Suddenly, almost anything seems possible.
Normally, I’d be reminding everybody that it’s only one game, and the Seahawks rolled to an easy win last year, too, and the season went nowhere but down from there.
But a 31-6 thrashing of San Francisco on Sunday at Qwest Field is something different entirely. This was a domination of the team considered to be the division’s bully.
It was a win in spite of a slow start. It was a win even though things didn’t always go well. It was a win that started out like a hideous defeat in the making.
This was one, finally, where it was the other team blowing coverages or missing tackles. This was one where it was the other team’s fans slapping their foreheads in frustration.
This was a win that the new Seahawks of coach Pete Carroll won by playing smart, efficient, and physical football. They won by making big plays and competing with intensity.
They won by doing the things Carroll promised they’d do.
And for all the talk about the new players on the Seahawks roster, the big plays and turnaround moments mostly were the result of veteran returning players just elevating their games.
Asked the importance of beating San Francisco, safety Lawyer Milloy dismissed the relevance of the opponent.
“We’re focusing on us, and how we play,” he said. “It just happens that they were the first on the schedule. It’s more about how we can maximize our talents every week, that’s what Pete preaches. And if we keep that attitude, good things can happen.”
Milloy was a perfect example, though, of this team’s improvement. In the first game against San Francisco last year, back Frank Gore gashed the Hawks by getting through the line and cutting loose on breakaways. At least twice this time, Milloy was there to bring him down for short gains after he popped through the line.
“We were so well prepared,” Milloy said. “That’s what we’re getting from this bunch of coaches, and from Pete. We have that atmosphere at work … we go through every situation you can imagine. We went through everything we ended up seeing today, and that shows.”
With Gore being shut down, the 49ers (49 total rushing yards), became one-dimensional. All according to plan.
“We had a great week of preparation,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “The 49ers are a great run team and we knew they would try to establish that and we needed to respond.”
There is something very important and very fundamental about being able to stop the other team’s running game. It speaks of physical play and dominance. And this time, the Seahawks owned the 49ers.
“We knew what they wanted to do, and we met that challenge,” Bryant said. “It’s a credit to the defensive coaches, they talked all week about us being sound and being where we were supposed to be.”
Yeah, but isn’t it about more than that?
“Oh, yeah, it’s mano-a-mano … ,” Bryant said. “We know what kind of football coach (Mike) Singletary preaches. And we had to rise up and meet that challenge.”
There may be no more vivid example of how well the Seahawks met that challenge than the Niners’ 1-for-15 futility on third-down conversions. The Seahawks of the past two years have been abused on third downs. They’ve been chronically unable to get off the field.
Everybody benefits when what happened Sunday happens. It meant that the Niners were able to get only six points in the first half despite owning huge statistical advantages. It meant that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had the time to bounce back from a first-pass interception and put up numbers that contributed to a 108.3 passer rating.
Considering the Niners were 3-point favorites who were beaten by 25 points, you would think the Hawks might be tempted to crow a bit.
Not so. They not only didn’t seem surprised by it, they weren’t even that impressed.
“I would just say that this is the first game and we’ve got a lot more work to do and a lot more football to play,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said. “This was a good showing for the first game, and we think we’re going to just keep rolling.”
After their performance Sunday, it seems that it’s entirely possible.