SANTA CLARA, Calif.—After the San Francisco 49ers kicked a field goal on the opening possession of the second half to make it a 1-point game, they had a chance to build off of that momentum when they quickly had the Seahawks facing third-and-9 and the possibility of a quick three-and-out.
Then, as has been the case so many times over the past six seasons, Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin happened. Flushed out of the pocket, Wilson escaped pressure by scrambling to his right, then lofted a pass down field that Baldwin hauled in with an impressive leaping grab. On the next play, Wilson hit Tanner McEvoy for 24 yards, then Eddie Lacy ran for 6 more, and then Wilson found Nick Vannett in the end zone for a 17-yard score, the first career touchdown for the second-year tight end.
After Seattle's defense, which was outstanding all night, forced another three-and-out, Wilson and the offense marched down the field for another touchdown, and just like that, the Seahawks went from 1-point lead to comfortably in control in less than a quarter.
"I thought that was the play that really kind of turned things," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson's third-down pass to Baldwin. "That sequence didn't turn out great, and Russell was moving around again and found him, and those two guys hooked up with a beautiful play. That really was the spark in this game. Doug didn't get the ball a lot today, but he made a key play that really kind of turned the momentum around for us."
Said Wilson, "Doug Baldwin did great on that play. He did a good job of scrambling, getting open, made a great, great catch, and that was really the momentum starter for us in the third quarter."
Wilson connecting with Baldwin for a big play is hardly a rarity for the Seahawks, but the way things were going up to that point for the offense, it was a much-needed play. Wilson was intercepted on his first pass attempt of the game, then multiple players dropped passes later in the half, and that all added up to Wilson completing just 8 of 19 passes for 80 yards and an interception, giving him a 32.8 passer rating. Seattle's only score in the half, a 2-yard Wilson run, was set up by a Bobby Wagner interception that gave the Seahawks the ball at the 16-yard line.
"The game was kind of marred by the drops," Carroll said. "We had uncharacteristic drops for us, we might have missed four or five balls today. Other than that, I think we might have had a really solid game with continuity in it and all that. There's really no excuse other than that the wind was blowing a little bit early in the game, but we should have done much better there."
Whether it was the drops or a couple misses from Wilson, the offense just wasn't functioning well in the first half, but as has so often been the case in the past, Wilson and the offense responded in the second half in a big way.
"Sometimes you strike out the first at bat, but you keep coming back and keep swinging," Wilson said. "I'm never one to stress or worry, I'm just going to keep believing in what we're doing and how we're going to do. (The interception) is on me, I can be a little sharper. The great thing was the defense stopped them right there, they didn't get anything out of it, so we were able to come back and find ways to make plays, especially in the second half."
In the second half, Wilson completed 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a 147.3 passer rating for the half, and the Seahawks were 3 for 5 on third down, with all three conversions coming on touchdown drives.
"We got our tempo going," Wilson said. "We were kind of off rhythm there in the first half. We found our rhythm, we made some plays, we made some key third downs, and we stayed on the field. It's really that simple. It really comes down to third down, staying on the field, making some key plays, key catches, and no mistakes. We did a great job doing that in the second half."
Wilson said his message to the offense after that rough first half was that, "we've got to know who we are, have great confidence, because we're a championship-caliber football team. We've proven that many times, so have no fear, don't doubt anything we're doing. We were able to do that there in the third and fourth quarter, we had a great second half. The defense did a great job all day, and we made some really key plays, got some touchdowns there.
"When something doesn't go well, great teams always respond, and we were able to do that today. We were able to respond and keep fighting and keep swinging and keep making our plays."
Of course, in an ideal world, the Seahawks would get their offense going early, and they'll continue to strive for more consistent play. Fortunately for the Seahawks on Sunday, a dominant defense and a big second half from the offense were more than enough.
"We've had our struggles in the first half, we continue to have our struggles in the first half," Baldwin said. "Maybe we have to calm our jitters down, maybe we're overly excited and just need to get into a groove. But once we find our groove, obviously we're able to play well.
"Luckily we've got a really good defense that keeps us in the game early so things don't get out of control. We don't want to always play like that, obviously. We want to come out of the gates and play well offensively. We've still got improvements to make."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 24-13 victory over the 49ers in Week 12 at Levi's Stadium.