SEATTLE, Wash. —The Seahawks opened the game with a fairly encouraging 68-yard drive that ended with a field goal, then added three more points after a Bobby Wagner interception gave them a short field. But after those two first quarter scores, the Seahawks punted six times, allowing the San Francisco 49ers to stay in the game despite a very strong performance by Seattle's defense.
The Seahawks had dropped passes cost them chances at touchdowns and first downs, they struggled to gain yardage on the ground at times, and Russell Wilson missed a couple of passes that are usually automatic for him.
It was, as receiver Doug Baldwin put it, "ugly as hell" at times. "Very ugly," Baldwin continued. "But we did enough."
And indeed that's where the beauty can be found in an at-time ugly day. As has been the case several times before since Wilson became the Seahawks' quarterback, Seattle's offense found a little magic late in the game despite its earlier struggles, driving 82 yards on 10 plays to score the game's only touchdown, a 9-yard Wilson pass to Paul Richardson, who had left the game earlier with a dislocated finger.
Then, after yet another defensive stop, Chris Carson and the offensive line took over, rushing for 41 yards on five carries to run out the clock.
"It talks about our resiliency," Baldwin said. "We call ourselves a tribe here. All the letters stand for something—it's trust, resiliency, our investment to each other, our belief, and then the execution of it. And we had to use all of that today. Now I don't want to take anything away from the 49ers, but we felt like we should have come in here and had success, and it was ugly. But we had to dig into who we truly are, our identity as men—not just as football players, but as men—to pull this out, and I can't be more proud of our offense today… We know we could have played better, everybody knows we could have played better, but at this point, we're thankful for the win, but we'll get the things corrected that we need to get corrected."
And as is always the case in a late-game drive, the quarterback had a big hand in that game-winning possession. Wilson would be the first to admit that he wasn't at his very best throughout the game, but with the game on the line, he was masterful, using both his arms and legs to get the Seahawks down the field. Wilson ran four times for 27 yards on that go-ahead drive, and completed three of four passes, most impressively the touchdown pass to Richardson on which he avoided a sack, ran to his left, then hit Richardson with a strike as the receiver tapped his feet inches from the sideline.
"That's what you love about him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That's who he is. He was right in his element, we were hurried up a little bit and up-tempo just to make sure that we could just shift what was going on, and he handled that beautifully and took advantage of it, and he took off four times in that drive, and made first downs. Pretty big-time stuff."
Added Wilson: "I think that the biggest thing is we have a lot of guys who are competitors, a lot of guys who battle. At the end of the day, that's what you want to be around and the guys you want to play with. The guys up front were able to battle and battle and battle. I thought that the running backs were able to battle. I thought that the receivers and tight ends kept battling and we were able to get first downs. Ultimately, we were able to make a big time play at the end of the game. That's what it takes. That was huge for us."
Seattle's defense, meanwhile, gave the offense a chance to produce a game-winner by keeping the 49ers at bay almost the entire game. San Francisco did manage three field goals, two of which were set up by long Carlos Hyde runs, including a 61-yarder, but the 49ers managed just 89 passing yards and went 2 for 12 on third down.
"We played tremendous defense all day long, and the guys played great and stayed with it," Carroll said.
And even if the offense wasn't able to provide more points early in the game, the defensive players, including the eight Pro-Bowlers on that side of the ball, know it's on them to play at that level every week regardless of what else is happening.
"We've got a lot of highly paid guys on our side of the ball, a lot of guys who played the game at a high level and there's a certain standard that's expected," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We expect it from ourselves, we expect that regardless on what happens on the other side of the ball. At the end of the day it's really on us. It's not any tougher for us or anything different we think about. We think we hold ourselves to a high standard. You've got guys like Mike Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, Kam [Chancellor], KJ [Wright], etcetera, etcetera, down the line, Earl [Thomas], myself, rookies playing lights out football. We expect to get stops like that. Sheldon (Richardson) has done a great job since he's been here. We got to find a way to get those stops in and get those plays correct."
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The Seahawks come out victorious for their home opener at CenturyLink Field 12-9 against the 49ers.