SANTA CLARA—The Seahawks came to the Bay Area hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the 2011 season, and early on, things looked bleak.
After a quick three-and-out by Seattle's offense, the 49ers took an early lead with a long touchdown drive, then the Seahawks went three-and-out four more times, and by middle of the second quarter, the 49ers were outgaining Seattle 194 yards to negative 7, Russell Wilson had been sacked three times, and the Seahawks had no first downs.
But through all of that, Seattle only trailed by a touchdown thanks to a Quandre Diggs interception, a missed field goal and some improved play from the defense. So when the offense finally got on track, the Seahawks were able to head into the locker room at halftime tied 7-7, and they took control in the second half to win 28-21 and end a two-game skid.
Here are five rapid reactions to Sunday's win over the 49ers:
1. Russell Wilson turned back the clock and the Seahawks ended their third-quarter funk.
Through three games, the Seahawks had yet to score a third-quarter point, but Russell Wilson and the offense—with an assist from a special teams turnover—bucked that trend in a big way.
After putting on their first possession of the third quarter, the Seahawks put together a 66-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 16-yard touchdown run that saw him avoid pressure, scramble then race for the pylon and dive into the end zone for Seattle's first third-quarter score of the season. The Seahawks then got the ball right back when rookie linebacker Jon Rhattigan recovered a fumbled kickoff, setting up an incredibly impressive touchdown throw.
Two plays after the turnover, 49ers cornerback Dontae Johnson was free on a blitz and looked to have Wilson dead to rights, but Wilson spun away from him, avoided Nick Bosa, then while running to his right and backwards, fired a strike to Freddie Swain for a 13-yard touchdown.
The touchdown run and pass to Swain were a good reminder that even though Wilson has been deadly as a more traditional pocket passer in recent years, he can still make magic happen when he has to improvise. Oh, and today's win gives the veteran quarterback 100 regular season wins, becoming the 4th-fastest QB to reach the milestone.
Through three games, the Seahawks offense had started fast then slowed down in the second half, but it was the opposite scenarios Sunday, with the offense going three-and-out on its first five possessions, three of which ended with Wilson getting sacked, before getting on track with an 80-yard touchdown drive late in the second quarter, and from there the offense was back on track, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four possessions in the second half to take control of the game.
2. Things did change for the Seahawks defense.
After starting the season with solid defense through six quarters, the Seahawks gave up 24 points after halftime in a loss to the Titans, then gave up 30 last week in a loss to the Vikings. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his players said things would change—as Jamal Adams put it on Thursday, “Starting this week, things will change”—and indeed Sunday's game was a step in the right direction on that side of the ball.
The day didn't start great for the Seahawks, with the 49ers driving 71 yards for a touchdown on their first possession, but from there the defense played very well, save for one huge coverage bust in the second half that led to a 76-yard score. Following the 49ers' opening touchdown, their next drive got past midfield, but ended on a Quandre Diggs interception, then after that San Francisco missed a field goal, then punted on five straight possessions before finally scoring again on the aforementioned coverage bust that left Deebo Samuel wide open.
3. Ryan Neal and the dime package provided a spark for the defense.
The Seahawks made a change to their starting lineup, putting Sidney Jones in at left cornerback and moving D.J. Reed from left side to the right side, replacing Tre Flowers. But while that move was the one people were speculating about all week, the change that might have made the biggest difference Sunday was the decision to play more dime defense, getting Ryan Neal on the field for his most significant playing time of the season.
Playing frequently on third down, Neal had a pass breakup that led to a punt, and three tackles short of the first-down marker, one of which led to a punt, another to a field-goal attempt that missed, and another to a fourth-and-1 that the 49ers were able to convert late in the game.
4. Alex Collins helped jump-start the offense.
With the offense going nowhere early in the game, the Seahawks took the field for their sixth possession of the game with Alex Collins in the backfield, and Wilson immediately looked Collins' way, hitting him for a 28-yard gain that gave the Seahawks their first first down of the game. Collins carried for 5 yards on the next play—a modest gain, but a win for the offense given how things had gone up to that point—4 yards on the following play, then Wilson hit DK Metcalf for a 28-yard gain to put Seattle in the red zone on a drive that would end on a Metcalf touchdown catch.
Splitting time with Carson the rest of the way, Collins rushed for a team-high 44 yards on 10 carries, including a very impressive 14-yard touchdown run that saw him make several would-be tacklers miss before he punctuated the run with a somersault into the end zone.
5. Quandre Diggs was great on the back end of the defense.
Diggs made his mark early in the game, undercutting a pass intended for George Kittle for Seattle's first interception of the season, but while that was his most notable play, it was far from the only impactful one he had.
Diggs finished with seven tackles, not a huge number, but almost all of them were open-field stops that kept big plays from happening—a huge part of any free safety's job—and he also had two passes defensed. And it was probably no coincidence that the 49ers biggest play of the game, Samuel's 76-yard score, came with Diggs was briefly out of the game.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the 49ers in their fourth game of the 2021 season at Levi's Stadium. This album will be updated throughout the game. Game Action photos are presented by Washington Lottery.