SEATTLE — Before the 49ers' final two drives of Sunday's Week 3 contest at CenturyLink Field, a matchup the Seahawks won 37-18, San Francisco's offense had managed just 132 total yards and three points on 10 possessions, with six of those 10 drives going for nine or fewer yards. Then, with Seattle owning a 37-3 advantage in the fourth quarter, the 49ers found the end zone twice the final two times they touched the football, piling up 122 more yards of offense before the game clock expired, and Seattle improved to 2-1 on the season.
That late-game production by the Niners was part of the reason why several of Seattle's defensive players were hard on themselves in the locker room following the game. The Seahawks, a team that has led the NFL in scoring defense each of the past four seasons and a unit that came into Week 3 with League-best marks in total defense (248.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (9.5 points per game), holds itself to a higher standard than most, even after such a dominating win.
"As a defense we played great," said free safety Earl Thomas. "We just want to finish a little bit better."
Said defensive end Frank Clark: "There was more we could've done on defense. More in particular toward the end of the game where we gave up two easy touchdowns to them."
"I don't think we finished well," added strong safety Kam Chancellor. "We held them to three [points] for the majority of the game. I think we should have finished it that way."
Despite the pair of inconsequential late-game scores, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said "everything was really clicking" most of the day for a defense that has been "playing terrific football" through the season's first three weeks. The Seahawks, who allowed 10 points to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 and nine points to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2, saw San Francisco's first 10 possessions of Week 3 end as follows: punt, punt, punt, field goal, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt. And before the Niners' first touchdown drive of the fourth quarter, the Seahawks defense had held San Francisco to a 0-for-11 mark on third down (the 49ers finished the game 4-of-15).
"We played a fantastic game of defense," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "It was 130 yards until their last two drives. It was like no [third-down] conversions, and all that stuff.
"I know our guys are upset because that's not the way they want to finish a game. But we have a really good-looking defense and they're playing terrific ball together. You can ride a long way on those guys."
Not to be lost in the Seahawks' defensive effort was the team's initial takeaway of the 2016 season. Linebacker Bobby Wagner picked off a third-quarter pass that had deflected off the hands of 49ers receiver Quinton Patton on a ball from quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who finished 14-of-25 for 119 yards. The play marked the first turnover for a team that prides itself on taking the ball away from its opponent, and for a club that all week had talked about the importance of generating turnovers to create more scoring opportunities for Seattle's offense.
"We finally got a turnover," Carroll said. "That was a good thing. We broke the seal there."
Said defensive end Cliff Avril: "Finally. Finally got a turnover. So now it's all about trying to get two turnovers."
Added Thomas: "It's just great for us trying to get the ball because we've been struggling trying to get the ball and we got our first tip and overthrow today, Bobby was there to get it. We've just got to keep building. They always come in bunches, that saying. So we just need to keep building on this."
Yet even with the timely turnover and how well the defense played through a majority of Sunday's game, a primary impression for many of Seattle's players will focus on a finish that didn't quite go the way they hoped. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, as it serves as an area an already impressive group will look to improve heading into Week 4's road game against the New York Jets.
"We want to be perfect," said Chancellor. "You can't be perfect, but you can strive for progression to be perfect. We just want to try for progress every week."
Said Thomas: "The thing that we can take from today is just the finish, we've got to grow in that area. I don't care what the score is, we've just got to finish."
Added Avril: "That shows you the passion we have about some of the stuff we do out there. We gave up too many points at the end. That's not our type of football. That's not what we do. That's not what we pride ourselves on, and that's good. That shows you the passion that we have, and we've got to continue getting better."
Ultimately, though, Seattle beat the 49ers in convincing fashion, and that's what will matter most to most Seahawks fans, as well as defensive end Michael Bennett, who believes the Seahawks have "the best defense in the NFL."
"We played a great game defensively," said Bennett. "I don't know why everyone is so mad. When you win, you win. At the end of the day that's all that really matters, and I think we'll just keep growing and growing."
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Look through some action photos from Week 3 vs 49ers at CenturyLink Field.