Trufant blanketed Isaac Bruce on third down. Joe Nedney converted the 40-yard field goal 4:12 left in the third quarter to cut the Seahawks lead to 20-6.
The Seahawks wasted no time responding. Josh Wilson returned the subsequent kickoff from the goal line to the 40. On third-and-2, Seneca Wallace set up Julius Jones with a nice flare pass, and Jones got a nice block from Floyd Womack to get 11 yards. Jones was nailed for a 2-yard loss on the next play, but Wallace then hit Leonard Weaver over the middle, and the 250-yard fullback ran away from the 49ers with a 43-yard touchdown. Olindo Mare's extra point pushed the margin to 27-6 with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
The 49ers had crossed midfield into Seahawks territory as the quarter ended, with the Seahawks still leading by 21 points.
Halftime at a glance
The Seahawks opened up a 20-3 lead, taking advantage of three fumbles by the 49ers – only one lost – and a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by Josh Wilson. Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace was 8-of-14 for 80 yards, while 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan was 13-of-21 for 121 yards, but fumbled twice, was sacked three times and yanked on the final series of the half after the interception return for a touchdown in Mike Singletary's first game as head coach. Frank Gore led the 49ers in rushing with 68 yards on 10 carries. The 49ers actually had more yardage (175-111) and time of possession (16:25-13:35), but the fumbles and key penalties (6-for-50 yards compared to 3-for-15 for the Seahawks) killed them.
At the Half
Turning point of the halfThe Seahawks impressively finished off the drive they started late in the first quarter that was jump-started by Seneca Wallace's passing and Koren Robinson's receiving. But the big plays once the second quarter began came from fullback Leonard Weaver, who had a big 10-yard run on a third-and-6, and then got 10 more on a swing pass from Wallace to the San Francisco 4. Weaver then bulled to the 1 and T.J. Duckett capped it off with his team-high fourth touchdown of the season on the next play behind Weaver. Olindo Mare's extra point finished off the 14-play, 63-yard drive that ate up 7:32 from the clock. And three minutes into the second quarter, the Seahawks led 13-0.
Key play of the half
On fourth-and-4 from the Seahawks 29, cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted J.T. O'Sullivan on the 25-yard line and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. It was the second interception of the season for the Seahawks. It thwarted a potential score for the 49ers and gave the Seahawks a 20-3 lead in the final seconds of the half.
The Seahawks opened up a 20-3 lead in the final 31 seconds of the half when Josh Wilson intercepted O'Sullivan's pass intended for Bryant Johnson, and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
The Seahawks impressively finished off the drive they started late in the first quarter that was jump-started by Seneca Wallace's passing and Koren Robinson's receiving. But the big plays once the second quarter began came from fullback Leonard Weaver, who had a big 10-yard run on a third-and-6, and then got 10 more on a swing pass from Wallace to the San Francisco 4. Weaver then bulled to the 1 and T.J. Duckett capped it off with his team-high fourth touchdown of the season on the next play behind Weaver. Olindo Mare's extra point finished off the 14-play, 63-yard drive that ate up 7:32 from the clock. And three minutes into the second quarter, the Seahawks led 13-0.
The 49ers got on the board on the next possession with a 42-yard Joe Nedney field goal, but it could have been a lot worse. J.T. O'Sullivan quickly moved them to the Seahawks 35 and Frank Gore then burst threw the left side down the sidelines and as he crossed the 10-yard, grabbed cornerback Kelly Jennings' facemask while they moved to the 3-yard-line line. The result was a 15-yard penalty on Gore taking it back to the 20. A holding penalty pushed it back to the 30 and ultimately the third Seahawks sack of the half – this one from Rocky Bernard – kept them on the 25-yard-line. So midway through the quarter, the Seahawks led 13-3.
The Seahawks missed a golden opportunity on the 49ers first play from scrimmage when Patrick Kerney and Rocky Bernard collaborated to sack quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan and force a fumble. Defensive end Darryl Tapp had an open shot on the ball, tried to pick it up but could not manage to hold on to the ball, allowing the 49ers to recover on their own 5-yard line. The Seahawks defense did hold, but they also got a 58-yard punt from Andy Lee.
Nonetheless, quarterback Seneca Wallace got the Seahawks going early with a 24-yard pass on first down to Bobby Engram. And after an incomplete pass and an illegal procedure penalty, halfback Julius Jones pulled off another one of his patented bounce out of the pile runs for a 14-yard gain and T.J. Duckett picked up the first down on third-and-one. Wallace then hit Jones for an 11-yard gain on a swing pass, but the drive stalled on the San Francisco 24 when Engram couldn't hold on to a potential first down pass. That set up Olindo Mare with a 43-yard field to close out the drive and give the Seahawks a 3-0 lead just more than five minutes into the game.
The 49ers responded with the biggest offensive play of their season on the ensuing drive when O'Sullivan hit tight end Delaney Walker all alone over the middle when Josh Wilson and Deon Grant collided on the coverage, creating a 53-yard catch and run. But O'Sullivan again fumbled, this time with the ball on the Seahawks 5 on a blind side hit from Julian Peterson. Kerney scooped it up and rambled 50 yards to the San Francisco 27. But the offense stalled again, and Mare's 42-yard field goal made it 6-0 with 6:10 left in the opening quarter.
The Seahawks got a solid drive going as the first quarter was rolling to a close, with Wallace collaborating three times with Koren Robinson – twice for a first down. The second one came on a fourth-and-6 from the San Francisco 35 and it was a perfectly executed slant to the San Francisco 29. Following a 3-yard gain from Mo Morris, the quarter ended with the Seahawks leading 6-0.
This and that
This is the third consecutive game Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has missed, and second start in a row for Seneca Wallace. Wallace started four games two years ago and the Seahawks split those four games. He now has started six games in his career, the Seahawks winning two. Over these two-plus seasons, the Seahawks are 18-13 in games Hasselbeck has started. … Hasselbeck, led the inactive names, along with wide receiver Deion Branch, kicker Brandon Coutu, cornerback Kevin Hobbs, guard Mansfield Wrotto, tight end Will Heller, defensive end Baraka Atkins and defensive tackle Howard Green. … For the second week in a row rookie Justin Forsett was the No. 1 punt-returner … Josh Wilson continues to return kickoffs and start at right cornerback. … The Seahawks entered the game 28th in the NFL on third down conversions at 29 percent. … For the second consecutive game, Bobby Engram and Koren Robinson started at wide receiver, the only time this season the same duo has started in consecutive games.