SANTA CLARA—The Seahawks weren't going to go so far as to call the fourth game of a 17-game season a "must-win" during the week leading up to Sunday's NFC West showdown with the 49ers.
After all, if they spent all week calling it a must-win and then lost, were they just going to quit on the season with 13 games still to play? That being said, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his players did admit to a sense of urgency last week following consecutive losses to Tennessee and Minnesota that left the Seahawks 1-2 in a division in which every other team had a winning record. Carroll talked Wednesday about the serious vibe in the VMAC during the week, while safety Jamal Adam vowed that "Starting this week, things will change."
And ultimately, the Seahawks did put forth a much-improved effort to knock off the 49ers by a 28-21 score that was closer than the game felt for most of the second half. The bounce-back win, which improved Seattle's record to 2-2 heading into a Thursday night game against the 3-1 Rams, did not come easily, however, especially not at the start.
Seattle's offense, which has started fast in all three game this season, went three-and-out to open the game, setting the tone for what would be a very rough start for that unit. Midway through the second quarter, the Seahawks had minus-7 to San Francisco's 194 yards, they had no first downs, and Russell Wilson was sacked on third down to end three of those five three-and-out possessions. The defense, which had struggled over the previous two games, gave up a long touchdown drive to start the game, with the 49ers never facing third-down on an 8-play, 71-yard drive.
But in a game where it felt like everything was going wrong early, the Seahawks hung on, and still only trailed by 7 points in the second quarter when the offense came alive, and once the offense got going, with the defense coming up with stop after stop, the Seahawks were able to take control of the game in the second half.
"This was a really good game for us today," Carroll said. "We were really challenged, and we started so poorly, both sides of the ball, and then it took us some time to get going, and what happened today was really important for us. We just talked about how we were going to keep hanging no matter what happened, we were going to keep hanging, keep hanging, and it didn't matter what the game felt like, what it looked like, and we needed every bit of it before it was over. And so, the span in the middle of the game when the offense went four out of five drives and the defense went eight straight drives without giving them a point, that's where we gained control for us and turned around and fortunately, we were able to take advantage of that.
"I'm so proud of these guys the way they hung in there and came back and put the game back in order. They did a beautiful job."
Carroll called the previous two weeks "a bit of a wakeup call" for his team, and facing some early-season adversity, he liked the way his team responded to avoid its first three-game losing streak since the 2011 season.
"I think it was a bit of a wakeup call," Carroll said. "We've been pushing and going, and the expectations are so darn high and all of that, for the whole time we've been together. And I think we got faced with it, with what happened, and everybody had to just dig in a little bit more, do a little bit righter and make sure that we don't make errors, just try to get a little bit better, because we've been close. So this is just a step, but we got a ways to go, we've got a ways to continue to get better. And you guys have asked, 'Well last year when it turned around what happened?' And all that kind of stuff. It just, sometimes you just kind of get the right mentality, everything's got to fit together right, and you've got to find the right pain sometimes too to share. I don't know if that was the pain story of the season—I would wish it would be—but it made a difference. And I thought our guys really put it together well. I go to Bobby (Wagner), and Duane (Brown) and Russ (Wilson), Jamal, those guys really would not let it continue."
For Seattle's offense, the problem through three games was that a unit that was starting games fast was struggling to produce in the second half, and in the third quarter in particular, but on Sunday that fast-starting group could not get on track against a very talented 49ers defense. But while the fast start didn't transpire, the offense did get on track in a big way, scoring on an 80-yard drive in the second quarter to tie the game, then scoring three second-half touchdowns to take control. It was an impressive about-face for a group that didn't have a first down through five possessions.
"There was no doubt," said Wilson, who with Sunday's win now has 100 in his career. "We really believed throughout the whole game that we could win it. We just stayed the course, just stay the course, stay the course. We kept our language right. We kept that championship language on the sidelines with everybody and just making sure that the huddle was tight and everything else. The next thing you know, we picked up the tempo a little bit. We got a groove going and just started moving the ball extremely well. We had the touchdown to DK (Metcalf) right before the half started. Then the next thing you know, we came out the second half and we had those three consecutive drives where we scored touchdowns. We really caught that groove and found a way to make some plays."
And the Seahawks were able to stay in the game despite early offensive struggles because a defense that had given up 54 points in the last game and a half took some big steps forward despite that early drive by the 49ers. A pass rush that has been inconsistent in the past two losses had two sacks and six quarterback hits, while the pass defense registered 9 passes defensed—more than it had in the first three games combined—as well as its first interception of the year. With the defense playing better, the 49ers went just 2 for 14 on third down, and punted on five straight possessions in the second and third quarters as Seattle took control of the game.
"We obviously just got our swagger and our confidence back," said safety Jamal Adams. "That was kind of stated on the interview I had before the game, that things would change as far as our swagger, confidence, believing in one another and we came out and we proved that…. I think that when you drop two games, obviously guys' heads are down. Guys might feel as if it is their fault or whatnot, but at the end of the day we are in this together. It is a team sport, and we came out and competed hard."
And with Sunday's bounce-back win, the Seahawks head into Thursday's home game against the Rams with a chance to get right back into the thick of things in the NFC West race, and they avoided losing three straight for the first time since 2011.
"We don't lose three games in a row here. Once you get into division play the magnitude of those games and everything that goes into that. Coming on the road in this kind of environment with a real good team over there. We knew the challenges that waited for us. We were all in tune to that throughout the game. We don't take it for granted."
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.