The Seahawks won Sunday's game against the 49ers in no small part because the players you'd expect to have big days did just that.
Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes without turning the ball over, DK Metcalf had a career day with 12 catches for 161 yards and two scores, and Bobby Wagner played like a man possessed, recording 11 tackles, 2.0 sacks and four quarterback hits.
But another key to Seattle's Week 8 win was the way so many players stepped up when called upon in a week when injuries were taking their toll on the roster.
The Seahawks had seven players inactive for Sunday's game even though they were only required to have six because they didn't have enough healthy players to dress the full allotment. Inactive Sunday were three of the Seahawks' top defensive backs (Jamal Adams, Shaquill Griffin and Ugo Amadi), their top two running backs (Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde), starting left guard Mike Iupati and starting defensive end Benson Mayowa.
Three of the players filling in for the players listed above, cornerback Tre Flowers, safety Ryan Neal and guard Jordan Simmons, had already started multiple games this season, but the Seahawks also called upon a handful of players who either hadn't played this year, or who were put into much bigger roles.
Rookie Alton Robinson, who has been part of the defensive end rotation for the last five games, started and played 70 percent of the defensive snaps and recorded his second sack of the season; rookie running back DeeJay Dallas played 79 percent of the offensive snaps and had 18 carries and five catches, scoring two touchdowns; D.J. Reed was activated off of the non-football injury list and took over the nickel defensive back role, recording six tackles and his first career interception; and most improbably, rookie tight-end-turned-defensive-end Stephen Sullivan made his NFL debut, playing 22 snaps at a position he last played in high school.
"The way we entered this game, if you take a look at our inactive list today, you see all the guys that couldn't play, and guys that had to step up and fill and play first class football, and guys did it, and came through in such a big way," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Sunday's 37-27 victory. "I was inspired by it. I was inspired by their toughness and by their guts and really, just the way they handled it, through the whole week. They just stepped up, and never even batted an eye about it.
"It is a statement, and that's why I went into this week, that's why I was talking that this was a week of inspiration. Who's going to be able to pull through, come back and uphold their end of it? Step in and all that. I think it says a tremendous amount that it didn't matter who was playing. The guys just stepped up and did their job, and busted their tails to get it done. We love seeing that. We talked about that in the locker room in getting this game on our side. I was really excited about that, I think it says a lot. It was a good illustration."
Dallas' performance as Seattle's lone healthy running back was particularly impressive according to Carroll and players, Wilson included. Dallas' stats—41 rushing yards on 18 carries and 17 receiving yards on five catches—weren't overwhelming, but it was the way he handled himself taking on such a big role that got everyone's attention.
"He played an unbelievable game," Wilson said. "I thought he was lights out. He was very calm in the huddle. He was on top of his protections, he was efficient in the run game, caught the ball well."
Said Carroll, "We're really proud of those guys. They played really hard, they were excited about it, but it was not too big for any of them. DeeJay in particular, who had a bunch responsibility with the carries and catching five balls and all that, he was right in the middle of the whole game plan. And he held up did a fine job. It's really exciting to see that happen. It's fun, the guys get fired up however it works out. Sully did his stuff, Penny Hart made a couple of good tackles on the kickoff team. Guys are jacked about those guys when they get the chance to step up and do something good, so it was a good day."
While Dallas and Robinson, along with regular starters Damien Lewis and Jordyn Brooks, had the most significant roles among the rookies who started the game, Sullivan's playing time was the most unlikely.
A seventh-round pick out of LSU, Sullivan came to the Seahawks having played receiver and a little bit of tight end in college, and the plan was to use him at tight end in the NFL. But with the Seahawks needing depth in their pass-rush rotation, they started experimenting with playing Sullivan on defense, something he hadn't done since high school, and he somehow adjusted quickly enough to be elevated off of the practice squad for Sunday's game.
"I don't know how he did, I can't wait to see his film," Carroll said. "He's such a good athlete, and he was willing to change from playing tight end to go to rush the passer in the middle of his rookie season. It's just a great team move that he made, because we needed his help, and today he got to play… Just to do that is a cool thing, just for him to be out there. We needed him, we ran out of guys. That's why this game was a very inspirational game in our locker room, because a lot of guys had to step up so that we could go. And then we went out and played well, too. That's a lot to ask guys, but they came through. Sully was one of those guys."
Taking his coach's team-first praise to another level, Sullivan said after the game, "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to win, honestly. I'm a team player so if Coach Pete wants me to kick the ball, then I'll kick the ball."
Sullivan said the transition to end started in practice when Carroll saw the rookie getting off the ball on a punt-team drill and asked if he'd played end before. Sullivan was happy to do whatever it took to help the team and perhaps find a role that got him on the field, but he couldn't have envisioned when Seattle drafted him that he'd actually be playing in an NFL game at defensive end.
"I didn't see this in a million years," Sullivan said. "My last time playing defensive end was in high school. I played all positions in high school, but when I got to college, at LSU, I just played receiver. My senior year I played tight end. I couldn't tell you that right here, right now I would be playing defensive end in the NFL. I didn't see this coming at all to be honest with you. Just being out there is a dream come true, even if I didn't touch the field. Just being on that sideline would be a dream come true for me. Coming up where I come from a lot of guys don't make it this far. I'm definitely special and I'm blessed to be in this position for sure."
The best photos from Week 8's Seahawks-49ers game at CenturyLink Field. Fueled by Nesquik.